At this point, pastry chef Kelly Fields’s cornbread has achieved its own level of celebrity. Glazed in cane syrup and available by mail nationwide, it’s earned a devoted following—but the chef-owner of New Orleans’s Willa Jean will be the first to tell you that from-scratch baking isn’t the only way to get delicious results. “Jiffy cornbread is what I grew up with,” Fields tells G&G with a laugh. “There’s so much science in that. They figured out how to do cornbread, and the reality is, that’s all a lot of people have time for.”
But taking a shortcut doesn’t have to take away the fun—or the creativity—of freshly baked treats. “If you’re short on time or gumption and want delicious cornbread immediately, here are some of my favorite ideas for making it special when you aren’t making it from scratch,” writes Fields in her excellent new cookbook, The Good Book of Southern Baking. “Start with one (8½-ounce) box of Jiffy corn muffin mix. Just follow the package instructions, using egg and milk, unless I’ve instructed otherwise.”
Add ⅓ cup sour cream to the batter to make the cornbread more moist and a little tangy.
Replace ⅔ cup milk with buttermilk to make the cornbread more tender (this also makes it a little tangier).
For some pops of texture, stir 1 cup fresh corn kernels into the batter.
To make it extra corny, strain 1 (8-ounce) can creamed corn and stir into the batter, along with 1 additional egg.
Stir 1 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers or roasted pimentos into the batter.
For heat, there are a lot of ways to go at it. Stir 1 cup roasted chopped jalapeños or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or cayenne pepper into the batter. Or mix in 3 tablespoons chile paste.
Who doesn’t love cheesy cornbread? Fold ¾ cup shredded sharp cheddar into the batter.
Give it some NOLA flair by adding a rounded ¼ teaspoon of Cajun spice blend.
Cook and crumble 4 to 6 slices bacon. Fold into the batter.
Cook, drain, and crumble about 1 cup breakfast sausage. Fold into the batter.
Stir 2 tablespoons honey into the batter. Stir the zest and juice of 1 orange or 2 lemons or limes into the batter.
Sprinkle berries over the bottom of the baking pan or skillet and pour the batter on top.
Toss 2 peeled peaches (cut into thin wedges) with 2 tablespoons light brown sugar and fold into the batter. I recommend sprinkling the top with a little raw sugar for crunchy fun.
Stir 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon into the dry mix.
Stir 1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin puree along with ½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon and nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon each ground cloves and cardamom into the batter. Add 1 additional egg, too.
Reprinted with permission from The Good Book of Southern Baking by Kelly Fields with Kate Heddings, copyright (c) 2020. Published by Lorena Jones Books, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.