Just so you know the extent of my crazy, I wasn’t joking a couple weeks ago when I mentioned that I had made a list of all the breakfasts that I wanted to eat, at least the ones I could think of off the top of my head. It’s about four pages long.
This cornbread comes courtesy of the list…except it kind of doesn’t. On my, what do I even call it? A breakfast to-do list? That makes it sound tedious. Let’s go with breakfast inspiration list. On my breakfast inspiration list, this was listed as ‘blueberry oven pancake.’ And a puffy, pillowy blueberry oven pancake is definitely a good idea, in my opinion. But, when I was getting ready to make it, I noticed a half-used container of buttermilk in the refrigerator, and that made me want cornbread instead.
I love cornbread at breakfast. I like that nubbliness in the morning. Plus, depending on how you make it, it can be a delicious vehicle for eggs or for tons of butter and some honey, both of which are awfully tasty ways to start your day. Anyhow, the plan morphed from blueberry oven pancake to blueberry cornbread, which is also definitely a good idea in my opinion. But then I remembered the figs.
This area is about as far from a fig-growing region as you can possibly imagine, unless maybe you visualize Iceland or the actual North Pole (which doesn’t have any land anyway). But, on occasion you can get fresh figs at the market. Obviously they’ve been shipped, so they aren’t perfectly fresh, so I often find I don’t want them straight-up raw, but oh boy are they delicious when gently cooked or baked. And the season when we can get them is so short, it sort of starts to feel like it makes sense to put them in anything you can think of.
And I thought of cornbread. Lightly sweet, tender, dare I say a little bit cake-like (I know that is often an insult when applied to cornbread, but I mean it as a compliment here, an indicator of the moistness and tenderness of the crumb. That is to say, this bread reminds me of a much less sweet version of a rustic polenta cake – and who could resist the sound of polenta cake?!), and absolutely packed with glistening, juicy, flower-sweet figs.
So, cornbread with fresh figs it was. Baked in a cast iron skillet to give it crisped mahogany edges. I’ll admit I didn’t preheat the skillet with butter because I knew that would make me panic as soon as I put the batter in and I wouldn’t do a good job of putting the figs on top. But, even without the preheated pan, the edges crusted up beautifully while the rest of the cake stayed moist. The soft sweetness of the figs is wonderful with the heartier flavor of the corn. The combination becomes especially amazing if you spoon some ricotta onto your slice, though it’s quite amazing enough just by itself or with a thin smear of butter.
We feasted on it and the toasted leftovers of it for breakfast for days, and now that it’s completely eaten, I’m already dreaming of another. Though maybe I should make that oven pancake first. (p.s. If cornbread for breakfast isn’t your thing, I think this would also be an amazing side dish with pork chops or pork tenderloin.)
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, barely softened and cut into chunks, plus more for greasing the pan
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
- 1½ cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups milk or buttermilk (buttermilk is preferable, in my opinion!)
- 8 oz. fresh figs, stemmed and halved
- Heat your oven to 375F. Grease a deep 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet or another heavy baking pan with butter.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the cornmeal.
- In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Mixing on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk, and starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
- Scrape the batter into the greased pan, then arrange the halved figs on top. Bake until the cornbread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.
- Serve warm, with spoonfuls of ricotta, if desired. The cornbread keeps, tightly covered, for several days. Just lightly toast slices in a toaster oven before serving and you’re good to go.