Saturday, September 18, 2021

Hot Water Cornbread

Hot water cornbread is a fried cornbread, tender on the inside, thanks to a precook of the cornmeal with boiling water, and crispy on the outside from a quick fry in a blazing hot cast iron skillet.

Hot Water Cornbread

What sets this fried cornbread apart from its cornbread cousins, is the boiling water, giving the meal a head start on cooking and resulting in an inner creamy texture, with an outside crunchy crust. Goes well with chili, beans and southern peas, though I'll be honest with you. I can make a meal from a plate of them!

Back in 2008 when I started blogging, there were only a very limited number of Southern recipe sites across the net. Now there are so many, I don't know how folks keep up with the ones that they really want to follow, but thanks to those of y'all who keep hanging in with mine! There are quite a few of you that have been here all along the way.

One thing I have learned over all these years of sharing recipes, is that few folks cook exactly the same, and that certainly goes for all across the south. The trouble we seem to get ourselves into is when we think that our way is the only right way! Hot water cornbread represents exactly that.

I guess technically speaking, there really isn't a recipe needed for old school hot water cornbread. Just add some cornmeal to a bowl, add in a pinch of salt and start adding in boiled water, stirring as you do. 

In its humble beginnings, the hot meal was often placed into the palm of the hand and quickly formed into a pone to be slid into the hot oil. Though I tried it that way, I found it to be much too heavy and dense for me, so I settled on dropping it from a cooking spoon instead, much like you would with a hushpuppy, resulting in more nubby crunchy areas and much more preferred that.

I've also tried it both with and without leavening and didn't care for the gritty and dense texture without it, so my recipe uses both a little self-rising flour and a little baking powder for lift and texture.

Bottom line is that these days, hot water cornbread can vary widely. It really all depends on the cook and can represent a full range of cornmeal products from all-purpose, self-rising and even cornmeal mix. I've tried hot water cornbread just about every way you can think of but I think I have finally gotten where I want to be.

The real and only true key to me is the boiling water, which essentially steams the cornmeal, so that when it hits the hot oil, it ends up with a creamy texture on the inside, but with a distinctive crunch on the outside. The entire process really enhances the flavor of the cornmeal, making it stand out with a fresher corn taste.

It is critical the meal be mixed and fried quickly too, and that your oil be at the right temperature so that it fries quickly, otherwise they will overcook and be tough and greasy, not at all what they should be. Get the oil going and then get the ingredients mixed together and ready for the boiling water, so that you can take it straight on from the bowl to the hot oil. It should take you no more than a minute or so to fry on each side.

A lot of folks seem to prefer to use a corn meal mix these days, even over self-rising cornmeal. I still use plain, all-purpose cornmeal, meaning that I have to add ingredients including leavening to that to make cornbread. The difference between cornmeal, cornmeal mix and self rising cornmeal is simple. According to Aunt Jemima, self-rising cornmeal has leavening and salt, and is enriched with B vitamins. It does not contain flour, so it is not the same as cornbread mix.

As always, full recipe text with measurements and instructions, as well as a printable document, are a little bit further down the page. Just swipe or scroll past the step-by-step pictures below.

Here's how I make Hot Water Cornbread - my way.

Fill a cast iron skillet about 1/4 with cooking oil. Place on high burner and heat just until it begins to smoke. Turn down to medium high.

Meanwhile, be whisking together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, if using. I often find a little sugar does help with certain off the shelf, grocery store meal. It's not usually needed for a quality, stone-ground meal.


When the oil is about ready, slowly begin to add boiling water to the cornmeal, stirring constantly. You may not need all of the water, depending on the type of cornmeal you are using.


What you're looking for is a texture that somewhat resembles a thick cooked oatmeal. It should be loose and wet, but not soupy.


Use a large cooking spoon to scoop batter into the hot oil.


Browning them on both sides.


Dig in!





Hot Water Cornbread

Hot Water Cornbread

Yield: About 8 Fritters
Author: Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 10 MinTotal time: 20 Min
Hot water cornbread is a fried cornbread, tender on the inside, thanks to a precook of the cornmeal with boiling water, and crispy on the outside from a quick fry in a blazing hot cast iron skillet.

Ingredients

  • Cooking oil (peanut oil recommended)
  • 1 cup all-purpose yellow cornmeal (stone-ground preferred)
  • 1/2 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch granulated sugar, optional
  • About 1 cup boiling water

Instructions

  1. Fill a cast iron skillet about 1/4 with cooking oil. Place on high burner and heat just until it begins to smoke. Turn down to medium high.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  3. When oil is about ready, slowly add in boiling water a little at a time, stirring constantly, until texture resembles a thick cooked oatmeal.
  4. Use a large cooking spoon to scoop batter into the hot oil, browning on both sides.
  5. Drain on a rack over paper towels.

Notes:

You really need a hot cast iron skillet and very hot oil to get these right. I highly recommend peanut oil due to its high smoke point, though any cooking oil is fine. I always boil a little extra water. Depending on the grain of cornmeal, you may not need all of the water. I recommend stone-ground, all-purpose cornmeal. I have found that rather than making patties, I prefer just pushing them off of a large cooking spoon. Some folks prefer a thicker batter that can be formed into an egg shaped pone in the palm of your hand. You'll use less water to form more of a cornmeal dough and they will be more dense in texture.

Cornmeal,Cornbread,Southern Cuisine,Southern Favorites,Bread,Side Dish,
Bread,Side Dish
American, Southern
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