JALAPEÑO PEPPER JACK CORNBREAD

When I started getting into making pizza from scratch, I bought a bag of cornmeal to use when I would transfer my pizza from the peel onto the stone. Given that you don’t really use that much cornmeal for each pizza you make, and the bag of cornmeal was just as large as a bag of flour, that meant that I had plenty left over. When thinking of ideas on how to use up the extra cornmeal, the choice became readily apparent: cornbread.

I was accustomed to using those box mixes to make a batch of cornbread, so going from scratch would truly be a new experience. I decided to go more ambitious for this first attempt with a savory cornbread selection: jalapeño pepper jack. The jalapeño cornbread was something I had tried at a Tex-Mex restaurant a little while back, but I thought the addition of the pepper jack cheese would give it an even better kick.

Blending the flavors of sweet, savory, and spicy, this cornbread goes great as a side dish or standing on its own.

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Jalapeño Pepper Jack Cornbread
Makes 9″ x 9″ pan

~ 1 cup yellow cornmeal
~ 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
~ 1 tsp salt
~ 1/8 tsp black pepper
~ 1 tbsp baking powder
~ 1/2 tsp baking soda
~ 1 cup buttermilk
~ 1/2 cup milk
~ 1/2 cup cubed pepper jack cheese
~ 1/4 cup diced jalapeños
~ 1/4 cup butter
~ 1 egg
~ Honey

Prep Work:

  • The only two ingredients that require any special prep would be the jalapeños and the pepper jack cheese.
  • If you bought a block of pepper jack cheese, cut it up until you have cubes that are anywhere from 1/4″ – 1/2″ all the way around.
  • I found that two to three medium-sized jalapeño peppers gave me just the right amount to put into the cornbread. I was aiming for the jalapeños to not be an overbearing presence within the cornbread, so I opted to take the seeds out of the peppers before dicing them up.
  • To up the heat, next time I might leave the seeds in one of the peppers when dicing it.

Mixing:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large bowl, combine together the cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, baking powder, and baking soda. Use a whisk to stir it up and ensure everything is well combined.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, milk, and egg until combined well.
  • Gradually combine the cornmeal mixture into the liquid mixture, making sure that the end result is a nice, smooth batter. Take your butter and melt that down in either the microwave or over the stove before adding that into the batter and combining.
  • For the final step, add in your jalapeños and diced pepper jack cheese, distributing evenly within the batter.

Baking:

  • Pour the completed batter into a pre-greased 9″ x 9″ baking pan and spread evenly.
  • Bake the cornbread for approximately 25 minutes, checking the middle with a toothpick to verify that it is done. Another visual indicator you might get is that as the cornbread rises, it will become cracked in some areas and start to turn a more golden color.

Cooling:

  • Let the cornbread cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring it over to a wire rack to finish the job.
  • Here is where I tried to add in one more subtle flavor to the finished product. I’ve found that honey is a flavor that compliments jalapeños pretty well (also known as the “sweet heat”), so I did a drizzle of honey over the top of the whole cornbread right after I had transferred it over to the wire rack.

  • After about another 5 – 10 minutes on the rack, the cornbread should be ready to be cut. With the square pan, I found that dividing the cornbread up into 12 portions gave a good amount for each piece.

For me growing up in New Jersey, I had gotten very used to the sweet cornbread that’s commonly served up in that region. Taking the first bite and getting no sweet flavor out of the bread definitely messed with my head a little bit, even though I had eaten savory cornbread before. But that didn’t stop me from continuing and polishing off that first piece, second piece, and even start moving onto a third.

The cornbread really turned out nice and moist on the inside, aided by the pockets of melted pepper jack cheese that were scattered around the remainder of the bread as well. The heat from the jalapeño was not an overpowering one, but rather a gradual build-up as you ate more and more of the cornbread. That honey drizzle that I mentioned above didn’t impart the amount of sweetness I wanted to add to the cornbread, as it was almost like an aftertaste when you’d recognize it. I did a zig-zag pattern across the top while it was cooling; I think next time I’ll rotate the bread 90 degrees and do another layer to help boost that flavor.

If you don’t believe my word on how good the cornbread was, ask my friends at work that polished off the remaining pieces that I brought with me in just a few hours after I opened the container. If you’re looking for a good savory cornbread that would go well as a side dish to something like chili, or even stand on its own, give this jalapeño pepper jack cornbread a shot.

Categories: Recipes

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