Hot Water Cornbread has long been a staple in Black American cooking, and in households throughout in the South. It’s made with only a handful of ingredients, fried in fat instead of baked, and is more similar to a hush puppy than a bread. White cornmeal is preferred to yellow in the South, but you can use either as long as it's finely ground. Some just use cornmeal. Others add a little baking powder for added texture. But the magic ingredient is really the boiling water, which cooks and softens the cornmeal so that the frying is just to crisp and color the exterior. This dish is a favorite of my southern in-laws, who love to prepare it for each special occasion and many days in between!
Heat about 1 cup of oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer registers 375 degrees F.
Add the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Stir in the boiling water. If the dough is still too dry to come together, add more boiling water in 1-tablespoon increments.
Using a 3/4-ounce cookie scoop, scoop the mixture into the palm of your hand and flatten into a 2-inch patty. Working in batches, fry the patties until lightly golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the cornbread to a paper towel-lined plate using a fish spatula. Serve immediately.
When measuring cornmeal, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the cornmeal, resulting in dry baked goods.)
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