The scent of freshly baked cornbread brings back a flood of sweet memories for Carla Hall. “Hot cornbread right out of the oven is like a dinner bell to me,” she says. Almost every Sunday after church, the chef and her family traveled 30 minutes to her grandmother’s house for lunch, and skillet cornbread was always part of the meal. “Granny would cook the cornbread only once we got inside the door,” Carla says, and everyone knew it was time to eat when the smell of the finished bread wafted through the air. Today, Carla makes the recipe just as her grandmother did — with cream-style corn and buttermilk — but she adds her own twist: a smear of cinnamon butter on top.
Place four 3 1/2-inch cast-iron skillets in the oven. Preheat to 425˚ F.
Make the cornbread: In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, corn and 1/4 cup oil.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Using oven mitts or pot holders, take the hot skillets out of the oven. Divide the remaining 1 tablespoon oil between the skillets, quickly tilting the pans so that the oil coats the bottom and sides. Pour the batter evenly into the skillets. The batter will begin sizzling right away.
Put the skillets in the oven and bake until the cornbread is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 10 to 13 minutes. Remove the hot skillets from the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool slightly.
While the cornbread bakes, prepare the cinnamon butter: In a medium bowl, mix the butter, cinnamon, confectioners' sugar and almond or vanilla extract with a rubber spatula. Stir until everything is mixed well and is an even color (no streaks).
Serve the cornbread hot or warm with a dollop of cinnamon butter.
My secret to getting those crunchy edges is to heat up the skillets and the oil in the oven before you add the batter.