I made Ina Garten and Dolly Parton's easy recipes for corn bread.
Parton's corn bread only needs three main ingredients and 25 minutes to bake.
Garten's recipe takes more time, but it's so delicious that I now serve it at every holiday dinner.
I believe corn bread is an essential holiday dish. And who better to try recipes from than two legends, Dolly Parton and Ina Garten?
I love making Garten's recipes during the holidays. The "Barefoot Contessa" star's potato gratin is always on my Christmas menu, and her mac and cheese and roasted potatoes have been recent favorites. She even has an easy (and delicious) recipe to upgrade store-bought mashed potatoes.
And while Parton may be most famous for her musical talents (and incredible fashion sense), she's no stranger to the kitchen. Parton has shared her hack for making the fluffiest scrambled eggs, as well as her favorite mac and cheese.
Both Garten and Parton have popular corn bread recipes. So in honor of the holidays, and some friendly competition, I decided to try both for a little celebrity cooking showdown.
Garten's brown-butter skillet corn bread only needs a few basic ingredients.
To make Garten's corn bread, which serves 10 to 12 people, you'll need:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup fine cornmeal (Garten says this makes moister corn bread than medium grind)
1 cup sugar
½ pound unsalted butter
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons baking powder
I began by melting my butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
I continued to heat the butter until it became browned, listening to Garten's advice to "watch it very carefully!"
Once my butter was ready, I poured it into a bowl and added the milk and eggs.
I slowly whisked the milk into the butter. Then I cracked my two eggs into a smaller bowl and lightly beat them together before throwing them into the corn bread batter.
I threw my dry ingredients into a separate bowl, whisked them together, then made a well in the middle.
I added my flour, sugar, and cornmeal into the separate bowl, as well as the baking powder and some kosher salt.
Then I poured the butter and milk mixture into the well.
I stirred everything together with a rubber spatula until it was just combined. And don't worry if the batter looks lumpy — Garten says that's perfectly normal.
My batter was almost ready. But first, it needed to rest a little.
Garten's recipe calls for the batter to sit for 15 minutes. She said this step is essential to getting the best corn bread possible, so don't you dare skip it!
Once the 15 minutes were up, I poured my batter into the skillet.
Once the 15 minutes were up, I poured my batter into the skillet. Make sure you don't wipe out your cast-iron skillet after melting the butter.
Once the 15 minutes were up, I poured my batter into the skillet.
I smoothed the top of the batter, sprinkled some sea salt, then threw the skillet into the oven.
Garten's recipe says to bake the corn bread for 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. After 35 minutes, I stuck a knife in the middle and it came out clean, so I knew it was ready.
One thing to note: If you're using an 11 ½-inch skillet, Garten recommends baking your corn bread for only 25 to 30 minutes.
My corn bread came out a gorgeous golden brown, and it tasted so moist and fluffy.
Garten's corn bread absolutely blew me away. It was the perfect combination of sweet and savory, with a salty and crunchy texture that gave way to a delicious filling. I first made the dish for Friendsgiving last year, and everyone at the table agreed it was one of the best they'd ever tasted. No one could resist getting seconds.
I love how easy and foolproof the recipe is, and Garten's corn bread is perfect for leftovers. It still tasted just as moist on the second and third day. It's since earned a permanent spot on my holiday menu after winning rave reviews from my boyfriend, parents, and friends in the last two years.
Parton's corn bread requires far fewer ingredients than Garten's recipe.
To make Parton's corn bread, which has eight servings, you'll need:
2 cups self-rising cornmeal (she recommends Martha White or White Lily)
1-1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons bacon drippings, plus extra for the skillet
1 teaspoon salt
I began by making the bacon drippings.
Since I'd never made bacon drippings before, I read this CookingLight article for tips before I got started. Then I cut my bacon into small pieces and spread them out on my 9-inch skillet, allowing everything to render evenly.
I cooked my bacon over medium-low heat until the pieces turned crispy. Once I could see plenty of drippings at the bottom of the skillet, I removed the pieces and set them aside to eat with my corn bread once it was ready.
Parton said the skillet should be covered with extra bacon drippings, so I didn't wipe it clean after I finished cooking.
Then I began making the corn bread batter.
I added two cups of self-rising cornmeal to a large bowl, then threw in the salt and bacon drippings.
I have to confess, I accidentally added two tablespoons of bacon drippings instead of two teaspoons. But I love bacon and didn't think the extra drippings overwhelmed the flavor, so feel free to add extra if you wish.
After I added the buttermilk, my batter was ready.
I gradually added the buttermilk while stirring my batter with a wooden spoon, per the recipe.
Parton said you'll know the batter is ready when the consistency is thick but smooth.
Then I poured my batter into the hot skillet and popped it into the oven.
I threw my skillet into the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit and let it cook for 25 minutes. Parton says you'll know the corn bread is ready if it springs back when you tap it.
Parton's corn bread looked beautiful when it came out of the oven, and it tasted great.
Parton's corn bread had an inviting golden hue — albeit one that was paler than Garten's — and tasted delicious.
The bacon drippings infused the corn bread with some savory richness, and I loved the pillowy texture. Parton's corn bread really shined when I paired it with some peach jam on hand — adding extra depth to the flavor.
But Parton's corn bread definitely needs to be enjoyed hot and fresh. I tried some leftovers the next day and was surprised by how quickly the corn bread had dried up.
When it comes to the great corn bread showdown, Garten's brown-butter skillet recipe is my absolute favorite.
Parton's corn bread is quicker and easier than Garten's recipe, and I definitely enjoyed it. But Garten's corn bread has that extra special something that really makes it memorable. Browning the butter adds this sweetness that works so beautifully with the salty crust, and the gorgeous golden color makes it a centerpiece showstopper. Plus, Garten's corn bread still tastes super fresh even days later.
If you want a quick corn bread to go with an easy breakfast or dinner, Parton's is a great option. But for a special holiday recipe, there's no beating the Barefoot Contessa.
Want more recipes from the Barefoot Contessa? Try out some of Ina Garten's most popular dishes in her cookbooks:
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