Traditional Southern cornbread gets its sweet, robust flavor from ground corn flour, honey and butter or even bacon fat. Cornbread has evolved, though, to include many variations, including cake-like cornbread and Southwestern versions. You can even cook cornbread in a pressure cooker or slow cooker, rather than in the oven or a cast iron skillet. Whatever the recipe, cornbread always starts with a base of white flour and cornmeal. All-purpose baking mix can stand in for the flour to give you a head start.
All-purpose baking mixes contain the same ingredients that a typical cornbread recipe calls for -- flour, salt, baking soda and fat -- so it's easy to substitute a baking mix for a cornbread mix. Many cornbread mixes call for nothing but water, but you'll need a few more ingredients, including cornmeal, if you're using an all-purpose mix.
Recipes vary slightly, but in general, you'll combine one part all-purpose baking mix, one part cornmeal and one part milk to make cornbread. You'll also need eggs and a bit of oil. Combine the dry ingredients first and add the liquids later. Remember, cornbread is a quick bread so you want to treat it gently to avoid toughening it. Beat the eggs separately and stir the ingredients only until they're mixed. The consistency of the batter should be slightly thicker than a pancake batter. Add a little milk if yours is too thick. If you like a sweet cornbread, add a little sugar or honey, because all-purpose baking mixes generally don't contain a sweetener.
Cornbread tastes delicious on its own, but you can mix it up with a few add-ins. Try grated cheese and green chilies for Southwestern flair or frozen corn for a kid-friendly version. Serve cornbread with honey butter, made by whisking honey into softened butter. You can also make an easy tamale pie by browning ground beef and onions together. Add some canned tomatoes, black beans and corn, along with salsa and Southwestern seasonings. Top the dish with cornbread batter and bake until golden brown and bubbly. Tamale pie makes a tasty one-dish meal for busy school nights.
All-purpose baking mixes are fast and convenient. Their main drawback is their cost. For a fraction of the cost of a baking mix, you can whip up your own cornbread in just a minute or two more. Remember, baking mixes are nothing more than flour, salt, baking soda and fat. It only takes a bit more time to assemble these ingredients from scratch. Baking mixes contain a lot of sodium -- 410 mg in one-third cup of baking mix, and they also have trans-fats because they include partially hydrogenated fats. By making cornbread from scratch, you can cut some of the sodium and use a heart-friendly fat, such as olive or canola oil.