Corn bread has always had a bit of an identity crisis in our house: Is it savory or is it sweet? Does it replace dinner rolls or dessert?
This very dilemma may be what I love most about corn bread: It can go either way.
Usually, we veer more sweet than savory, topping corn bread and muffins with a quick homemade maple or honey butter, a welcome break from the pot of chili I often serve at corn bread's side. Sometimes, though, I'll dabble in savory territory, adding actual corn kernels or smoky chipotle powder or chopped roasted poblano peppers into the batter. Either way, leftovers make their way onto the breakfast table the next morning, either spread with a bit of coconut oil and marmalade (sweet) or topped with a poached egg, black beans and salsa (savory). Corn bread, fast and easy to make, is a versatile bread to put in the dinner basket.
Inspired by the gorgeous tarte tatins of France, lately I've been sauteeing up tart Granny Smith apple slices in a little butter and then covering them with everything from oven-puffed pancake batter to oatmeal-bar dough. When I decided to make my quick weeknight corn bread one evening, I had a few extra minutes to spare, so I sliced up the last couple of apples in the fruit basket and sauteed them to bake under the batter. The result looked more like a cake than a corn bread, which ended up being a huge plus with everyone in our family.
The buttery apple layer was thin, but it kept the corn bread moist with its syrupy edge. Unsweetened applesauce adds tenderness without a ton of fat, while also adding a tiny bit of sweetness. Because most of the sugar is on the outside of the bread, it tastes sweeter than the few tablespoons of brown sugar might suggest.