Corn bread in all its glory is celebrated in the South, and as a food editor for Southern Living magazine, I’ve tasted many renditions. There’s a constant debate over whether or not to add sugar. This is a version I’ve come up with over the years that is neither too sweet nor too savory; feel free to add more or less sugar depending on your tastes. I judge a corn bread more by its moistness than by its sweetness — there’s nothing worse than dry corn bread — so pouring cream in the center is a touch inspired by the brilliant Marion Cunningham and her famous custard-filled corn bread. I like extra cracked black pepper on mine, à la Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
This recipe is from A Mouthful of Stars. Click here for more information on the cookbook.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Add the butter to an 8- or 9-inch cast-iron skillet and melt over medium heat. You can also make this in a 9-inch round cake pan. Pour the melted butter into a large bowl and set aside to let cool (but not harden). Place the skillet — avoid the temptation to wipe it clean — in the oven while it’s heating.
Whisk the eggs and buttermilk into the cooled melted butter. Add the grated zucchini to the egg-buttermilk mixture.
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, pepper, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Whisk in the cornmeal. Add the flour mixture to the zucchini mixture and stir to combine.
Remove the skillet from the oven and carefully swirl the butter that remains in it from step 2 to coat the skillet (the skillet will be hot by now). Transfer the batter to the skillet and smooth the top. Make a small well in the center of the batter and pour the cream into the center; do not stir. Some of the cream might spill over onto the top of the batter, but not to worry; it will soak into the corn bread. Place the zucchini slices on top in a spiral or circle. Sprinkle with a bit of finishing salt or sugar. Gently place the skillet back into the oven and bake for about 50 minutes, until light golden and set.
Let cool slightly and serve warm as-is or with honey or jam.