There aren’t many people today who don’t know what cornbread is. But, most folks have never heard of spoon bread, cornbread’s softer cousin. This versatile dish can be served any time of day as a side or main. You can always “beef” it up by adding a few more eggs for protein. It can be served with meat or beans or cheese for a savory experience. Or you can have it with a generous dousing of honey or maple syrup and fruit to make it a sweet dish.
This versatility of this bread and the fact that it doesn’t require any wheat are what made this dish so appealing to American colonists. This recipe comes from Colonial Williamsburg where it’s served at the historic Christiana Campbell’s Tavern.
It’s the very same tavern where George Washington ate back in the 18th century. Well the one there now is a recreation of Mrs. Campbell’s tavern, but the menu recipes are sourced from original documents of the era, making them the closest thing to culinary time travel that we have.
Early colonists lamented the lack of ingredients found in Europe that they were accustomed to like wheat and sugar, using what many considered to be substitutes like corn and maple syrup. But, throughout the 1700s into the 1800s cornbread recipes remained popular due their great taste and the simplicity of the recipes.
For this spoon bread you’ll need to cook the cornmeal first on the stovetop before combining it with the other ingredients and then baking to a golden brown. Bake and serve in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven for that classic historic element at the table!
This spoon bread is great with just about anything you can put on it – it’s shown with a drizzle of honey above. Unlike regular cornbread which can be dry if you’re not careful, this bread is meant to be spooned out of the pan and is soft enough to require utensils to eat. If you enjoy cornbread or corn casserole then you’ll love this spoon bread!
Colonial Williamsburg Spoon Bread
15m prep time
50m cook time
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for serving
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- Preheat oven to 350˚F. Bring water and milk to simmer in saucepan on medium-high heat. Whisk in cornmeal, salt, sugar, and butter. Cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. While milk mixture cools whip eggs together with baking powder until light and fluffy. Fold into milk-corn mixture until uniform in color.
- Pour into generously-greased 9”x9” baking dish or 9” round cast iron pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until mostly set. Cover with foil if top browns too quickly.
- Remove from oven and dot with butter before using a spoon to dish out individual servings. Serve warm with some cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, or fruit on top if desired.
Recipe adapted from Williamsburg Yorktown Daily.