If people get to talking about cornbread for long enough, the discussion will inevitably turn to the question of whether cornbread ought to be sweet or savory. And if you happen to be in the room (or comments section) where the discussion is taking place, you might find things getting kind of heated.
People who favor savory cornbread (and by that I just mean unsweetened) insist that it's the only correct way to make it. Likewise, those who prefer the sweet version do so with a passion.
I happen to like both, and I can't possibly be the only one. If I'm spreading my cornbread with something sweet, like honey-butter, then I'll go with a savory cornbread — because I don't want to overdo it on the sweet. The same goes if I'm making it with bacon butter instead of ordinary butter. (Bacon butter is the smooth, bacony byproduct of baking bacon in the oven.)
On the other hand, if I'm serving it with chili, or let's say with jalapeños baked into it, then I might want a bit of sweetness to balance out the heat.
So there you go. The point is, you can like cornbread both ways, or not. If you like it sweet, make it described below, with sugar and honey. For a savory cornbread, leave them out. For something in between, use less, or maybe just the sugar, or just the honey.
I will point out that sugar has an effect on the proteins in flour called glutens. By interfering with the way water interacts with those glutens, sugar basically makes baked goods softer and more tender. (Salt, by the way, does the opposite.) So by leaving out the sugar, you'll end up with a slightly less tender cornbread, which might not bother you, but it's something to consider.
Finally, this recipe will make a 9 × 9 cornbread. You can use a regular square baking dish, a nonstick baking pan, or a flexible silicone pan. For the glass or ceramic dishes, I'd grease and flour the dishes. If it's a nonstick pan, I'd be satisfied with a quick spritz of cooking spray. The silicone baking pans don't need either one.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare your baking dish or pan as described above.
- Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
- Combine the half and half, eggs, butter (or shortening), honey and sugar.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones and mix just until the flour is moistened, no more than ten to fifteen seconds. The batter should be visibly lumpy — leave it that way! Don't mix the batter too long or you'll end up overworking the glutens and your cornbread will be too tough.
- Once the liquid and dry ingredients have been combined, pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake the cornbread immediately.
- Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean and the edge of the bread starts to separate from the pan.
- Cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from the pan, let it cool for 5 more minutes on a rack, and serve as soon as possible after that.