06 April, 2014

Sourdough Cornbread (Gluten-free)

Finally back after a long hiatus -- a combination of a long and winding winter and computer problems. I've been cooking every day but just not in a very inspired way as I struggle to keep up with my mother's fluctuating appetites and mood swings. She eats something for months then suddenly takes a disliking to it so it's off the menu at least for a few months. If any of you are caring for or have a relative with dementia, you may know what I'm talking about. There are many struggles around food and they can be disheartening for any cook. But perhaps the cruellest thing about dementia is that it is so unpredictable. One day my mother can have forgotten the name of the lock on the door and can't understand how to work it and the next she can be using it with no problem and reminding me to call someone to fix it.  It is this that more than anything adds stress for the caregiver. Each and every day can bring new symptoms. It seems as if you just get used to a new way of being and learning to manage the behaviours associated with it when the sands shift yet again and you must adapt or sink.

Through this whole heart-breaking process Mom seems to find some comfort in old-fashioned foods that she was given by my grandmother. She has a special fondness for things like Blueberry Grunt -- fluffy dumplings swimming in a sweetened blueberry sauce, muffins, Irish soda bread, and cornbread.

These days if I want to make any of these I usually just adapt a normal recipe. Since I've become accustomed to working with substitutions, there aren't many things I can't make. I use a few favourite staples like Organic Earth Balance margarine, soy/almond/rice/milk, and different combinations of gluten-free flours. They usually turn out quite acceptably and sometimes they are pretty darn good. I would say this cornbread is that. It has a nice mellow tang from the starter, a rustic textured crumb, and it rises high with the addition of a little baking soda. I make it in a well-seasoned cast iron pan that I grease with a bit of vegetable oil or margarine and put in the oven as it preheats to give the cornbread a good start and a nice crust.

I adapted this to be gluten-free from the excellent recipe in my go-to cooking bible, The Joy of Cooking. It has two organic eggs. It makes eight good sized wedges that taste wonderful with soup or even reheated the next day for breakfast with a pat of margarine or a bit of marmalade. Mom likes it both ways and so do I.

 For a a 10-inch frying pan

Grease the pan well with margarine or vegetable oil and put in the oven while it pre-heats to 450 degrees F.

Mix together well in a large bowl:

1 cup Gf sourdough starter 
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal ( I use organic, a rather coarse grind but any should work)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp guar gum (if desired)
2 T sugar
1/4 cup melted margarine (or butter)
1 1/2 cups soy or other milk
2 beaten eggs

Take the hot pan from the oven using a thick oven mitt and put it on the stove or other heat-proof surface. Pour in the batter which will be a medium consistency, easily pourable. Bake for 25-30 minutes. It takes about 25 in our convection oven but test with a wire tester or thin knife blade in the centre. When it tests dry and has a nice brown colour, it's done. None of these photos has been edited so the colour you see is what you should expect. The photos are a little ragged but editing will return when I get  more control of the new computer.

Note: I made my starter using the wild yeast method and keep it in a covered very large mayonnaise jar in the fridge. I occasionally feed it by adding water and more flour, especially to replace what I use. My starter contains a combination of grains--whatever I'm baking when I use it, including corn flour, buckwheat, brown rice flour, sorghum, teff flour and all-purpose mix. Any sourdough starter should work for this. Mine is over a year old and gets better tasting all the time. I will caution about using too much corn flour-- I find it makes the sourdough too sour.