Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Not Your Average Cornbread...

Why?  Well, for starters, because it's not made with corn.

[cue cricket chirps for awkwardly long pause]

Aside from gluten and dairy, I also have a sensitivity to corn.  I discovered it in the year or so after removing gluten from my diet, when my diet took a marked turns towards increased indulgence in corn tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa, popcorn, and delicious breakfast tacos, enchiladas, and tamales. I am in Texas, after all.  However, after eating these items, more and more I was being seized by seemingly inexplicable abdominal cramps along with hives all over my body.  One would think that after discovering a major food allergy that I would be better able to put two and two together.  But I honestly think that at the time, after suffering from food for so long and finding actual relief that didn't come in the form of a pill, I wanted gluten-free to be "the answer."

But it wasn't.  A strong beginning in my journey towards emancipating my body, mind, and spirit from fearing food and finally learning to listen to my gut?  Yes.

So long story shorter, corn and I definitely are not the best dance partners.  Sure, we still dance occasionally, swaying to a slow song, popping and locking in a dance battle, or doing the Hustle.  But if we dance any more than that, I will just say that my feet end up liberally stepped upon.  Which is a shame, because I do love many corn-full food items.  The ones listed above, roasted corn on the cob, cornmeal pancakes, chilaquiles, polenta…and oooooh, cornbread casserole.  Do not get me started on cornbread casserole, because I will tell you very convincingly that I used to make the best cornbread casserole.  Ever.

But cornbread casserole, with corn meal, corn flour, creamed corn, and fresh corn kernels? #WorldOfOuch

Fast forward to now, with 2014 saying its goodbyes and the New Year already knocking on the door, I became inspired to create a "non-cornbread" for the other canaries out there, who like me, want to eat cornbread with their greens and black-eyed peas but don't want to feel less fortunate for it.  The idea started with my discovery that the flavor of cooked amaranth reminds me of fresh shucked corn, and then I applied that towards creating a recipe for jalapeño cornbread that I steered towards more Asian flavors with the addition of sambal, scallions, fresh garlic, and cumin.

A fortune of beautiful flavors that came together deliciously.

Amaranth Quickbread Muffins with Sambal and Scallions
Gluten-Free & Vegan

Active Prep Time: 5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time:  none
Baking Time:  15-20 minutes
Yield:  12 muffins

1 tablespoon ground golden flax + 3 tablespoons water
1 c (8 fl. oz) unsweetened coconut or nut milk + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 c (2 3/4 oz) Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all purpose flour
1/2 c (2 oz) amaranth flour
1 c (5 oz) Arrowhead Mills "Quinoa Rice & Shine" (brown rice grits/quinoa flake combo)
2 tablespoons (1/2 oz) unsweetened shredded coconut
2 teaspoons whole amaranth
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons (42g) melted red palm oil
1/3 c (2 1/2 oz) unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons (1 oz) maple syrup, or to taste
2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced

Jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
Sea salt flakes

What you'll need:  Small mixing bowl, medium mixing bowl, spatula, butter knife, muffin pan

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare your muffin tin by either placing liners in each cup or lightly greasing them.
2.  Make your flax "egg" by combining the ground golden flax with water.  Make your "buttermilk" by combining the coconut milk or nut milk with the vinegar (I used cashew milk in my testing of this recipe).  Set aside while assembling the rest of the components.
3.  Combine dry ingredients in small mixing bowl until well incorporated.
4.  Combine wet ingredients and aromatics in medium mixing bowl until well incorporated, adding flax egg and buttermilk.  Notes: I love the rich, buttery flavor of red palm oil, and it also lends the muffins a beautiful golden color.  But if you don't have it on hand, feel free to substitute coconut oil.  Also, the amount of maple syrup indicated in the recipe will give you slight sweetness to counter the spice, but if you're wanting a more sweet and moist Northern style cornbread, feel free to add more.
5.  Gradually fold dry mixture into wet mixture until you've achieved a slightly thick and coarse batter.
6.  Fill each cup about 2/3 full and then, to garnish, add diced jalapeño, swirl a small dollop of sambal (or sriracha) through the surface of the batter with the tip of a butter knife, and then sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
7.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until surface looks matte and the edges of the muffin are beginning to turn golden brown and pull away from the pan.
8.  Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes.  Release and enjoy.

Amaranth grains are soooo tiny.

Neon orange loveliness of red palm oil.

A beautiful dance of flavor and texture.

As artistic as you want to be.

Looks like cornbread to me.

I love the texture of these, with the wonderful crumb, their proud defiance in the face of expectations they will fall apart, and the tiny, pleasant crunch/pop of the whole amaranth.  And the flavor really does remind me of cornbread in a more cake-like form, with the exciting spicy additions compelling me to eat several of these in one sitting without guilt or fear.

Breaking the first one apart was definitely a proud papa moment.

I sincerely hope you find joy in both making these and sharing them with those you love and care for, especially, but not limited to, of course, your canary friends who corn with caution.  And for all who may be reading this, please allow me to wish you a Blessed and Bountiful New Year in advance.  

Please allow it be filled with Opportunity, Growth, Love, Laughter, Happiness, Peace, and Fortune.

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