Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cornbread
In October, when the hot, dry, Santa Ana winds blow here in Los Angeles, I long for cool, crisp fall days, colorful foliage, and farm stands adorned with apple and pumpkin displays—spectacles I came to love during the years I lived in New England. We may not have many chilly days or crimson and gold leafed maples in Southern California, but I can get a taste of Vermont by placing several large pumpkins by our front door and cooking with pumpkin and other winter squash.
While the Santa Anas were gusting last week, I was inspired to create a pumpkin cornbread for my friend Kelly, a California girl who doesn’t crave New England autumnal pleasures but fancies anything made with pumpkin. The first loaf I baked was a little bland, begging for molasses and spices, so I stirred up a spiced molasses butter to spread on big squares of the bread. Delicious, but this triggered the idea to combine all the flavors in one, easy-to-make loaf.
I am thrilled with the tender, slightly sweet, gently spiced result. Cornbread lends itself well to gluten-free baking because corn is naturally gluten free, and cornmeal makes up most of the flour ingredients in this recipe. I use the stone ground, whole grain, gluten-free cornmeal from Bob's Red Mill for good flavor and texture. Rather than butter, I mixed in extra-virgin olive oil for a moist and healthful bread, and for fragrance with a big taste payoff—dark molasses, ginger, and allspice.
So far we have enjoyed this treat as a breakfast coffee cake; along side a white bean and kale soup; and as dessert—accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a cranberry compote laced with maple syrup and crystallized ginger. For Halloween, I am planning a black bean chili, and you know this recipe will be on the menu. I will be serving the cornbread at Thanksgiving too; it keeps well, so it can be baked the day before the feast. Now, I am headed back to the kitchen to make a loaf for a friend who is recuperating from an operation.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cornbread
Somewhere between a cake and a bread, this slightly sweet cornbread is delightful served warm or at room temperature. I mixed in some dried cranberries, but any dried fruit would be good, or leave out the fruit all together.
Makes 1 bread, about 15 servings
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup less 1 tablespoon milk (low fat or whole) or soy milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for the pan
3 tablespoons full flavor unsulphured molasses
1½ cups gluten-free cornmeal (preferably whole grain)
½ cup gluten-free flour mix (I used Cup4Cup
¼ cup (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum (see directions)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup dried cranberries or chopped dried sour cherries (optional)
Place a 7x11” glass baking dish in the oven and preheat to 400°F.
Measure the vinegar into a glass measuring cup and add enough milk to measure 1 cup liquid. Stir and let stand a few minutes to thicken (you are making instant buttermilk, which gives the bread a tender crumb). In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, eggs, ¼ cup olive oil, and molasses and whisk to blend. Whisk in the milk mixture.
Combine the cornmeal, flour mix, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, xanthan gum (¼ teaspoon if using Cup4Cup, ½ teaspoon if using other flour mixes), ginger, allspice, and a generous amount of pepper in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix until evenly combined. Stir in the dried cranberries.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and brush with oil to coat. Add the batter and spread evenly. Using a hot pad, return the pan to the oven. Bake the bread until brown, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.