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
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
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 cup less 1 tablespoon milk, low fat or whole or soy milk
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 2 eggs
- 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.