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30 July 2009

gluten-free cornbread

gluten-free cornbread (perfect, perfect)

I have been wanting for weeks to tell you about this cornbread.

Look at that golden crust. Don't you just want to admire it for awhile? Oh, you don't? You'd rather cut a slice and dive right in? Understandable. Be my guest.

I had this piece gathering in my mind, about the essential subjective quality of recipes. How you may love a dish, and I may want to spit it out. How, no matter how well written a recipe is, someone is going to say it stinks. How we all start from a different place, and so we are all reading a different book really, and how reviews are somewhat specious, therefore.

Yeah. It sounded that garbled in my head, too.

Really, what I wanted to tell you is that I hate Reggie Jackson. In the World Series of 1978, he thrust out his hip while he was running from 1st to 2nd base, to deflect the ball, and thus be safe. Cheater. This much-replayed incident started a chain of events that broke down my beloved Dodgers, who should have been the real victors of that series. This was the second year in a row that the Yankees beat the Dodgers, breaking my 12-year-old heart.

And so, I hate the Yankees. Sorry to lose you if you're a fan of the pinstripes. That's just the way it is.

Any association I have with the Yankees is going to be tainted. I'm never going to like them. Or the bleacher bums in right field who shout out obscenities as they slosh beer on their chests in their drunken quest to pump their fists and berate the right fielder playing beneath them. Even when he's from their own team. So if you asked me to read a book about the Yankees, no matter how well written or compelling a read it is, I'd probably not be able to recommend it to anyone else. Just because I'd be scrunching my lips while I read it.

The same is true for recipes.

Okay, here's the deal. I'm not making any sense. It's so damned hot here that my brain has clearly melted.

Yesterday, the temperature was 103°. That's right. 103°. The hottest day in Seattle recorded history. No one here is equipped for this. We don't have air conditioning. I rubbed so many ice cubes on my wrists and behind my ears that the ice maker stopped working. I wet my hair so many times during the day in an attempt to cool down that it is now ratted up like some archetypal image of a tough girl from the 50s. Only not that hip.

Yesterday, our friend Tita tried to make us feel cooler by telling us the story of how she and her husband drove across Death Valley in the middle of an afternoon when the temperature gauge read 134°. They had no cool drinks in the car, no air conditioner, and they were afraid to roll down the windows for fear that their faces would fry. Two hours in, she turned to her husband and said, "John, do you hear Beethoven's 5th Symphony?"
"Yes," he said. "For the past 20 minutes."
"John," she said. "We don't have a radio in this truck."

This didn't make me feel better. Instead, I have been humming Beethoven's 5th Symphony all morning.

Yesterday, at nearly the peak of heat, the power went out for much of the island. Kaput. Transformers blown because of the heat and lightning strikes. This meant no fans, no refrigerator, no relief from the heat pressing on our bodies. Poor Little Bean was freaked out by the sweat on her face. She had never sweated before. We held our cool as much as we could. There's one 4-foot spot on the front deck where a breeze the equivalent of an old man pursing his lips and blowing out sometimes shuddered across our feet. We stayed there.

When the fan started whirring its white noise again, we cheered. Power back on. Everything up and running. Except the internet. And I had to make the last changes to the first chunk of our manuscript and send it to our editor last night, before our trip. So a call to the cable company, to see what happened. When the guy on the phone (who was clearly in a cooler place) asked me to check the connection on the modem, I had to crawl under the table holding the computer. Not only did I find shriveled mosquito wasps and spider webs, but I had to pant to breathe. 112° down there, I'm sure. I stood up and had 1/2 cup of sweat on my face.

Have I mentioned that I hate this? Almost as much as the Yankees.

All is better now. The internet started working again. I made the last changes and pressed send at nearly 10. The baby did eventually fall asleep. Danny and I stayed up until midnight, packing our clothes and the baby's toys. The temperature inside the house was a much cooler 91°.

And now I'm up, at 5 am, trying to write this piece about cornbread, before we take off for Colorado today. Rocky mountain high, indeed — it's supposed to be only 70° in the mountains. We're leaving for a family wedding, a joyful reunion of all the Aherns. Much laughter will ensue. All will be well.

There's still much to do. Danny will be up soon, to help me finish cleaning the house, so that our friends who are staying here while we are gone don't have to find all those dead moths, the ones fried by the heat as well. But right now, it's only 75° in the house. Beethoven is fading.

We can't wait for a vacation.

Hm. I still didn't tell you about the cornbread. But I feel strangely better now.

gluten-free cornbread II

THE BEST GLUTEN-FREE CORNBREAD WE HAVE EATEN, adapted from The Better Homes and Garden Bread Book

My dear friend Tita is the wisest person I know. She's loving and generous, but she also has no time to waste. If something seems ridiculous to her, she wants nothing of it. (You should have seen her face when we were trying to explain molecular gastronomy to her.) She is a good cook, with no pretentions. So when she says, "This is the best recipe for cornbread I have ever made," I listened.

And she's right. This is fluffy cornbread, full of corn taste with just the tiniest gravitas because of the cornmeal. I love that it's adapted from a book Tita received as a birthday present in 1972. "Everything I have ever baked out of that book has worked." And gluten-free? With these flours, it's indistiguishable. It's just good. Tita had some at our house the other evening, and she loved it. Couldn't tell the difference.

Have at it.

1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ cup shortening (not butter)
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Combine the flours by sifting them into a large bowl. Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir.

Cut the shortening into the flours, the way you would when making a pie dough. You should end up with walnut-size pieces in a sandy flour. (Tita says that shortening, preferably lard, is essential here. Butter just won't do the same.)

Combine the eggs and milk in a small bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid. Stir with a rubber spatula until everything is combined.

Stir in the cornmeal, whisking fast, until it is just combined. Do not overstir.

Pour into a greased 9 by 9 by 2-inch pan. Slide it into the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sides of the cornbread are slightly shrinking from the pan and a toothpick comes out clean.

Feeds 8.


At 7:07 AM, Blogger Whimsy Valentine said...

Is this better than the cornbread in your book? Because we SWEAR by that! (It's awesome the next day as French Toast. mmmmmm....) Now I'll have to try this this weekend!
Have fun in Colorado!

At 7:33 AM, Blogger Cegoodner said...

Enjoy your trip and the cool air. We are in Portland where it reached 106 yesterday and it's just plain miserable to go do anything . . . so I know what you mean!

Looking forward to trying the cornbread recipe!!

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Katrine said...

I'm really glad you made it through. We had a day like that last summer and I'll never forget it. It never gets that hot in Maine either. Maine, Seattle, same thing basically. I was so excited when I saw your recipe for gf cornbread. I've been wanting cornbread all week. But, then a glitch. We also can't eat potatoe - yeah, try that one on for size. No gluten, and no potatoe products. Major monkey wrench. Thank you for sharing it though. Maybe I can experiment with it some more.

At 8:33 AM, Blogger katie stone said...

Oh, Shauna! You'll be happy to know that as I sit in my living room in uptown Denver, it is a glorious 58 degrees and rainy :) The low tonight is 40-something and you will sleep wonderfully up there! Have a fabulous trip...if you can, stop into Fruition in Denver on your way back--all of our entrees are gluten-free right now and they're delectable :)

At 8:37 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

Sweating with you. Argh. This is madness.

As soon as the temps cool down enough to turn that oven on, I'll be trying your cornbread recipe. :)

Enjoy your trip!

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Athena said...

Please tell me you weren't baking yesterday. I couldn't even bring myself to turn the stove on for tea.

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Maria said...

We've been haging Seattle weather here in Denver all week - I would happily trade you! Enjoy your Colorado vacation.

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Mair said...

OK, so the Northeast and the Northwest seem to have switched climates. I live in New Jersey, and we're aiming for the coolest July on record, or close to it, and pretty rainy, after one of the rainiest June's on record too. I actually wrote on Facebook last month that we had Seattle's rain, and would gladly return it. Have fun in Colorado. The cornbread looks delish.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger A Finley said...

In Eugene, we have also had record melting heat - yesterday it was 110 for the second day in a row. And I love the comments about the Yankees - they are the team my family most likes to see lose. Especially if they are playing the Mariners!
As for the cornbread, it looks scrumptious, but I will wait until the house is below 90 before using the oven!

At 10:10 AM, Anonymous La Niña said...

Okay dear friend- I grew up in NYC. But I'm a dyed in the wool Mets fan. That was until I moved to Atlanta and watched the Braves go from worst to first. And now after 12+ years in Seattle, I go for Mariners. But I wish I could take the heat in stride, as much as I adapted to different baseball teams. (and the Mariners did win in all that heat.)

Speaking of adapting- that is just what we've all been doing living GF. Thanks for adapting the cornbread recipe, I know Booth will love it, but not until it cools down here. We are sticking to the grill, and sticking to the chairs, and sticking to our clothes.

Have a GREAT trip!

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE this post. Clearly you have Heat Madness. It's rambling and WONDERFUL and TRUE. Thanks for sharing. Have a wonderful trip

At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Sally said...

Having lived most of my life in the Intermountain West, I know all about hothothot summers. A little trick I learned ages ago for keeping cool: an ice cube in your bra. Right there in your cleavage. I don't know why it helps, but it does, as does a cool, damp wash cloth on the back of your neck.

Good luck surviving the heat if it hasn't settled again by the time you get back.

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Sho said...


I remember your Cornbread for a Cold Night! Oh dear, you must have been so hot and wishing for that cold night!


At 11:40 AM, Blogger SARAH said...

Looks delightful! Can't wait to try it.

I just posted a G-F cornbread on my blog a week ago- Quinoa Cornbread (it's also vegan!). Check it out:

At 11:44 AM, Blogger ian said...

I grew up in Texas, the heat and humidity there, in the summer, would be EXACTLY like you described, for days on end in the 100's plus. That is what I knew summer as, until I moved to Washington state! I will take a dry 70-80 ish, any day over Texas heat, and when it gets too hot (since the sun is very intense here) we head to the beach or the mountains.

Hope you enjoy your trip to cool colorful Colorado to see family!

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous StuffCooksWant said...

I feel your pain... we've had 26+ days of over 100 degree heat, although we do have A/C. Still hot. Too hot to turn on the oven or go to the store to buy food. I think my body is storing fat... it must think it's a natural disaster or something.

Made a version of this yesterday with lemon juice, zest and blueberries and a touch of sugar. So good. Even the non-GFs in my house are gobbling it up.

At 1:06 PM, Blogger Peter said...

Katrine - you can probably sub cornstarch for the potato starch

At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome to chilly Colorado. We have switched weather with Seattle. We have had constant rain since the end of May. This week feels like Autumn has arrived early. My husband and I could see our breath yesterday evening and we live at 5000 feet!!! I usually hold out for the end of August to relax and feel cozy when it cools down. This year there will be NO transition because we have not had any HEAT. So even though the heat is a pain....I kind of envy your situation. I bet your tomatoes are getting ripe on the vines (mine are forever green). Hope you enjoy our cool weather!!!

At 1:13 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

Oh memories of cornbread. I wish I could have dairy and those other grains. Maybe I'll try it with some other flours and see if it works!

At 2:34 PM, Blogger cottagesweet said...

As much as you were suffering in the heat, I almost hate to tell you, this blog brought me needed laughter. Hope you all soon get some relief. Oh, and the cornbread does look good.

At 2:54 PM, Blogger elizabeth said...

Try holding the ice or water glass to your actual ear. The air currents or whatever seem to give you brain freeze and cool you from the inside out. Between that and keeping your feet in a pool of cool water- you can really cool down.

Figured out the first when I worked at an amusement park one summer.

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ha...had to laugh, here in the AZ its like that all the time. the only good thing is that we all have AIR CONDINTIONING. hope you cool off on your trip

At 5:51 PM, Blogger Lynn said...

Cornbread come get me some. There is actually a song by the Fania All Stars, a top salsa band with that line in it. I did have the cornbread at Babycakes and it was very good. I tried a gluten free mix recently but I think I overcooked it. Cornbread is on the money or as the Spanish expression goes "por la maceta".

At 12:35 AM, Blogger The Body Electric said...

It looks AMAZING! But sadly I am also allergic to dairy and eggs so this lovely little recipe is a no go for me.

Anyone know of a gluten dairy egg free blog or website? I'm having a dickens of a time finding anything.

PS. might I say, this is the most entertaining blog about recipes that I have ever read. Thanks! I can just feel the sweat as you describe it! (probably cuz I live in a similar climate but your words paint a vivid picture!!!)


At 6:54 AM, Blogger Gluten free Kay said...

You need a little wading pool to get you through hot days! I have one big enough to float a raft in. Ahhhh! Gets me through hot days of gardening.

I am corn-free, but I'm going to try your recipe substituting Bob's Red Mill millet meal. Just discovered it on their website. I've never seen it in any health food stores. Works great for dusting fish for a crispy crust.

At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Andrea said...

Thanks so much for the recipe! I may get up at 4:00, just to be able to make this cornbread, despite the heat! (This receipe is especially timely, since I can no longer find Bob's Red Mill GF Cornbread mix in our local stores. Enjoy the cooler temps in CO, not to mention the airconditioned airport. Take care!

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Olivia said...

Whereas as I, in Atlantic Canada, have just welcomed summer this week! Until recently I was still wearing fleece pants. However, when we lived in Southern Ontario, summers were regularly blistering. The inside temperature in our brick house never went below 30C and we had no AC. It's hot here now but I'll still try the cornbread!

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Kerrie aka GFShaolin said...

As you sit in your heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, I'm sitting in one of the rainest and coolest summers in New York City history. I've baked more this summer than any previous...and I think I'm going to put this on my list!

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Erin Swing said...

I love your tangents; somehow there is connectivity. I'd love to see that beautiful cornbread sliced so we can see the crumb.

At 7:15 PM, Blogger I Am Gluten Free said...

Shauna - this cornbread looks wonderful. I'd like to try and make it without eggs. Hmmmm, what to use as a sub? Not sure, I'll have to do some experimenting. Thanks so much for the inspiration!


At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Amy Green (Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free) said...

I must say that it makes me feel so good that you still adapt recipes from Better Homes and Gardens!! It seems that I get most of my really good inspiration from 'normal' (is there any normal??) cookbooks and blogs.

The heat has actually let up here - low 90's and lots of rain. We've had the AC on since March, though. Texas is just like that.

At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna - could I sub the Bob's gluten free flour mix for these flours? Thanks! Lyla

At 11:35 PM, Blogger Katherine Gray said...

We had similar weather down here in Portland, as Cegoodner said. We had a window A/C unit we kept in our attic, bought when southern friends were staying with us. It rained when they were here and we never used it. We almost forgot about it but then installed it and have kept the bedroom at 75 degrees for the last 4 days. It feels decadent. And I feel spoiled. But we put our girls (ages 5 and 3) on an air mattress on the floor and, miraculously, we all slept through the night. Worth. It.

Have a great time on your trip. But are you driving or flying? That's a long trip with a Bean.

At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

when i saw "gluten-free cornbread" i thought that this was going to be a post about how of course cornbread is gluten free, cause there has never been any flour in it- only cornmeal. i live in NC and i have never heard of cornbread having flour in it. so it was bizarre to me to see all of these fancy ingredients- cornbread is just cornmeal, eggs, milk, oil (or drippings) salt, and baking powder. anyhow, i hope that you have a great vacation, and i hope that it is cooler when you return!

At 7:23 AM, Blogger Janel said...

phew! i was more afraid of you saying you were a yankees fan...i should've known better ;) i'm a red sox fan here, so you won't lose me as a faithful reader!

cornbread goes to the very soul of my southern roots. just seeing that photo makes me want to make a big batch of chili con carni & eat it with a big ole hunk of cornbread.



At 9:21 AM, Blogger Carol Blymire said...

I made the corn bread last night. Phenomenal! Had a slice this morning for breakfast, topped with two eggs over-easy, some beans, and some basil-garlic-beef sausage. I would like to start every day this way, please. ;)

At 6:21 PM, Blogger gfe--gluten free easily said...

Wow, you guys in the Northwest are frying. We have those outrageous temps here in the VA, but we do have AC. And, no electricity is never any fun, but wow, no fan even in that heat would be horrid. It's hard to believe Little Bean had never sweated before though. Sweat is a well-known concept here. :-) Glad you're headed to Colorado for cooler temps and family fun!

The cornbread looks wonderful. Hard to beat good cornbread. I use a recipe that makes us quite happy that only use cornmeal, but I'll have to try this one.


At 8:25 PM, Blogger Banannas said...

oh, my...see, as a texan, over 100-degree heat is pretty standard. but that's why a/c is mandatory and ubiquitous. (although now that i'm in seoul, the temperature never gets that high, but the humidity smothers and i feel that high-level crankiness you described.)

thank you for the cornbread recipe!

At 10:10 PM, Blogger Theresa said...

I'm kind of jealous. It's winter where I live and only 9`Celsius [48`F]and cold enough to do dragon breath when we go outside.
But I do feel your pain! Poor you, it doesn't get that hot here either but last summer we had a record 41`C day [105`F] and I was at a conference/camp so there was no lying in the shade under a sprinkler!
I love your blog by the way and have linked to it from mine:

Stay cool!

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Evie said...

I read each blog through blogging, and always forget to comment and be thankful! I'm sitting here eating a sandwich for lunch for the first time in a decade, with bread from your very recipe, and am so very thankful for the simple change of speed.

I'll be visiting Seattle again soon and hopefully moving in the coming year. I'll search out the husband restaurant!

Any Seattle people get emails from Duke's Chowder House? I'm desperately searching for a 15% off Alaska Air code for my upcoming flight out there :)

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Steph - Wasabimon! said...

Hey I just posted a new peach recipe for Summer Fest! Peach Elderberry Jam:

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Terri said...

I just made the cornbread and it is phenomenal. Texture and flavor are excellent-very cakey, for those who like their cornbread that way. With a little tweaking you could almost turn this into a pretty good cake/cupcake, although I can't figure out what kind of icing would best complement the sweet "corniness."

Thank you for this wonderful gem!

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Caduceus said...

My wife is Floridian and I am Arkansan and until we moved to New Jersey we didn't even know there was corn bread with gluten in it to start with.

This is the sort of corn-bread we are familiar with:

Great recipe but someone accustomed to cakey cornbread would find it completely alien.

At 7:41 AM, Blogger jodie said...

can you substitute soy milk for milk in this recipe? my dr suggested this site for gluten free recipes and info. thanks!

At 8:31 AM, Blogger Paul Nichols said...

This is a beautiful cornbread recipe. However, because you don't like the NY Yankees, I'm afraid I'll to look elsewhere. Aw, darn.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Jen said...

I had the same question Jodie did. Would soy or rice milk work in this, or is the dairy required?

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna,
I realize this is a year late and a couple of dollar short, but the next time it gets that hot...or even just too hot, try drinking a hot cup of coffee. I know, that sounds kinda like the same as turning into the direction of the skid, but it warms your insides, which makes you notice the heat less.
I wanted to share that with you because we are of kindred spirit in that at the age of 12, I too had my heart broken by my beloved Philadelphia Phillies. It's a pain that never leaves you.

At 6:22 PM, Blogger vcoleman said...

Thanks for the recipe. I just made some of the corn bread but I ended up adding alot more liquid because I was thinking of trying to get it the same consistency as the cornbread my mom makes with gluten flour. I am not sure if that was the best choice but it turned out good! I am going to try it with less liquid next time and see how that goes as well. She makes her cornbread more like a cake and she adds vanilla and nutmeg. it is EXCELLENT comfort food. and its great with breakfast or with bbq chicken with lunch/dinner (welcome to the south!)

At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Joanie said...

Wanted cornbread today and went to your blog to find it. And you are so right on it is the best ... ever gluten free or not. I'm so used to baking and then tasting and saying "Well, not bad for gluten free."

At 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic recipe. As mentioned several times it's not just good in the gluten free category. My 'normal' guests loved this as well. I did not have sorghum flour so substituted buckwheat and it was perfect. I'm so glad I found this recipe. Thanks.

At 6:45 PM, Blogger LeighAnne Wilson said...

I just found your site and I can't wait to try more recipes! We had this cornbread recipe tonight -- I'm new to gluten-free cooking, so every meal is an "experiment" -- and this one was great! I cooked it on top of a taco casserole and my husband couldn't even tell it was gluten-free; all the kids loved it, too :-) that's pretty rare. Thanks so much!

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Danielle Hunt said...

Hi! I am wondering if you used leaf lard or regular lard in your cornbread? I don't have time to test it before I am serving to guests tonight as I just found this recipe although I will for the future. Just wondered if you already know the answer.

Thanks! btw, I am making the carrot cake and ginger frosting from your new cookbook for my daughter's birthday tonight. Can't wait to try it!


At 6:30 PM, Blogger True Fast said...

Indeed one of the best GF (or any) cornbread recipes I've tried. Didn't have shortening on hand so I cut in butter-- loved the flavor. Used buttermilk. Also, was short just one of the GF flours (potato) so I used 1/3 of each of the others. Truly delish and so tender!

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Leah Banicki said...

The cornbread is awesome. so moist and soft yummy. Bought your book yesterday and reading it through. Love your stories and your passion for food is inspiring.
Got me up and cooking a little today.


Leah Banicki
gluten free since 10-8-10

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Debbie Travis said...

Excellent cornbread recipe. I have tried several gluten-free recipes and this is difinitely the best. Kudos!!! Thank you.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger Jacqueline said...

We're trialling eggs during Christmas break and I'm responsible for bringing cornbread for the family gathering tomorrow. Testing your recipe this evening subbing rice milk and, if eggs fail (and assuming I like the recipe ;), I'll be trying it with various egg subs.
Thanks for another fabulous recipe!


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