gluten-free cornmeal pancakes

Cornmeal, ground from dried maize, comes in more than a few varieties; to start with, there's fine, medium and coarse consistencies. Medium grinds are fine in most baked goods, though finely ground is best for delicate pastries such as cakes. Finely ground cornmeal is also called cornflour in the States, though in the UK cornflour refers to cornstarch. Coarsely ground cornmeal gives baked goods more texture and crunch, which may or may not be desirable.

You may also see cornmeal labeled "steel ground" or "stone ground," or "old fashioned." Steel ground cornmeal, particularly common in the US, has the hull and germ of the maize kernel mostly removed, and stays good almost indefinitely if stored in a cool, dry location. Meanwhile, stone ground (aka "old fashioned") cornmeal retains some of the hull and germ, giving it more nutrition and flavor. However, it also has a shorter shelf life, which can be extended by refrigerating or even freezing the cornmeal.

To top it off, cornmeal comes in three different colors: yellow, white, and blue. Yellow cornmeal is standard in baked goods and polenta for most of the world. African dishes and many cornbread and pancake recipes from the Southern US use white cornmeal. Blue cornmeal can be used for a more exiting color, nutritional benefits, and a stronger flavor.

Yellow cornmeal in this recipe gives these pancakes an appealing golden hue, but feel free to experiment with different types of cornmeal. In place of eggs, I grind golden flaxseed normal flaxseed would make healthfood-looking brown flecks in the pancakesand whisk with water.

The cornmeal in these fluffy, delicious pancakes pairs especially well with blueberries, blackberries, or orange. When I made these pancakes today for a Saturday-morning brunch I heated some maple syrup with frozen blackberries for an instant, delicious blackberry compote. Adding some orange zest wouldn't have hurt anything either. If you want to keep the pancakes warm, preheat the oven to 200F, and stack them on a plate until ready.

  • If you don't have brown rice flour or arrowroot, substitute both with 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour.
  • Classic Pancakes (gluten-free): Instead of the cornmeal, add 1 cup of brown rice flour (so the total quantity is 1.5 cups) and add 1 cup of of millet or sorghum flour. Omit the lemon zest.
  • These pancake recipes also work for making waffles.

Serves 4-6
Total time: 20 minutes

2 cups non-dairy milk
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and zest of 1-2 lemons
2 tablespoons ground golden flaxseed
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)

2 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal or corn flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup melted coconut or sunflower oil, plus more for greasing the griddle

Whisk together the milk, lemon juice, ground flax, and arrowroot for a few minutes, until slightly thickened, and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla, syrup, and oil to the wet ingredients.

Oil a large frying pan or griddle and heat to medium-high (350-375F). Add the wet ingredients to the cornmeal mixture and mix until lumps are eliminated (in most pancake recipes you barely stir the batter for fear of tough pancakes caused by gluten formation, but this isn't a problem in gluten-free recipes for obvious reasons).

Once the griddle is hot, scoop or pour about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Cook for a couple minutes, until browned, then flip and cook another minute. Serve immediately. Top with fresh berries, maple syrup, blueberry jam, and/or a compote.


apple leek pasticcio

In a visit to Florence last summer, La Raccolta ranked top among most memorable and delicious gastronomical experiences. A lovely vegetarian restaurant tucked away behind a little health food store, from the outside we would have never known a restaurant was even there (thanks, HappyCow). They offer a piatto misto, a combination of everything they're serving that day, and although everything was impressive, the pasticcio di mela e porro (apple leek pasticcio, which is a kind of baked dish covered with béchamel sauce) stole our attention. We raved about it so much that our waiter brought out the chef, who exuberantly explained how he made it, homemade soy béchamel and all. I tried to develop a recipe as soon as I came home, and though this will never be as exquisite as the original, it's pretty good.

Serves 6-10
Total time: 1.5 hours

Béchamel Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
2 tablespoons flour (or substitute with 2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch)
1-1/2 cups soy or almond milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

In a medium saucepan heat the oil over medium-low heat for a minute or two. Add the flour and stir until smooth, cooking until it turns sandy gold, 5 to 7 minutes. Slowly add the milk to the roux, whisking continuously until smooth. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often, then remove from heat. Stir in the salt and nutmeg and let cool.

2-3 large sweet potatoes (the pale-skinned kind)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 leeks
6 apples
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup toasted, unsalted sunflower seeds

Peel the sweet potatoes if the skins don't look good, then chop into slices between 1/4 and 1/3 inch thick. Break the tough green part off of the leeks, then chop the remainders in half. Rinse under water, fanning the layers, then slice thinly. Peel and core the apples, cut into quarters, then chop thinly into slices between 1/4 and 1/8 inch thick.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the leeks over medium-high heat until nearly translucent. Add the spices and cook for another minute over medium heat. Then add the apple slices and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, oil a 11 x 7 or 9 x 9 inch baking pan and place the sweet potato slices in one or two layers. When the apple mixture is done, spread over the sweet potatoes. Pour the bechamel on top and sprinkle on the sunflower seeds. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until slightly browned around the edges and the sweet potatoes are soft.

Serve warm, on its own or over rice. It will stay good in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for several months.


gluten-free maple coconut shortbread bars

Shortbread, a buttery, crumbly type of unleavened biscuit, originated in Scotland perhaps as early as the 12th century, although some attribute its invention to Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th century. The name "shortbread" originated from the early-19th century sense of the word "short," meaning "easily crumbled." This is also where the word "shortening" comes from, referring to any fat used to create a short (as in crumbly) texture.

Shortbread was traditionally made from one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts oatmeal flour. Today it's more commonly made with white wheat flour, but I decided to try oat flour and liked it. However, nothing else about these bars is traditional: maple syrup stands in for the sugar, coconut oil for the butter, and I couldn't resist adding a chewy maple-coconut-pecan topping.

Total time: 40 minutes
Makes 18-24 bars

2 cups (200g) gluten-free oats, finely ground in a coffee grinder or food processor
1/4 cup (50g) arrowroot powder (or substitute cornstarch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup (50g) pecans, toasted at 350F for 6-7 minutes then finely chopped
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the over to 350F. Grease a 11" x 7" (28 x 18 cm) or similar-sized baking pan and line with parchment paper.

Whisk together the oat flour, arrowroot, and salt. Whisk together the maple syrup and coconut oil and then add to the dry ingredients, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Pour into the pan and spread evenly. Bake about 14-15 minutes, just until firm in the center.

While the shortbread is cooking, combine the ingredients for the topping in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 7-8 minutes until the coconut flakes have absorbed all the liquid. Remove from heat and cover. When the shortbread is done, remove from the oven and spread the coconut mixture evenly over the top. Bake another 12-14 minutes, until well browned around the edges.

Remove from the oven, let cool, then cut into rectangles or triangles with a sharp knife. It may take several hours to cool completely, but if you cut it while still warm you may find yourself with a very tasty, crumbly mess.