Want something with more personality than flour? Try cornmeal

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By Linda Morel

My love affair with cornmeal baking started by accident: Somehow, two bags of cornmeal landed in my pantry. I didn’t find out about the first bag until after buying the second one.

New to cornmeal as an ingredient, I wasn’t even sure what it is. Ground from dried corn, cornmeal is a good source of magnesium, selenium and thiamine. Used to create dishes such as polenta, grits and a huge variety of baked goods, cornmeal recipes abound in many cultures. They’re particularly popular in Italian, Mexican, Caribbean and Southern American cooking.

Cornmeal comes in fine, medium and coarse varieties. I ended up with the fine variety in my pantry, so that is what I used in recipes. I found it creates a light, fluffy, moist texture. Using coarse cornmeal yields much drier results, which is why some people shy away from putting it in pastries.


Often mixed with flour in baking, cornmeal has an assertive, slightly sour taste, which I really like. It has more personality than flour. I can’t eat barbecued foods anymore without cornbread. Mornings are livelier with cornbread muffins and pancakes. These are now my favorite comfort foods. I don’t know how I ever lived without a large supply of cornmeal on hand.

Blueberry Corn Muffins | Pareve

Yield: 18 muffins

Nothing says summer like waking up to corn muffins bursting with the season’s best blueberries.

Equipment: muffin tins for 18 muffins and paper liners

1¼ cups blueberries
1 cup almond milk
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons margarine, melted
¼ cup maple syrup, preferably Grade A Amber
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup yellow cornmeal, fine texture
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Remove any stems from the blueberries. Place them in a colander and rinse under cold water. Spread them out on paper towels to dry. Reserve.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Line the muffin tins with paper liners. Reserve.

Place the almond milk, eggs, margarine, maple syrup and vanilla into a large mixing bowl.

Mix until well combined. Add the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix on a low setting until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Then raise the mixer to a medium setting until the wet and dry ingredients are well combined, scraping down the bowl a couple of times.

Add the blueberries. Using a silicone or plastic spatula, gently incorporate the blueberries until evenly distributed through the dough. Fill the paper liners to approximately ⅔ capacity.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool to warm and enjoy.

If cooled completely, muffins can be stored in an airtight container with a lid for a couple of days. Recipe freezes well.

Coconut Cornmeal Pancakes | Pareve

Yield: 12-14 small pancakes
Brimming with coconut milk, this recipe was inspired by Jamaican cornmeal porridge.

1 cup yellow cornmeal, fine texture
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1½ cups canned coconut milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup vegetable oil, plus additional oil for frying
Accompaniments: Confectioners’ sugar for dusting or fine fruit preserves

Stir together the dry ingredients (cornmeal through nutmeg) in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, coconut milk, vanilla and ½ cup of vegetable oil. With an electric mixer, blend on a low setting until the ingredients are well combined. The batter will be a little thick, but not stiff.

Pour enough oil into a large skillet to cover the bottom about ⅛-inch thick. Heat on a medium flame until a drop of water released on it sputters. One heaping tablespoon at a time, ease the batter into the oil. You will need to do this in two batches. Fry the pancakes for 2-3 minutes, until the bottoms are firm and browning. Flip the pancakes over and brown them on the other side.

Add more oil, if needed.

Cover a plate with a paper towel. Drain the pancakes on the paper towel momentarily, before moving them to a serving platter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and/or serve the pancakes with preserves. Eat them immediately.

Yankee Cornbread | Pareve

Yield: 16 squares
Cornbread made in the Northeast is sweeter and more cake-like than Southern cornbread, which often contains savory ingredients.

Equipment: 8-inch-by-8-inch baking pan

Nonstick vegetable spray
1 cup yellow cornmeal, fine texture
1 cup flour
⅓ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
2 eggs
⅓ cup vegetable oil

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Coat the baking pan with nonstick vegetable spray.

Stir together the dry ingredients (cornmeal through salt) in a large mixing bowl. Add the water, eggs and oil. Using an electric mixer, blend the ingredients until combined. Move the mixture to the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into a couple of places has no batter adhering to it. Cool to warm on a rack before serving. Cut the cornbread into 2-inch squares.

Cornbread can be stored in an airtight container with a lid. Recipe freezes well.

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