Light and Fluffy Gluten-Free Bread for Beginners
Before my family went gluten free, my favorite cornbread recipe was simple and quick. I used a small box of Jiffy cornbread mix, a small box of Jiffy white cake mix, and followed the directions on the back of both boxes. That took a little bit of math, but the result was a sweet, light, and fluffy corn cake rather than a dense, dry cornbread.Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25195310@N02/2719767304
Once gluten free, I no longer had that option, so I was forced to go in search of an alternative cornbread recipe. I didn’t find it. All of the recipes I tried back then were disappointing. The best I could come up with was to use my gluten-free flour mix in a traditional cornbread recipe that I’d tweaked to be moister as well as gluten free. It wasn’t great, but at least it was edible.
Amount of Corn Meal Matters
Over the months that followed, I came to understand that the amount of corn meal used in a standard cornbread recipe was quite high. Corn meal is a heavy gluten-free grain, so if you’re looking for a light and fluffy cornbread similar to the type of corn cake that Marie Calender’s serves, you don’t want to use too much. Standard cornbread recipes use a 50/50 mix of corn meal to flour, which is high. It will weigh your gluten-free bread down and won’t give you a good rise.
In addition, gluten-free baking requires vegetable gums, additional leavening in the form of baking powder, extra protein (which can come from eggs, milk, or bean flours), and lots of moisture. Those are a lot of changes, so even gluten-free cookbook authors will tell you that baking gluten free is a trial-and-error process until you find just the right combination of ingredients for each recipe. Although there are basic changes that every gluten-free recipe needs, the amounts of each ingredient will vary depending on your weather, altitude, humidity, and even the time of year.
Cornbread is Easy to Duplicate
When you’re new to gluten-free baking, all of that can be scary. You don’t want to waste your time, and you most certainly do not want to throw away a full loaf of gluten-free bread. Gluten-free flours, starches, and other ingredients can be expensive. However, learning to cook gluten free does take time, and you will experience a few failures. Luckily, cornbread is one of the easiest breads to duplicate because the texture is similar to how most gluten-free breads come out anyway. That makes cornbread an excellent place for a beginner to start their gluten-free journey.
The only problem is that we all have a different ideal as to what makes an excellent slice of cornbread. Some people like it dense and a bit crumbly. Some people want it savory with added ingredients such as jalapenos, bacon grease, and corn kernels. Others want it sweet and extra-light.
I just happen to be among the sweet and extra-light crowd, so creating this recipe did take me a bit of extra time. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, so I never stop fiddling with a recipe until it comes out perfect several times in a row. This great tasting, light gluten-free cornbread is no exception.
Beware of Certain Cornmeal Brands
Some brands of cornmeal are marked gluten free on the package, but other brands are processed on the same manufacturing lines as wheat products. You’ll need to make sure that the brand you use comes from a company who has a solid allergen policy. You can find that out by calling the company at the phone number listed on the package and asking them how they clean their lines in between wheat-flour products and their cornmeal. Brands that thoroughly clean their lines are fine.
Some of the following brands are marked gluten free on the package. Others have stated in phone conversations to me that their cornmeal is gluten free.
- Shurfine Yellow Corn Meal
- Kinnikinnick Gluten Free Wheat Free Corn Meal
- Albers Yellow Corn Meal
- Hodgson Mill Organic Yellow Corn Meal
- Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Stone Ground Corn Meal
- Arrowhead Mills Organic Yellow Corn Meal
- Arrowhead Mills Blue Corn Meal Organic
However, it’s always best to call the company and verify the information for yourself because company policies and ingredients can change. If you can’t find safe gluten-free corn meal, you can substitute 1/2 cup of almond meal to replace the corn meal. Almond meal makes an excellent dinner bread.
Sweet Gluten-Free Cornbread
- 3/4 cup of gluten-free flour mix
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a bread loaf pan, and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine gluten-free flour mix, cornmeal, sugar, xanthan gum, salt, and baking powder. Set the bowl aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs. When slightly beaten, add sour cream, milk, oil, melted butter, and vanilla. If the sour cream is a bit lumpy, that’s okay.
- Gradually add dry ingredients, combining only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix. The batter will be quite thin.
- Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before cutting.
- To serve, cut into thick slices as for quick bread and serve straight from the pan.
For a larger family or holiday gathering, this recipe can be doubled and baked in a lightly greased square pan. Don’t try to three or four-times the recipe to bake it in a 9x13, as it will not cook all the way through in the center. If you need more cornbread than one 8-inch or 9-inch square pan, simply double the recipe twice, and then bake each doubled recipe in its own square baking pan. You can also substitute yogurt for the sour cream if you wish.
Gluten-Free Corn Muffins
For gluten-free corn muffins, spray a muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray (don’t use “baking” spray because it contains wheat flour and is not gluten free) or line your muffin pan with cupcake papers. Carefully spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool inside the muffin pan for about 5 minutes, and then carefully remove them.
These gluten-free cornbread muffins will continue to bake while sitting in the muffin pan, so you don’t want to leave them for more than a few minutes – just until they’re cool enough to handle and remove.
Storing Gluten-Free Cornbread
You need to keep gluten-free cornbread and muffins tightly covered, but they don’t have to be frozen right away like other gluten-free breads. They can sit on your counter for about three days before they begin to dry out. Once dry, you can use them to make a great holiday stuffing or a stuffing for a chicken later on in the week. You can also dry out any leftovers and turn them into breadcrumbs for a casserole topping, use them in meatloaf, or add them to parmesan cheese for a tasty breading. I've even used leftover cornbread as French toast.