I spent the better part of my summers growing up in Magnolia, AR. with my father’s sister and her family. Located in the southwestern part of Arkansas I benefited from both southern and “Texan” cooking. My aunt, a true southern belle, cooked up timeless favorites like barbecue shrimp, fried chicken, sweet potato pie, seasonal fruit compotes, and every vegetable you can imagine only smothered in butter. Southern food takes me back to those glorious summers and comforts me like few other things can. However, these days I do not consume red meat, and only minimal amounts of chicken or dairy products. Thus I meet my cravings head on with catfish, collard greens and biscuits or a healthy portion of chocolate pecan pie with an even healthier portion of whiskey.
This past weekend I wanted to relax, which meant nourishing my mind (catching up on reading) and satisfying some of my recent cravings for comfort food. Sunday afternoon gave me the chance to dig through my ever expanding binder of recipes. Halibut on Mashed Fava Beans with Mint from the April, 2009 issue of Bon Appetit was the perfect response to the previous evening’s dinner of popcorn and diet cola I’d consumed during STAR TREK. It would also be a nice compliment to a relatively quick and easy corn bread recipe from my newly acquired copy of the Babycakes: The Cookbook by vegan, gluten-free NYC based bakery owner and mastermind Erin McKenna.
With this combination of fish and cornbread I got exactly what I wanted in my final holiday weekend meal, a blend of comfort and health. I even got to try out the marmalade jam I’d picked up at the farmers’ market Friday.
Babycakes Corn Bread (makes 10 slices)
2/3 cup rice milk
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose baking four
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup corn flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (homemade recipe in book as option)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly grease a 7 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pan with oil.
Pour rice milk and apple cider vinegar into a small bowl, but do not stir; set aside to develop into “buttermilk.” In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, corn flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt. Add the oil, agave nectar, applesauce, and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Stir the batter until well combined. Pour in the “buttermilk.” Mix gently until the ingredients are fully incorporated and a slightly grainy batter is formed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the corn bread on the center rack for 32 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after 20 minutes. The finished corn bread will bounce back slightly when pressed, and toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
Let the corn bread stand in the pan for 20 minutes, then gently run a knife around the edge of the bread. Cover the top of the pan with a cutting board, and invert the loaf onto the board. Carefully lift the pan away and re-invert the corn bread onto another cutting board. Either cut and serve warm, or wait until completely cool before storing. Cover the uncut corn bread with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.