Corn is a gluten-free alternative to wheat that's not pricey. Some cornbread recipes use wheat as well; others use only corn. This one uses sorghum flour: its natural sweetness goes well with corn.
If you are a Southerner (and perhaps even if not), there's nothing like hot cornbread from the skillet with some fresh white peas, or a bowl of split pea soup. The smewhat sweet taste of sorghum flour works especially well with cornmeal, but the bulk of the recipe is cornmeal, of course.
I decided to try making an egg-free, dairy-free bread as well, and so instead of traditional buttermilk, used coconut milk, gluten-free beer, and a bit of cider vinegar. Coconut milk is sweet and delicious in cornbread, but you can use ordinary buttermilk. Whatever you use, this recipe calls for a a bit more than a pint of liquid. If you use an egg however (instead of the xanthum gum I use), use just a pint of liquid, as the egg provides some liquid too.
The special ingredients (sorghum flour, flax seed, xanthum gum, and soy yogurt) can be found in most health food stores. The remaining ingredients can be found on most grocery shelves, but if you can't find gluten-free beer there, try a health food store.
Corn: Health Benefits
Corn is inexpensive, and of course gluten-free. Alas, it has a high glycemic index when compared to wheat. The glycemic load for the two grains may be about the same, however, because wheat has more carbohydrates according to David Mendosa's online information on diabetes. In addition corn fiber can help "smooth out" digestion of the sugars and thus make sugar uptake easier. The fiber in corn also supports the growth of "friendly bacteria" in the gut.
Corn is a relatively low protein food, while high in fiber and carbohydrates. Low protein may not sound good, but it's often recommended for kidney disease.
Tips for Lighter Cornbread
When I revised Lisa Fain's cornbread recipe (Homesick Texan, "Iron Pan, Perfect Cornbread," 2007) to make it wheat-free (and totally vegan), the results came out heavy and dense. I finally discovered that there was perhaps just a bit too much cornmeal in my loaf. But not enough can be a problem too: if the ratio of liquid to dry ingredients is too high, your bread will rise, but shortly after it rises, its middle with fall, and the result will end up dense and soggy.
Along with reducing slightly the total amount of cornmeal, I replaced a tiny bit of it with tapioca starch, which is very light, and is tastier than cornstarch. Another trick is to use finely ground cornmeal. Even cornmeal with the germ still in it comes finely ground. Finally, to make sure your cornbread rises properly, use only very fresh baking soda.
Corn Germ, Density, Flavor
Using cornmeal with germ may make the bread a bit denser, but it also improves flavor; this recipe calls for mostly cornmeal without germ but I have used mostly cornmeal with germ too (slightly over a cup), which makes really delicious cornbread, but not so light.
Cornbread without an egg is often crumbly, but eggs have too much cholesterol for me (if I eat them regularly). What holds this loaf together is xanthum gum. At just over $12.00 U.S. for eight ounces, it seems expensive, but this recipe uses only a quarter teaspoon, while "Homesick Texan" calls for a whole egg. Thus it seems likely that, ultimately, xanthum gum will come out cheaper than eggs. What's more, it keeps forever.
I love making bread with beer. The bread comes out great with a bit of gluten-free beer used along with other non-dairy liquids. I used New Grist's Sorghum Beer, but there is also Anheuser-Busch's Redbridge, and Bard's Gold, and several other varieties. As noted, if you prefer, or if you don't have access to all the non-dairy goodies (gluten-free beer, coconut water, and soy yogurt), buttermilk will work fine too, in which case you should use two cups of it and omit the soy yogurt.
The four peppers in this bread make an incredible splash of color as well as flavor. Jalapeno is the "hottest" of the four, but poblano is actually my favorite because of its warm but piquant flavor. This recipe calls for a whole poblano. It's pretty "peppery." If you are unsure about using so many peppers, try using only half of each kind of pepper, except for the sweet red Fresno chile, which adds color. It's supposedly as hot as the jalapeno, but I have not found it to be so. Remove any soft or brown spots from the peppers before mincing them.
I always eat corn or peppers with lime. So a bit is squeezed into the batter.
For this recipe, you'll need a 9" or 10" cast iron skillet with a lid. Although the "Homesick Texan" recipe requires an oven, I manged to cook my cornbread over a fire. You can still use an oven if you prefer.
The cooked cornbread should be golden brown on the outside, light and and not mushy inside. Serve it hot.
I have been playing off-and-on with the vegan version of this recipe and have not gotten it right; it seems the egg is essential; some recipes call for two. Someday I will try using a small mashed potato (about 1/4 cup mashed) instead beaten well to give the bread some air (if I do I'll have to reduce the tapioca or gluten-free flour by 1/4 cup). Also I've started omitting the flax seed, and have decreased slightly the sorghum flour and increased the gluten-free flour. Also the bread may keep better with a bit more salt. And I found many recipes using more oil, up to 1/4 or even 1/3 cup should be o.k., but about 2 tbsps for sauteeing the peppers.