03 October 2011

Morning Munch

This is somewhat of a continuation of yesterday's blog post. It turns out that brunch wasn't a very popular childhood activity. I have a feeling that the assessment is primarily based on what people commonly know as brunch: a special occasion, late morning or early afternoon, sit-down meal at a restaurant, with an assortment of sweet and savory breakfast and lunch menu items. According to that definition, that wasn't a common childhood experience for me at all, either. My original (and not-quite-accurate) impression of brunch--from when I first heard of the term as a child--was that it was basically a larger, family-style breakfast served midway between breakfast and lunchtime. I still use brunch in that broad sense, which may cause confusion in casual conversation. Sorry about that. I realize now that my Sunday (brunch) and Monday (breakfast) MoFo posts will probably look very similar, differing only in the amounts and specific types of food shared. Oh well. Double the breakfast talk does no harm, right?

Now for some breakfast proper. Because I wake up early to go for a jog each morning, consuming a huge meal at the crack of dawn doesn't exactly appeal to me. I tend to keep post-run eating to something light and modestly-sized; miso soup, cold cereal, oatmeal, or green smoothies are staples. Unless I have a craving for something specific outside of those go-to options, my first meal of the day is usually nothing special. I save that for later in the day, when I can cook my wee little heart out.

This week is an exception. The food upon which I was raised--at least the most memorable--often required some work to get them on the table. They weren't necessarily labor-intensive, but they weren't completely pre-made, either. Cornbread is an example of the semi-homemade nature of so much of the Hawaiian-style food I ate back in the day. My family only made cornbread at breakfast or brunch, perhaps because it's almost cake-like and traditionally includes biscuit/pancake mix. Canned foods and boxed mixes were (at least at one point) very typical of Hawaiian regional cuisine since wartime. I'm sure there is a cornbread purist out there who would be appalled by the fact that this particular incarnation is even called cornbread. Its cornmeal-to-flour ratio is quite small compared to other recipes; the amount of sugar is also higher in this bread than in most mainland-style cornbread, making the former quite sweet.
I don't use boxed mixes, so my vegan adaptation involves a bit more work to assemble than its traditional counterpart. Aside from having to pull the dry ingredients together from scratch, I mimicked the procedure my mom used to make her cornbread, melting some of the fat directly in a cast-iron skillet to coat it; this step helps to create a crisp edge that everyone in the family (except for me, because I was picky and weird) prized. Cutting back on the fat (the original calls for a stick of butter--not an amount I particularly like, to be honest) and sugar makes my version of cornbread a little less buttery and sweet, but lovely all the same. I actually prefer food less sweet in general these days, so this adaptation seems just right. Knowing that I can find ways to enjoy non-vegan foods from my childhood just adds to the satisfaction. Happy thoughts and good food are a nice way to start the day.
[UPDATE 10/05/11: I edited the recipe to include melted (rather than softened) coconut oil, vegan butter, or shortening. The steps are revised as noted.]

Sweet Cornbread (printer-friendly version here)
Yields 12 servings
Soy-free; nut-free; gluten-free option

1 ½ c unbleached, all-purpose flour*
½ c whole wheat pastry flour*
2 T cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 T milled flax seed
¼ c lukewarm water
¼ c coconut oil (may substitute with soy-free vegan butter or shortening)
½ c granulated sugar
1 ½ c nondairy milk (rice, hemp, oat, or coconut milk for soy- or nut-free versions)

*To make gluten-free cornbread, substitute the flour with 1 ½ c brown rice flour and ½ c sorghum flour. Add 1 tsp xantham gum to the dry mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180C). Heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet on the stovetop over low heat. Add the coconut oil and heat it until melted. Swirl the skillet to coat the bottom and sides of the skillet, draining and reserving the excess oil. Remove the skillet from heat and set it aside while you prepare the batter. (Alternatively, melt the coconut oil and use enough to lightly grease a round, 10-inch cake pan, reserving the rest of the melted oil.)

In a small bowl, whisk together the flax seed and water until it becomes viscous. Set it aside to thicken while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, blend the remaining coconut oil, sugar, nondairy milk, and flax seed mixture. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until combined and there are no large lumps. Turn the batter into the prepared skillet (or cake pan) and bake it in the preheated oven for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. The edges should be golden brown. Serve warm and enjoy.


  1. your cornbread looks super moist, tiffany!  and appears to have the traditional cornbread appearance even though it only contains 2 tablespoons of cornmeal ;)

  2. Cornbread at brunch time?  How fascinating!  I've never heard of that before but I like it!

  3. Cornbread! I can't wait for Thanksgiving. Excellent idea for the weather-change, my dear. It looks SO moist. Mmmm mmm mmm.


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