Exploring BLOs

The Hub’s dairy allergy has compelled me to explore the wonderful world of nondairy butter-like objects, and I have had mixed results.  Some simply can’t be used in cooking and are meant only as bread spreads. Of those that can, some have a mild flavor but are mostly water. Others have a strong soy component that gives a funky flavor and color to baked goods. Coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, has worked well except when melted and added to cold pancake batter. It quickly re-solidified and I ended up with chunks of the oil in the pancakes.

I tried a soy-based butter-like object when making cornbread recently and was very unhappy with the results. The cornbread was a funky tan color, very crumbly and tasted strongly of the spread.The Hub ate it. That’s how much he likes cornbread, bless his little heart.

I’ve made quite acceptable scones using coconut oil and almond or coconut milk (the kind in cartons, not cans). So I thought about cornmeal biscuits, which came out pretty darn good. I do drop biscuits. Rolling and I just don’t roll.

Cornmeal Biscuits for The Hub

1 cup flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Heaping 1/4 cup coconut oil

3/4 to 1 cup almond or coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar. Use a pastry blender to cut in the coconut oil until it’s in small pieces; do not mash it all in. Stir in enough almond or coconut milk to make a wet dough. Use a large soup spoon to scoop out dough and place in a nonstick rimmed baking pan (I use layer cake pans). The biscuits will rise more if they are close together or even touching so the dough won’t spread out. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until browned on top.

Makes about 8 biscuits

Milling around

marcia townsend’s lemon cornmeal cake

Handed-down family recipes are like patchwork quilts. They contain little pieces of everyone who has cooked them, their tweaks and additions or subtractions, but still make a beautiful whole.

Marcia Townsend of Raleigh told me that her winning dish for the cornmeal cook-off at Yates Mill in Raleigh is one of those creations that started with an old recipe, then she added her own touches. In this case, she increased the amount of cornmeal, which gave the cake extra texture.

The contest was held as part of the harvest celebration at the restored mill, which is more than 250 years old. The mill works, and produces some mighty fine cornmeal.

Here is Townsend’s recipe.

Lemon Cornmeal Cake

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

3/4 cup sugar

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

3 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Glaze:

1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt, then whisk to blend. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, lemon peel, vanilla and butter. Whisk to combine.

Use a spatula to gently fold the liquid mixture into the dry mixture until just blended; do not stir.

Place batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Invert the cake immediately onto a cooling rack and invert once again to a serving plate so that the cake is right side up. Combine the Glaze ingredients until smooth. Drop by tablespoons full onto the top of the cake and spread until it is 1/2 inch from the edges of the cake.

Serves 8

Goodies, goodies everywhere

If you don’t know what Moravian Sugar Cake is, maybe I shouldn’t tell you. You’ll just want big slabs of it. OK, it’s a yeast-risen potato-dough coffee cake covered in butter, sugar and spices. It wafts on the air in my hometown, Winston-Salem, N.C.

This Sunday, Dec. 4, you can get the real thing, homemade by the hands of members of Raleigh Moravian Church on Ridge Road. The church will hold its annual Candle Tea from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will be cookies, too, but you won’t care about those once you see the Sugar Cake. Find out more here.

Cornmeal might seem like a strange Christmas gift, unless you’re a baker and fan of Wake County’s Yates Mill. I’ve seen people purchase 10 to 12 bags at a time (put them in plastic bags and they freeze great). Yates Mill Associates, a non-profit group that raises money to restore and maintain the mill, will hold its annual holiday sale on Saturday, Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Besides yellow and white cornmeal, there’s a new cookbook. “The Yates Mill Cornmeal Cookbook” includes 75 recipes using you-know-what. The group is taking advance orders for the stone-ground cornmeal and the books through Saturday, Dec. 4. To find out more or place an order, email yatesmillcornmeal@hotmail.com. The mill is located on Lake Wheeler Road; for more info, go here.