Can you believe that spring is less than 3 weeks away?! Here in California, spring = strawberries. By the middle of March, there’s roadside fruit stands up and down the state with the freshest, brightest, juiciest berries you’ll ever taste.
Berries have been on my mind lately as I just finished my favorite book of the year so far, Eating on the Wild Side, in which Jo Robinson has put together the definitive resource on every category of fruit and vegetable; which varieties are the most nutritious, how to buy them, how to store them, and even how to cook them. It’s absolutely essential reading for any One Ingredient Chef and I would highly recommend it. These cornbread muffins were actually inspired by one short blurb from her chapter on berries:
The Iroquois marked each spring’s harvest with an annual “strawberry thanksgiving,” a ceremony of great importance. A common way for the Iroquois to prepare the berries was to bruise them in a mortar, mix them with cornmeal, and use the paste to make strawberry flat bread.
Cornmeal and strawberries! That sounded like such a wholesome and natural combination that I immediately began experimenting. The recipe below was created in the spirit of an Iroquois cook more than a pastry chef – these are not overly sweet and oily cakes, but just simple fluffy cornbread tie-dyed with mashed strawberries. Perfect.
Makes 12 muffins
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup flour (whole wheat or brown rice)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup frozen sweet corn
- 2/3 cup mashed strawberries
Preheat the oven to 415º F
Prepare a “flax egg” which is becoming a standard thing for me – it adds so much texture and binding power to baked goods. To do this, combine 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 2 1/2 tablespoons of water, stir together, and set aside for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare vegan buttermilk in a medium-sized mixing bowl by combining the non-dairy milk with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Also set aside for 5 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder). It’s important to actually sift these ingredients together – it will give you a lighter, more aerated batter which will enhance the fluffiness of your cornbread.
Note: I’ve also made these gluten free with brown rice flour and they’re incredible that way as well.
Back to the “buttermilk,” add in 1/4 cup each of maple syrup and canola oil as well as the flax egg. Whisk this together until thoroughly combined. Then, pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and gently whisk or fold together just until incorporated. Don’t over mix – some small lumps are fine.
Now for the good part. Adding strawberries and corn to these muffins is simply not optional, it adds so much depth of flavor that makes these guys taste brighter, fresher and more authentic. So, mash about 5 large strawberries in a bowl until you have something that resembles chunky jam. Gently fold these strawberries, along with about 1/2 cup frozen sweet corn, right into the batter.
Spoon this batter into cupcake liners (do yourself a favor and get some awesome reusable silicone ones). It would be possible to simply pour this into an 8×8 inch pan, but I think the texture is far superior when made in cupcake format. Pop in a preheated 415º F oven for about 20-25 minutes.
Note: It is important to not let these overcook, as they will dry out if left in the oven for too long. Check them often and remove from as soon as a wooden toothpick comes out clean.
Serving with a little melted coconut butter and maple syrup is highly recommended.