Cocoa Chile Cornbread

picture541

I was in the mood for something a little zippy with my coffee this morning, so I made us some Cocoa Chile Cornbread.  While it looks like chocolate cake, it actually offers a flavor combination more suited to enchilada sauce than frosting.  Cornmeal offers texture, cocoa powder offers warmth, and a whole, ground Ancho chile offers just enough heat to let you know you’re enjoying something special.  Ole!

picture534Ingredients (fills a 9 inch pie dish)

1 cup white flour

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup sugar

picture5352 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 eggs

1 dried, whole Ancho chile (not expensive; available in spice shops)

picture536Directions

Step 1) If your Ancho chile has a woody stem, remove the stem.  Then, taste one of the seeds.  Every pepper is unique!  If the seed is too hot for your liking, remove the seeds from the chile.  If the seeds taste agreeable to you, use the whole chile.  With or without seeds, grind up the chile in a small blender or food processor.

picture540Step 2) Combine all dry ingredients, including ground chile, in a large bowl.

Step 3) Add milk, oil, and eggs to dry ingredients and mix well.

Step 4) Pour batter into a greased, 9 inch pie dish.  Bake in a preheated, 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.

Let cool slightly before serving.  Enjoy!

Baked Festival and Plantains

picture529

As the name implies, Baked Festival and Plantains is a celebratory dish.  Bite size pieces of sweetened cornbread known throughout Jamaica as “Festival” are typically fried and served along side either cassava or plantains, also fried.  Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ve lightened things up a bit by baking both the Festival and the plantains, while preserving the decadence of this dish by adding the rich warmth of molasses.  Paired with Poblano Jerk Chicken, this dish makes a fun addition to a festive holiday meal!

Not familiar with plantains?  You’re in for a treat!  While they look a bit like bananas, their taste and starchy texture is more similar to a sweet potato.  I recommend plantains that have blackened skins for this recipe – the black mottling, while not very attractive, means the plantains are ripe and sweet.  If you can only find unblemished (meaning unripe) plantains, just let them sit on your countertop for a few days to ripen.

picture522Ingredients (makes 4-6 side dish servings)

1 1/4 cup flour

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal

3/4 cup water

3 tablespoons sugar

picture5242 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

4 small or 3 large plantains

2 tablespoons coconut oil (preferred) or olive oil

2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses

picture523Directions

Step 1) Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, and baking powder in a mixing bowl.

Step 2) Add coconut extract and water, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well with a fork.

Step 3) Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let sit for 30 minutes.

picture525Step 4) Grease two baking pans with 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil) each.

Step 5) Remove plantains from skins and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices.  It is sometimes difficult to peel plantains “top to bottom” like a banana.  An easier way to peel plantains is to cut through the peel from top to bottom (as shown), and then pull pack the peel as if you were opening a picture526book.

Step 6) Place plantain slices in a single layer on one baking pan, and drizzle with molasses.  OPTIONAL:  melt 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil on stovetop or in microwave for a few seconds, and drizzle over plantain slices.  This will add back additional “fried” flavor and texture, but will also introduce additional fat and calories.  picture527Your decision.

Step 8) Place plantains in preheated 350 degree oven, giving them a 10 minute start on the Festival.

Step 9) Drop rounded tablespoons of Festival batter onto the second greased pan.  Place in oven with plantains once their 10 minute head start has ended.

Step 10) Remove both pans from oven after 20 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!