Combine boiling water, maple syrup, salt, shortening and cornmeal. Stir to mix. Cover and let cool to lukewarm (approximately 110°F), about 45 minutes.
In a large bowl, stir yeast into warm water to soften. Add cooled cornmeal mixture and 2 cups flour. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.
Gradually add flour, one-fourth cup at a time, until dough begins to pull away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface.
Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Put dough into an oiled bowl. Turn once to coat entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Turn dough onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide into 36 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and place in well-seasoned muffin cups or into two well-seasoned 12-inch round pans with 2-inch deep sides (deep-dish pizza pans are great for this). C
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake rolls for 20 minutes, or until their internal temperature reaches 190°F. Remove rolls from pans and cool on a wire rack to prevent crust from becoming soggy.