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C is for Corn

 

Corn flour, masa, grits, corn meal, whole kernel. Let me count the ways I love corn. It is the flavor, texture and aroma I crave. The best way to describe it is, well corny.

 

 Naturally gluten free corn products are available in white, yellow, and even blue. With many, many textures and shapes. Think of curly, crisp and crunchy tortilla chips. Flat and chewy corn tortillas. A puddle of smooth and filling Italian polenta. Or grits to southerners, or even called corn meal mush by some. And tender, pleasantly crumbly, and slightly gritty corn meal muffins. Here you expect and enjoy crumbly and gritty. It’s not the same as the unpleasant qualities found in so many gluten free baked goods.

 Muffins are what we will make today. Double corn muffins, with corn flour and corn meal. You could even change it up to Triple Corn Muffins by adding about a half-cup of corn kernels if you like.

Masa harina is flour made from corn soaked in lime then dried before grinding. In a side-by-side taste test, it is a tiny bit sweeter than regular corn flour. But not enough to notice otherwise. You might notice the difference in a savory corn bread recipe, maybe. You surely would not notice in a sweet recipe.

A few words about corn flour versus cornstarch. Corn flour is ground from the whole kernel. Cornstarch is so highly refined it has only calories, not any other nutrition. IMHO, gluten free baked goods rely far too heavily on refined starches and empty calories.  Masa harina in the ethnic section of my grocery store is much cheaper than certified gluten free flour. You will have to be the judge if it is safe for you to eat. I suggest calling the manufacturer and asking how it is made.

So our recipe uses corn flour. It is available as wholegrain flour. Organic or not. Enriched or not. White or yellow. Certified gluten free, or not.
Another (small) benefit of Masa is nutritional. Soaking the corn in lime adds calcium, and makes the thiamine easy for our bodies to use. Still, you need to eat an awful lot of masa to get significant amounts.

 

My preference is masa harina. Usually I love whole grain flours, but whole grain corn flour has an unpleasant “off” flavor that stays too long in the back of my throat. And, yes, I store flours in the freezer, so I doubt it was rancid. Like many people, I hate throwing food away. So I used the whole bag. But I ended up mixing it with other flours to dilute the taste. To be fair, maybe I just got a particularly strong tasting batch. Please let me know if you like the flavor of whole grain corn flour and I might reconsider.

 

A few words about corn meal. It is available in medium or coarse grind. In white, yellow or blue. A restaurant nearby makes outstanding blue cornbread. But at home, I use yellow cornmeal. I like a sunny yellow corn muffin and I use the same yellow cornmeal for polenta too. Blue polenta just does not appeal.

  

Double Corn Meal Muffins

Yield:12

 

Double Corn Muffins photo by lsimon

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup yellow corn flour or masa

½ tsp xanthan

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk, lactose free works well

1/3 cup oil

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

 

Oil muffin tins or line with muffin papers. I like to spray the paper liners with cooking spray. Just make sure it is gluten free.

 

In a medium bowl, completely blend dry ingredients together (cornmeal through salt).

 

In a small bowl, thoroughly combine eggs, milk, and oil.

 

Add the egg mixture to cornmeal mixture and combine thoroughly.

 

Allow batter to sit and thicken for at least 5 minutes. This gives the xanthan and flour time to hydrate. You will be rewarded with pretty rounded craggy crowns on your muffins.  

 

Spoon into muffin cups.

 

Bake for 20-22 minutes.

 

Variations

To make savory cornbread- omit the sugar and bake in 8” square or round pan. Using a cast iron pan is traditional and you can increase the iron content of the bread.

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