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



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.



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.

42 Gluten Free Flours


Grain and seed flours

1. Amaranth

2. Buckwheat

3. 4. 5. Corn

also known as (aka) masa harina. Corn flour can be white, yellow or blue

6. Montina

aka Indian rice grass.

7. Mesquite

8. Millet

9. Oatmust be certified gluten free to prevent cross contamination with glutinous grains.

10. Quinoa

11. 12. 13. Rice-white, brown, and sweet-aka glutinous (but there is no gluten in it).

14. Sorghum

15. 16. Teff-brown or ivory


Bean flours

17. Black bean

18. Chickpea- aka garbanzo and chana dal

19. Fava

20. Great northern

21. Lentil

22. Navy bean

23. Red kidney bean

24. Pea- green and yellow

25. Pinto bean

26. Soybean

27. White bean

28. Yellow split pea


Nut flours

29. Almond

30. Cashew

31. Coconut

32. Hazelnut

33. Pecan

34. Chestnut

35. Macadamia

36. Walnut


Veggie or fruit flours

37. Plantain

38. Potato

39. Sweet potato



40. Potato

41. Corn

42. Tapioca- aka cassava, manioc, and yucca.




There is no reason to get bored, baking or eating gluten free. You could spend a lifetime experimenting with the flavors and behaviors of each, and the infinite combinations. Many gluten free baked goods are best with a blend of flours to highlight the best features of each. There are many convenient commercial blends available now. They can be substituted for glutinous flour cup for cup.


Or be adventurous and make pancakes or waffles with any new single flour you want to try. Use 100% of that flour to learn what it alone brings to the table. You will see if it makes a thin, puffy or sticky batter. What color it is raw and cooked. Taste the batter and the finished product. They cook up light, dense, thin, thick, crispy, soft, dry, moist, gummy, sweet, bitter, nutty, toasty, and a rainbow of colors. Each of these characteristics is desirable at times.  


You could learn about world cuisines too. While unknown to many Americans, sorghum and teff are staple grains in Africa. Latin America is home to quinoa. Both are nutritional powerhouses.


My preference is for whole grain, bean, nut and veggie flours instead of refined starches. They offer full flavor, vitamins and minerals. And are higher in protein.


Tell us which is your favorite. What wonderful things have you made with usual flours?