Nina’s Tips and Techniques: Cornmeal
I feel like I have cornbread tunnel vision for cornmeal. I know there are other things I can make with it, but what?
Cornmeal is such a cool and versatile ingredient. All over the world different cultures use cornmeal in various preparations. Cornmeal is great for dredging foods that are going to be fried (think fried green tomatoes, oysters, or fish). In Italy they use it to make polenta – a soft corn porridge that you can serve with cooked meat and vegetables. There are also tons of baking applications for cornmeal, from pancakes to muffins, to cobblers and crisps. Try subbing one quarter of the flour required in any recipe for cornmeal and it will result in a really flavorful, texture-rich finished product.
Why do so many recipes that call for cornmeal also call for regular flour? I thought corn meal was a substitute for flour?
Most baking recipes that use cornmeal also call for regular flour because cornmeal is so dense. Also, it lacks the protein gluten that is only found in grains in the wheat family. Gluten gives baked goods that tender, soft, doughy quality that we all love so much. There are plenty of recipes that use only cornmeal, but be prepared for a slightly denser, somewhat sandy texture.