Rediscovering an American baking staple

by Donna Berry
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Corn Bread
Corn’s diverse applications go far beyond traditional corn bread. Source:Pulses.org

Surrounded by corn fields in America’s Heartland, Harvest Market, Champaign, Ill., a single-store retailer focused on local and natural foods, puts the spotlight on corn ingredients in its in-store bakery department. The bakery features a menu of cornbreads, including blue, red dent and white Iroquois. This variety and innovation are what millers seek to make corn ingredients relevant to today’s consumers.

“Grain corn is an amazingly versatile crop and can be grown just about anywhere in the U.S., even urban gardens,” said Trey Muller-Thym, president, Thymly Products, Inc. “It’s easy to harvest, store and process into flour and cornmeal. It’s also naturally gluten-free and not considered an allergen.”

Bakers are learning how to get creative with this staple crop. Culinary professionals in all facets of food are finding innovative uses for the many varied cornmeals and corn flours (finely ground cornmeal) in the market. Cornbreads and muffins are the obvious applications, but cornmeal also adds sensory experiences to everything from pancakes and waffles to flatbreads and pizza crusts. Coarse grinds also contribute crunch to breading for baked and fried foods.

“Ingredients made from corn can contribute unique colors, flavors and textures, which can either be beneficial or unfavorable depending on the type or amount used in the application,” said Terry Howell, business development, Healthy Food Ingredients.

Developing flour blends is a useful approach that allows incorporating multiple flours without causing a great deal of change to the functionality. Corn ingredients also deliver more interesting visual appeal due to their variety.

“Bakers are transitioning away from the whole grains that were popular a few years ago, such as white whole wheat,” Mr. Howell said. “Now our customers are looking for heritage grains that offer more value to their products.”

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