Corn Chips
Food producers are looking at different types of corn to differentiate themselves in the growing tortilla market. Source: Ingredion

Countless kernels
Corn’s variety allows it to be used in numerous bakery applications. Floriani Red Flint corn is another rare variety, which came back to America via one man’s travels to Italy. It is an open-pollinated red corn, which, once milled, has a yellow-orange hue flecked with red and a rich, complex flavor to match. It also has superior nutrition in terms of protein and fiber, as compared with other cornmeals.

“This special red corn was reintroduced to the Americas around 2008, when William Rubel, a food historian and writer, visited Italy and brought some back,” said Nick Maravell, owner, Nick’s Organic Farm, Potomac, Md., and a grower of the variety. “Coordinating with farmers across the U.S., he was able to test it in various locations, effectively returning it to this side of the Atlantic.”

The farmers decided on the name “Floriani Red,” after the Italian family who gave Mr. Rubel the seeds. Nick’s Organic Farm does not remove or separate any portions of the corn before milling. Often the farm sells the whole kernels because customers want to grind it themselves.

“When ground, our Floriani Red is a whole grain corn with a deep corn flavor,” Mr. Maravell said. “It should feel gritty, but it should have a small amount of dust (flour) that sticks to your fingers.”

Some bakers prefer a coarser grind for cornbread. The variation in particle size gives the bread a unique texture and appearance.

Hominy is another type of corn ingredient. It is made from dried whole corn kernels that have been soaked in an alkali solution. This process, known as nixtamalization, loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens them as well. The process often makes the kernels double in size.

The calcium in the alkali creates a chemical change in the corn, which makes it possible to make masa out of corn kernels. This is the dough used to make corn tortillas. Hominy also may be ground into meal and flour.

“Some of the most innovative bakers are tapping into the unique qualities of corn masa flour to create baked goods with a Southwestern flair,” said Keith Smith, regional technical service lead, Cargill. “Today’s consumers want more authentic taste experiences. Masa flour can deliver that unique flavor experience customers crave.”

Cargill has helped bakers use masa flour to craft everything from Southwestern-style crackers to frozen sandwiches encased in a masa-flour-based pastry. Given the long-standing popularity of Southwestern cuisine, the company expects to see continued innovation with masa flour, extending well beyond its traditional applications in taco shells and tostadas.

Ortega, a Mexican food brand from B&G Foods, Inc., Parsippany, N.J., is rolling out Good Grains Taco Shells. The taco shells contain on-trend ingredients baked right into the shell. Crafted with artisanal blends of corn and grains, the shells have a distinctive flavor, aroma and texture. They come in four varieties: Blue Corn, White Corn with Chia Seeds, Yellow Corn & Ancient Grains, and Whole Grain & Lentil.

Anson Mills, Columbia, S.C., offers Henry Moore Yellow Hominy Corn, an heirloom crop that dates back more than 150 years to the Pennsylvania region. Before fall harvesting, the farmers let the corn dry on the stalks in the field. They then crib, or pile, it up in ventilated storage containers for winter drafts to further dry the kernels. This process develops complex flavors that translate well into cornmeal and masa.

Harvest Market uses whole hominy corn to make Henry Moore Cornbread. Unlike the baker’s other cornbreads that include cornmeal and wheat flour. The retailer’s Blue Hopi Cornbread uses a blend of organic blue corn and wheat flour.


Purple COrn
Purple corn offers distinctive color attributes as well as a great source of anthocyanins. 

“Purple corn is one of nature’s richest sources of anthocyanins,” Mr. Howell said. “These anthocyanins are pH sensitive, meaning the color can vary based on the pH of the finished product.”

He explained that if a more purple color is desired, formulators want to have pH in the range of 4.5 to 6. Going lower on the pH scale will offer a more reddish or pink color while going higher will deliver a much darker color. It is available in raw, whole form as well as flour, meal and grit.

“Our purple corn offers consistent color, texture, taste, quality and value-added nutritional benefits,” Mr. Howell said. “It has more antioxidant power than blueberries, acai berries and pomegranate juice due to its exceedingly high levels of polyphenols and anthocyanins. Our purple corn’s vibrant colors maintain their presence throughout the manufacturing process to the finished product, allowing formulators to add color to their foods naturally.”

Cargill offers a full range of dry corn ingredients, including bran, flour, grits, masa flour and meal. Its whole grain corn products are made using a proprietary processing technology that ensures key attributes of the corn kernel are consistent from batch to batch. As a result, label claims are not at risk from changing crops or agronomics.

“Whole grain corn products can help improve the overall nutritional profile of the final product, whether it’s gluten-free or a traditional baked good,” Mr. Smith said.

An insoluble dietary fiber, whole grain corn flour contains 8 grams of fiber in 100 grams of flour. Corn bran, which contains 86% total dietary fiber, is considered a source of intact and intrinsic dietary fiber and provides another option for fiber enrichment, Mr. Smith added. There are a number of other ingredients derived from corn that are available to bakers. Some provide functionality while others are more for visual appeal.