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Jul 27, 2008 03:29 PM

English terminology for baking goods?

Hi all, I've been researching the site for the difference between various names of sugars and flours from America to England or Ireland. I've bought a flour called "Maize Flour" in a big bag (1kg) and have been told it is what Americans call "corn starch" which is a thickener for sauces. But the bag is really big, the color is yellowish (our corn starch is white) and I just can't imagine that this is what we use as corn starch because it would take a loooong time to use up. BTW it says (Cornflour) under where it says "Maize Flour" if that helps.

I went on YouTube and typed in "Cornflour" and all I got were science experiments for kids using this stuff. I was kind of hoping since it is in the baking section that it can be used for cooking something more substantial than children's clay. Any ideas what to do with this? Am I mixing up the terminologies?

Thanks for your thoughts!

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  1. Hint: try cornflour define or cornflour definition (on google etc) to weed out the songs and science experiments. wiktionary on cornflour:

    But often products, and not only terms, vary between countries.

    By the way, the term "English" is ambiguous, as it can refer to a language spoken in the UK, the US and many other countries as well as to "England", the largest nation in the UK.

    Good luck and good cooking!

    1 Reply
    1. re: lagatta

      Thanks Lagatta; I originally posted this on the British boards, but for some reason it was relocated here, hence changing the need to define "English". It has been frustrating to say the least! I have looked up the information, but Maize flour and Cornflour (in Great Britain as well as in Australia) appear to be two different things... guess I will have to have a play with this stuff and see what I end up with. Just wish I hadn't bought so much of it! Again, thank you for your help!

      1. re: Boudleaux

        Boudleaux, now we may be getting somewhere... "A powdery flour made of finely ground cornmeal, NOT to be confused with cornstarch. The exception is in British recipes where the term "cornflour" is used synonymously with the U.S. word cornstarch. Corn flour comes in yellow and white and is used for breading and in combination with other flours in baked goods." That would mean it would be good for dredging fish or chicken in before frying? And maybe to go half and half with other flours for I don't know, a more "corny" flavour :-)? Guess I better plan for a fish fry to try this out! Thank you for that link...

          1. re: ideabaker

            It sounds like the actual corn flour, not starch or meal.
            Can be used as a coating for baking and frying meats, or used in baking to make a more bread-like cornbread (versus the sheet cake style). Also good mixed with standard flour for biscuits, pan cakes, etc.
            Sprinkle very lightly on eggs when cooking (fried) to get a "crust" on the egg.

            1. re: hannaone

              Well tonight I tried using it as a dredging/breading substance on pan fried fish and it came out great; light and crispy. Your "crust" on the eggs is very interesting, wouldn't you need to flip the egg over for a crust to form? If not, at what point do you add the sprinkling of flour over the egg?

              1. re: ideabaker

                I usually sprinkle the uncooked side, then flip it to get a light crust on one side.
                Have done this with corn flour and potato flour for interesting flavor combinations with the egg.

                1. re: hannaone

                  Thanks for the clarification hannaone... otherwise I would've ended up with a powdery half raw fried egg :-). I will try this on the weekend, was thinking of making a chorizo/egg/greens/goat cheese/toasted bread stack sort of thing. Will let you know how it turns out!

                  1. re: ideabaker

                    It sounds great for fish. I've been taking a bit of my polenta flour and grinding it finer in the coffee mill that I reserve for spices; I love that on fish as it really prevents pan-fried fish from getting too greasy. And I love fish.

        1. As far as I know, the thickener is always white. Does it have the same silky texture as your regular cornflour, or is it gritty? If it's gritty, it's cornmeal, definitely not the same. Cornmeal is good for American cornbread, dusting your pizza peel, and a few other things.

          3 Replies
          1. re: babette feasts

            Hi Babette... this is the puzzling part, it seems like a fine flour, but it is the color of cornmeal, though definitely not cornmeal (which as you said would be gritty). If it were cornmeal I'd have a clue what to do with it! This stuff, I have no idea what to do with. The product name is "Maize Flour (Cornflour)" but like you said, it isn't white which makes me suspicious. Also since there is so much of it!

            1. re: ideabaker

              We get cornflour (the thickener) in 700g bags from Thailand, so a 1kg bag might be for restaurant use - some Asian cuisines use it more in stir fries and as a coating before deep frying, instead of just the occasional chocolate pudding.

              Would you say the 1 kg bag is greater volume than 1kg of all-purpose flour? Volume might be an indicator of something, but not sure what.

              Also, what is the country of manufacture of the bag in question?

              1. re: babette feasts

                The product is a New Zealand product, and I think the consensus is (and the trial run tonight showed) that it is flour made from finely ground cornmeal. So the 1 kg bag makes sense now, because flour is also sold in bags about that size. Thank you so much for helping me figure this out! I'm thinking of making mussel fritters and on another Chowhounders' suggestion using the Maize flour, since mussels have a distinctive taste and the corn taste wouldn't overpower it. Again, thank you!

          2. British cornflour is American cornstarch. The yellowy stuff you get in the States is cornmeal used for making cornbread and as someone else said used for dusting pizza dough in pizzerias.

            3 Replies
            1. re: smartie

              I've never seen corn flour which isn't white (I'm in the UK). But what's confusing is that the OP says it's really fine, which cornmeal isn't.

              It sounds like it could be this:


              1. re: greedygirl

                Greedygirl, very interesting link (an African product?) I think you are absolutely correct about what the flour is. We don't have Maize flour (to my knowledge) in the U.S. either. Have figured out it is good for coating fried foods, though still don't know what the whole "adding texture" thing, unless it just means that it makes baked goods more chewy or hearty. In any case, I'm still experimenting with uses until it's all gone, made a dent in it tonight with the fried fish! Again, thank you!

              2. re: smartie

                Right, Smartie-- I think we've figured out that British Cornflour, American Cornmeal and this Maize Flour are three different substances; all with their own uses. I'm going to keep using the Maize Flour in place of regular flour for more savory dishes until it's gone. After the light crispiness of the fish I breaded and fried using the Maize flour tonight, I might even end up buying more! Thank you for your reply!

              3. Cornstarch in the UK is cornflour - white, fine, mainly used for thickening sauces and often comes in round blue tubs for some reason. Maize flour is corn flour, like corn meal, but finely milled and you can use it in bread, cakes and pancakes. It's gluten free, so I think a lot of people in the UK use it instead of normal wheat flour, and it's also a key part of several African cuisines.

                I had a quick look for you, and the BBC site has a recipe for maize bread using maize flour. I've never cooked with it, but I guess you could just try using it in recipes where you'd normally use plain flour (wheat flour without any raising agents added), like pancakes and see how you go. Tell us if the experiments work!

                3 Replies
                1. re: inthekitchencorner

                  In these African cuisines, do they prefer to use a much finer grind than is typical, say, for Italian polenta?

                  1. re: paulj

                    I am no expert, only occasionally eating African foods, but it seems to have been the finer corn flour that goes in to the meals I've tried. I've had it as a thick porridge, the staple carb filler with your meal. I think its typical to southern African countries.

                  2. re: inthekitchencorner

                    I will definitely try using the Maize flour in place of something with regular flour and will report back. Hey, we may all be onto something new and yummy! It was excellent with the fish, much better in its light crispy texture than regular flour or cornmeal would be.