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Help! Corn flour (ground maize) and polenta and corn bread

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Please note that: Corn meal is not something readily available outside the USA when answering this question.

I would like to make cornbread and any other recipes...... what subsitute should I use for Cornmeal? I can get fine yellow Corn flour or course yellow polenta? Any good?How is polenta cooked i.e. like cous cous? This is a little confusing for the British as these flours are not basics in our cooking?

When I lived in the UK I could get Masa Harina for tortillas and tamalas but Germany!? Lacking in a few basics like dark brown sugar and translation can be a problem too ..... but were striding on!

Thanks for any advice

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  1. I have seen both finely ground and coarsely ground corn being offered as "corn meal" with recipes for cornbread on the package. I'd say try what you have and see what happens. The finely ground stuff will probably give you a cornbread with a fairly smooth texture. Whether that's what you want is another question, but cornbread ranges widely. Even masa harina should give you a good result--again, it's all preferences. The coarse ground (polenta)....well, it depends on how coarse it is. You could also try mixing the two and see what happens.

    I just a few moments ago had a breakfast of some left-over "polenta" that I had made a few days ago with a fine grind corn meal. As polenta it turned out pretty pasty, but I converted it back into mush and it was OK for breakfast. I think for polenta you want to go with a coarse grind, and that's probably what your polenta meal is.

    BTW, I'm not a baker but demerara, turbinado, or one of the other semi-refined sugars that are available to you should normally work OK in place of US style brown sugar, even dark brown sugar, for many or even most things. Again, try it and see what happens.

    AFAIK polenta is made by simply boiling corn meal until thick and done, then pouring it out and letting it cool and solidify. Then cut and saute.

    1. Corn for polenta is basically the same as the corn used for cornbread. You might have to experiment to find the right grind. Southern style cornbread that has a high proportion of cornmeal is best with a finer grind (just a bit coarser than wheat flour); northern style with half flour and half cornmeal works with a medium fine grind (like a fine sand). There is a difference between the corn that Italians consider ideal for their mush, and the corn that is preferred in the American south, but most cornmeal sold in the USA does not make such a distinction. I've seen Italian and Spanish bread recipes that use cornmeal.

      If you used too coarse of a corn meal (polenta), you will end up with hard grits in the final bread - there isn't enough time and moisture to soften it. Too fine, and you won't detect much difference in taste and texture from straight flour. Your fine yellow corn flour might work - just so long as it is not what Americans call corn starch (very find powder that is used to thicken puddings/custards and sauces).

      As to brown sugar, the common US style is just white sugar with some molasses (black treacle) added. There are some details about making exact substitutions, but I usually just use about the same white (or less, since I often don't want it as sweet), and add molasses to taste. I've read that a beet sugar molasses is popular in Germany, but I don't know how it compares with the cane version.

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj

        Johnb and paul j
        many thanks for your replies. I have American recipe books and have been wondering about what I have as flours vary so much. I do know the difference between your Cornstarch (cornflour UK) and maize flour colour is different anyway. Will try the polenta recipe and experiment. I have had cornbread from Louisiana and red beans which was wonderful so I'm looking forward to it. Molasses!? Germans don't know what this is! So I have to keep my supply up when I visit the UK . Beet sugar molasses its different just not the same.... Many thanks I've been very confused about this subject.

      2. CHUNKYCHEESE Cornflour is what Americans know as Cornstarch so I do not think I would use it BUT I have the same question here in SYDNEY AUSTRALIA What can I use instead of CORNMEAL I bought a pack of POLENTA in the natural food section & on the back it says for Ingredients: Polenta (MAIZE) (100%) I MEAN DIDN'T THE AMERICAN INDIANS USE MAIZE?

        5 Replies
        1. re: KrystynaCooks

          The American Indian word for corn was maize. IIRC, corn is referred to as maize in the UK. Your polenta may have been packed in Italy for the UK market and beyond.
          Polenta is a bit coarse for cornbread, as paulj noted up-post, unless you like a real crunch. Cornflour (US, cornstarch) is used as a thickener and out of the question for cornbread. Possibly you can grind your polenta a bit further in the food processor to get it from coarse to a medium grind, or further if you desire.
          Fron what I've googled, it seems like it's either polenta (coarse cornmeal) or cornflour available in OZ and nothing in between.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            There was a recent thread about this topic started by someone living Greece. With a bit of web search I learned that they actually do make cornbread in Greece, though it is usually thought of as a rustic peasant dish.

            1. re: paulj

              I'm a bit confused as to how Greece got into the discussion but maybe you were just commenting? Just want to confirm that it wasn't anything I wrote that led you to your remarks...That said, I'm sure there's some influence/use of milled corn products in Greece, given their geographical proximity to Italy, but Greece does have corn production, although well below Italy, according to 2007 world yields.
              Nothing near the USA though, which produces aproximately 2/3 of the world's corn crop.

              1. re: bushwickgirl

                I was just reminded of threads about polenta v cornmeal. It seems that a lot of people outside the USA, are trying figure out make cornbread - whether they live in OZ, UK, Italy or Greece. Corn's use in a porridge (polenta) is well known. Its use in bread, less so.

            2. re: bushwickgirl

              Thanks Bushwickgirl I was actually in a great site down here in Sydney, Australia called www.foodsafari.com.au/food/ (also same site for FOOD LOVERS GUIDE) looking for a recipe for NAN's CHERRY CREAM CHEESE STRUDEL as we are in summer & cherries are in season & dont ask why but somehow decided to look at American Cuisine & lo & behold a recipe for cornbread using POLENTA + flour. I did have a great recipe years ago when I lived in Falls Church, VA from a black woman named SUGAR LUMP isn't that a great name BUT somehow I have misplaced the darn recipe... ANYWAY I do tend to get carried away once blogging THANKS AGAIN BUSHWICKGIRL I hope you have a great XMAS check out the recipe for the CHERRY CREAM CHEESE STRUDEL I saw it on Food Safari on tv & I am now in the process of making although my hands are now stained with cherries