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Nov 20, 2009 08:47 PM

cornbread with no cornmeal??

My friends and I have been to some specialty stores here in Athens and still cannot find cornmeal and i really need to make cornbread for our expat thanksgiving celebration!!

can i replace the cornmeal with polenta? or a mix of polenta and corn flour?

any suggestions are appreciated, thanks.

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  1. Do you have access to different grades of polenta? I believe corn used for polenta and for northern USA style cormmeal mush and cornbread is similar (a relatively hard, flint corn). But a lot of what is sold in the US for polenta is on the coarse side. If you can't find a finer polenta, you might try an instant/quick cooking version.

    Southern USA versions that use a high proportion of corn, work best with a finer corn grind, which in some cases might be described as a flour. But in the UK corn flour is often what we in the US call corn starch.

    I've come across various recipes for Italian cornbread, or more often a cake with corn meal added to give some crunch. There was a thread a while back about such a cake, from the baker at Mario Bitali's restaurant. I think that called for instant polenta.

    1. Isn't polenta just cooked cornmeal?

      1. thanks for the replies! i honestly have no idea if polenta is cooked i can just substitute the cornmeal with polenta? If the polenta is finely ground?

        1. If you can't find finer grinds of polenta, maybe you can pulse the coarser stuff in a food processor or blender until it reaches a suitable particulate size. I'm assuming you've handled American cornmeal before to know what size to aim for. :)

          If the above is not an option, mix up the cornbread batter with the coarse polenta, and let the batter sit for a couple of hours to give the corn a chance to hydrate more before baking. I suggest baking a test batch before T-day to see if you like the texture.

          7 Replies
          1. re: stilton

            thanks stilton. unfortunately i dont have time this week to do a test run, but fortunately, the polenta I've seen in the store looks finely ground to me.
            Just to be clear- I replace the cornmeal totally with polenta? or a mix of corn flour and polenta?

            1. re: eviemichael

              By corn flour you mean cornstarch in the US? If so, I've never heard any cornbread recipe using cornstarch. Are you using a recipe you've made before with "proper" cornmeal?

              Replace cornmeal 1:1 with polenta.

              1. re: eviemichael

                If you are making northern style cornbread (which tends to be sweeter and cakier, and often is made in a cake pan of some sort), the recipes are typically for a combination of cornmeal and flour. You could use polenta (adjusting the grind if necessary) and flour.

                If you are making northern style cornbread (which is not sweet and is more crumbly, usually uses buttermilk and baking soda, and should be made in an heavy oven-proof skillet (cast iron is the classic) with melted fat (bacon fat or lard is canonical) that has been preheated in the oven), the recipes are typically for cornmeal alone, so you would just use the polenta.

                1. re: Karl S

                  yes, Karl S, I am going to make the cast iron type cornbread so I will go for the polenta. Thanks everyone, this has been a big help...trying to keep the traditions alive even though we're an ocean away...:)

                  1. re: eviemichael

                    Of course, in my second paragraph, I meant SOUTHERN, not northern....

              2. re: stilton

                Yes, you can use polenta, it's just cornmeal, usually a bit coarser than U.S. cornmeal, but in fact my husband likes the texture of it in cornbread better. It's a bit toothier and "cornier." I'd use roughly half polenta and half white flour, or a bit more polenta if you like it coarser-textured.

              3. italians use a fine ground cornmeal for polenta, so i can't imagine cornmeal is impossible to find in athens. yes, if the bag says polenta (with nothing else added) it is corn meal and just what you want for cornbread.

                i've made cornbread with both fine and coarse grinds, delicious either way.