Corn bread with masa harina; the “other” corn meal

Masa harina1 is the corn flour used to make corn tortillas and other Latin American dishes. One of its advantages is that the corn has been nixtamalized2, which makes it more nutritious. You may be able to buy it in your grocery store, especially if you live in the southwest USA or where there is a significant Latin population.

Ever since I’d read about how nixtamalization makes the corn more nutritious I’ve been wanting to make corn bread with it to see how it turns out. So yesterday I bought a small bag of Maseca3 masa harina. Initially I followed the recipe for Sour Milk Corn Bread from Bernard Clayton Jr.’s The complete book of breads but I had an inkling that it wouldn’t be your normal corn bread when I started measuring the masa harina; its texture isn’t like regular corn meal, it’s very fine, like wheat flour.

After I added the liquids the dough was stiff, like a bread dough; normally corn bread is a batter which you pour into the baking dish. So I started adding more buttermilk, 0.25 cups at a time until I got something that could be poured (with some help from a spatula). The smell was also much different than corn bread batter; it smells just like corn tortillas. I ended up using an extra 0.75 cups of buttermilk.

Here are the ingredients and how I made it:

Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Butter an 8 inch square pan.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup masa harina
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon potato starch powder
1 3/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature
2 eggs at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter

I mixed the dry ingredients together, sifted them into a food processor fitted with the steel blade, then chopped up the butter and dropped that onto the flour and ran the food processor until the butter was completely mixed in. This step wasn’t called for in the original instructions, but I remember doing this cutting in of the butter in a previous corn bread recipe that I had great success with.

Next I mixed the eggs and 1 cup of buttermilk, then poured the dry ingredients into a large bowl, then the eggs and buttermilk and stirred. Not realizing how stiff it was going to be I started mixing with a whisk, which would have worked with regular corn meal, but it was so stiff that I had to clean it off and switch to a big spoon. At this point I started adding more buttermilk, 0.25 cup at a time until it could be poured. Save yourself the extra work and start with 1.75 cups of buttermilk.

Pour into an 8 inch square pan and bake in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Ok, it just came out of the oven a few minutes ago. Hmm. The flavor isn’t bad, but it is peculiar. The texture is like a quick bread, but with a pronounced corn tortilla flavor. Since I grew up in southern California I have a strong association of this flavor with corn tortillas; tasting it in a bread is definitely odd.

I’m wondering what it would be like if I used something besides wheat flour, for example, rye flour. Or maybe a combination of any other flour, wheat, rye, whatever, and buckwheat flour; something with a strong flavor. Let the masa harina and other flour flavors duke it out.

Or perhaps make it sweet and add some spices; add a half cup of sugar and some cinnamon, or cardamom. And in this case, instead of wheat flour use oat or barley flour (of which I have a lot).

[3] Maseca masa harina web page. Lots of recipes and other stuff. Have a look at their recipe for corn bread; 2 Cups Maseca, 6 eggs, 1 can condensed milk, 1.5 cup sugar, 2 tbsps baking powder, 3 cups cream, 1 cup ricotta cheese, 1 tbsp corn oil. Sounds very tasty, but talk about an artery clogger!

3 Comments on “Corn bread with masa harina; the “other” corn meal”

  1. Ooh, so it did not turn out?

    I just smuggled a 5lb. bag of Masa Harina home with me from the U.S. apparently, customs only cares if you’re bringing something IN – particularly if you’re coming from Italy (we got searched 3 times coming into the U.S. via Seattle to be sure we weren’t smuggling salumi into the country)! Taking something out is considerably easier since the Italian customs involves a guy looking you in the eye and waving you through if you look decent enough.

    Anyway… I can only make SO MANY tamales! I’m looking forward to reading more about your experiments with this.



    • Rusty Wright says:

      I’d say it didn’t turn out; not a worthwhile endeavor. I’d give it a thumbs down.

    • Rusty Wright says:

      Laura, have a look at the Maseca web site; lots of recipes there that use masa harina. I dare you to make their corn bread recipe that has lots of eggs and cream!

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