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corn flour versus masa for pizza crust

dlassiter's picture
dlassiter

corn flour versus masa for pizza crust

I'd like to use some corn flour in my pizza crust to make it a bit more chewy. I have masa. To what extent is that an adequate substitute? Specifically, with regard to pizza crusts, what's the difference between corn flour and masa?

Jimatthelake's picture
Jimatthelake

I think that masa is made with partched corn, while corn flour would be made form raw dent corn.  Not the same thing.  Jim

PS:  You could grind your own corn flour if you have pop corn and a mill or spice grinder.  Pop corn is harder than dent corn, but tastes great.

tpassin's picture
tpassin

If you mean "masa harina", it's rather different from plain corn flour (for those in the UK: in the US the term "corn flour" does not mean "corn starch", but flour ground from corn). If you are thinking about the corn flour used in corn tortillas and similar products, that's masa harina.

For masa harina, corn kernels are treated with a lime mixture, basically like hominy is, and then the hulls are removed and the wet corn mixture is ground and then dried (there may be a rinsing stage in here, I'm not sure).  I prefer the flavor of masa harina over ordinary corn flour, though some people don't like it.

If you were thinking about Italian corn polenta flour vs US corn meal, yes, the type of corn used is different in the US but also the Italian milling is different, so the two products though similar are not really the same.

Parched corn is roasted dry corn kernels, left whole or sometimes pounded or ground to a flour.  Only some corn varieties are said to be good for parching.  Here's an interesting link for parched corn -

https://www.geocities.ws/lunarlooneys/FamilyRecipes/NA_RECIPE_PAGES/PARCHED-CORN.html

TomP

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

The Nixtamalization of corn to make Masa Harina produces dough that is easier to work with and more nutritious for humans because it releases vitamins and amino acids that transform the corn into a complete protein.

A little-known fact is that corn famines were a big problem for cultures that imported corn as a staple crop without the cultural knowledge of Native Americans who processed corn (fermentation and nixtamalization) unlocking its nutrition.

tpassin's picture
tpassin

I just found this benefit (new to me) of alkaline treatment in addition to making B vitamins available:

It also significantly reduces (by 90-94 %) mycotoxins produced by Fusarium verticillioides and F. proliferatum, molds that commonly infect maize and are recognized carcinogens.

See https://ethnobiology.org/conference/abstracts/40/indigenous-biotechnologycorn-nixtamalization

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

Ton's of good reasons to use Masa Harina instead of corn. I don't use plain corn flour/polenta/meal for anything.

semolina_man's picture
semolina_man

Chewy or tender? 

Chewy means you should use "strong" flour with a higher protein %. 

Tender means you should do the opposite, and use flour with a lower protein %.  For example to use corn meal, Tipo 00 flour, or semolina rimacinata flour. 

Jimatthelake's picture
Jimatthelake

I stand corrected.  I was confusing parching with lime treatment.  Jim

dlassiter's picture
dlassiter

OK, I KNOW, in principle, what the difference between corn flour and masa harina is. I asked a simple question. Can one substitute the latter for the former in making pizza dough? How will it change the result? Taste? Texture?

tpassin's picture
tpassin

Subbing masa will change the flavor, as will subbing, say, semolina.  When you add in some non-gluten-forming flour, then of course the gluten content will decrease.  The starchy stickiness of the masa harina won't really compensate for that but may let you use more water in the dough.

I doubt that adding masa harina will increase chewiness but it could make for a distinctive crust and flavor.  The pizza shell will probably not be as rugged or fluffy as usual but that might be all right.  I'd experiment with small amounts at first, like 10% of total flour, and go on from there.

TomP

dlassiter's picture
dlassiter

Thanks. Yes, I figured the flavor would be different. Probably stronger. But it is written that corn flour makes the pizza dough chewier, crumblier, and crunchier. I may do as you say and just add a bit of masa harina to my dough and see what turns out. There are recipes for corn flour pizza dough online up the kazoo. I do have a grinder, so I suppose I'll just make my own corn flour.

I've never quite understood how you can get a light and fluffy loaf of bread using only corn flour, as it has no gluten, but adding a few eggs might do the trick.

tpassin's picture
tpassin

I've only made bread, not pizza, with a large amount of masa harina.  Here's a loaf I made with 35% masa harina:

https://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/72741/masa-harina-sourdough

Here is how it turned out:

The bread slices well. It has a mild pleasant taste with the corn obvious but not overwhelming.  The crust is chewy rather than crisp or crunchy (despite its appearance).  The crumb is very chewy (not tough, but it stays in the mouth as you chew) so thin slices would be best.

And yes, I did add some egg.

 

dlassiter's picture
dlassiter

Good thinking. I'll try that on my sandwich loaves, next bake. That's a small loaf, so one large egg would make a big difference. I do appreciate that hydration can be an issue with masa harina, since it sucks up water. I'm suspecting that corn flour would as well.

dlassiter's picture
dlassiter

OK, you inspired me. As of this morning, I made a loaf with 30% masa harina. Comes out a little denser than regular bread, and the rise time was noticeable longer. But the bread was excellent, with a very mild cornbread-like taste. Crust was slightly thicker, and the crust and bread had a vague yellowish cast. Crumb was soft and pillowy. Certainly not chewy. No question that it would perform well as pizza crust, though a higher concentration of masa harina might be a little more chancy rise-wise. Now, it is alleged that store-bought masa harina is not necessarily gluten-free, as it might have a small; admixture of regular flour.

tpassin's picture
tpassin

It does make for a pleasant bread, doesn't it? Now I'm keen to find out how it works in a pizza crust.  Waiting with bated breath!

dlassiter's picture
dlassiter

Yes, it will be a week or two before I try that. Just made pizza the other day.

tpassin's picture
tpassin

I decided to try out the 35% masa harina dough again.  Although I was thinking pizza shell originally, I ended up using the dough for an Uzbek-style flatbread.  This style isn't really that much different than a pizza shell, deep down, except that the central part is docked in fancy ways so it doesn't balloon upwards except at the rim - and it's usually cooked in a tandoor.  Take a look at this video to see an Uzbek bakery in action, pretty amazing -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07Muk2hQ7p0

I don't have a bread stamp yet (I've ordered one) so I docked the interior with a fork but most of those holes seem to have closed up.  Only the small part at 3 o'clock, opposite my hand in the photo, stayed docked.  So much of the interior inflated instead of staying flat.

 The crumb came out really well, as the photo shows.  It's soft and pillowy.  The flavor is very pleasant and more complex than plain white flour usually is.  But overall, the bread including the crust is soft.  Most people would probably want a crustier crust for pizza.  This makes me think that for a pizza shell, maybe use more like 20% masa harina instead of 35%. I think the hydration could have been a little lower, too.

 

The seeds you see on the top are sesame and cumin.  Nigella is common too but I didn't use it this time. I baked the bread on a baking steel preheated to 500 deg F/260C, then overheated with the overhead boiler.  Baking setting was 500 deg F/260C.  The bread was done in 17 minutes.

All that masa harina made the dough very extensible and it didn't have much springiness.  That made it very easy to shape into the final form.  I didn't need to roll it out, just pressing and patting by hand with a little stretching.  Very easy.

Another time I might try 20% masa harina, 20% semolina to get a little more crunchy texture.  As a bread and not a pizza shell, though, this is pretty good.  It's also been fun, being so different from what I usually do.

 

 

dlassiter's picture
dlassiter

I agree that if you want a crunchy crust (and that applies to pizza crust as well), masa harina might not be the right choice. But the inner crumb is nice. A little denser, and a little more moist than bread without masa harina. Somewhat fewer crumbs come off when slicing. Makes wonderful toasting bread. I'm certainly going to do this again.

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

NO.

You will have a tomato sauce and cheese-covered tortilla.

dlassiter's picture
dlassiter

Um, no. You roll out your pizza crust without leavening and press it down before filling?  Mine will be raised, You've never done this, I gather.

rondayvous's picture
rondayvous

I don’t “roll out” pizza dough, I doubt many (if any) do. Unless you are making a thick pizza (they call them Sicilian pizzas in NYC, pizza dough is stretched. Mine is stretched to a nearly window pain thinness. Unless you are using a pastry flour, Stretching will be faster even if you wanted to “roll it out” and it would be nearly impossible to roll the dough as thinly as you can stretch it anyway. 

dlassiter's picture
dlassiter

That makes some sense. Depends on the style oif pizza you like. I like thick risen crust. Call it Sicilian, or deep-dish, or even Detroit, I roll mine out, Not hard. Thinness is not my goal.

BrianShaw's picture
BrianShaw

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