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I recently made some corn bread on my own from scratch for the first time. The flavour was perfect as was the general firmness/crumbliness of the bread. However, the corn meal in the recipe resulted in an extremely gritty eating experience. It was like eating uncooked steel cut oats. But it's not like you can make corn bread without corn meal...

Anyway, every other corn bread I have ever had, whether it is made from scratch or from a pre-packaged mix, has not had this gritty quality.

I used a relatively fresh purchased package of yellow stone ground corn meal. It was open for about 3 days since I used a tablespoon in another recipe, but I stored it in an airtight container in the freezer (which is apparently what one should do).

Did I purchase bad corn meal? Is there something I can do to modify the recipe and make it less gritty?

Here is the recipe I am using.

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Just to clarify- the grittiness was from uncooked granules of corn? Steel cut oats are much larger than cornmeal. Did you mean they were as hard as the oats or actually the same size? –  Sobachatina Oct 30 '12 at 18:41
    
@Sobachatina Just as hard. Not the same size. Thanks though. Good clarification. –  gnomed Nov 1 '12 at 14:41
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The grittiness is an essential element of good cornbread, IMO. I buy the coarsest grind of cornmeal I can find. Another essential element is no sweetness. Soft, sweet cornbread is awful stuff if you ask me. –  Carey Gregory Sep 7 '13 at 15:35
    
@CareyGregory: ick. If I want a bread that's not sweet, I'll have a good sourdough. Cornbread should be moist, sweet, and the only crunch should come from the slightly-crispy edges. –  Marti Sep 7 '13 at 16:34
    
@Marti - You'd go broke trying to sell cornbread like that in the southern US. We'll have to agree to disagree on what makes good cornbread. The only thing we agree on is the moistness. –  Carey Gregory Sep 7 '13 at 17:46

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

If you don't want gritty bread, use finely milled polenta. Roughly milled polenta is like semolina, and results in a gritty batter. Finely milled polenta is like flour, and results in a smooth batter.

I don't know the proper names for the different milling grades in English. I don't mean cornflour, which is pure maize starch from the inside of the maize kernel. I mean whole maize kernels milled so the particles are the same size as wheat flour. It is yellow and tastes the same way as the rough one, only the texture is different.

The two types of polenta differ in their water absorption and soaking times, so you may want to use a recipe developed for the fine milled type, or tweak your own recipe.

To give you a better example, here is what you need:

enter image description here

You don't want to use the rough form, which looks like this:

enter image description here

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+1. I'm not sure where the OP is from, but generally in the US, we call the stuff you make cornbread out of cornmeal (and there are variations in fineness). Polenta usually refers to coarser stuff for, well, making polenta (even though one can of course make fine polenta). –  Jefromi Oct 30 '12 at 19:40
    
Thanks. I have a lot to learn... –  gnomed Nov 1 '12 at 14:39
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In the US, I have seen the very finely milled corn called "corn flour" and the stuff that's pure starch is usually labeled just "corn starch". –  sourd'oh Sep 7 '13 at 17:01

You can soak the cornmeal in water overnight if you remember to reduce the water in your recipe to compensate for it. In your recipe, you can soak it in the milk and then you don't need to do any compensating.

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I'd try letting the batter rest for a bit, like a 15 minutes.

This link talks about letting stuff rest for other reasons, but it talks about letting stuff absorb other stuff. It's very scientific.

http://www.thekitchn.com/food-science-why-some-batters-76098

It may be different from other things you've tried because of the coarseness of the meal that you've gotten. I don't know if there's any sort of regulation on the labeling for ground corn meal...

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I was thinking something along these lines. The dough seemed so thick that I was worried any resting might dry it out, but I'll probably still give it a shot next time. –  gnomed Oct 30 '12 at 18:28
    
You can rest it covered in saran wrap (or even just a plate) and that should be ok. –  grumpasaurus Oct 30 '12 at 18:32
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I wouldn't rest the batter, because the leavening will spend itself in the meantime. If you suspect it is a matter of the corn meal not getting hydrated, soak it first in part of your liquid, and use the soaked corn meal in the batter. –  rumtscho Oct 30 '12 at 18:32
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The basic recipe is similar to a pancake batter which is often rested for a while so perhaps resting this batter would not be detrimental to the leavening. –  Kristina Lopez Oct 31 '12 at 4:00
    
The baking powder is most likely dual acting and will still give enough lift for cornbread after resting. –  Sobachatina Oct 31 '12 at 13:10

I use the coarse cornmeal because I like the flavor. I took my cue from the muffin recipe on the bag: It said to soak your cornmeal in the milk for 10 minutes. I did this for my buttermilk cornbread and it was delicious. I didn't add any extra milk.

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This answer could be improved if you explicitly said whether the soaking reduced the grittiness: "it was delicious" doesn't tell us much, because some people like gritty cornbread. –  Marti Sep 7 '13 at 16:31
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@Marti It reduces the grittiness. It's a standard step in tons cornbread recipes. –  Jefromi Sep 7 '13 at 17:27

Just to add to rumtscho's response…

There are several different levels of coarseness of corn meal, from very fine (corn flour) to very coarse. If you want your corn bread to be less gritty, use a finer grind of corn meal.

(If you don't want to waste the corn meal you've already got, you can grind it finer in a coffee grinder.)

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Here is what I've learned so far about cornmeal -

grinds -- there are three available that I know of: Fine Medium and Coarse. Bob's Red Mill makes all three. I think the above-mentioned 'corn flour' is one step finer than fine corn meal. Usually cornmeal is yellow, but can also be found as white cornmeal. I've only ever seen that in a find grind.

Sweet vs. Not Sweet -- In one of my fave cookbooks, The Cornbread Gospels, the author (with a great name - Crescent Dragonwagon!!!) explains that sweet corn reads are Northern, and not-sweet cornbread is Southern. Depending on your roots, you will feel affinity for one or the other. Interesting, no?

Buttermilk - I think buttermilk and cornbread are naturals together.

I'm currently on the hunt for the perfect cornbread muffin recipe. Tonight, I'm making pumpkin cornbread muffins (which can also be made as a bread in a buttered cast-iron skillet), from the new (free!) NYT Cooking app, which is great.

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