Homemade Corn Muffin Mix
Last Spring, when I had the first indication that gluten might present a problem for me, my first challenge was to change my breakfast. I really hadn’t eaten very much bread – even my excellent homemade whole wheat bread – for years, but I ate some form of oatmeal (which notoriously has a high level of cross contamination) almost every morning – and the days I didn’t, I ate bread. I’d had some thoughts about a wheat free corn muffin, so I pursued that – and came up with a tender and delicious muffin that felt like a treat, rather than deprivation. (And a series of symptoms magically vanished over the next two weeks… so I knew I was on the right track.)
Well, I’ve been eating gluten free corn muffins ever since. They’re a treat at breakfast, they’re a good quick bread with a soup or salad lunch, they’re good to tuck into a carried lunch, they are just very useful. I’ve tried a few other version, but am not (yet) as happy with them – you know, there is a reason corn muffins have been a classic of American cooking! They were always my favorite…
I missed using a mix, though. That was almost the only mix I continued to use until about 10 years ago – largely because it made just six, which was a good number for me when I was single (my recipes all seemed to make 12 – or even 18!) but also partly for convenience. I mean, muffins are really easy, but if I make them before I’m really awake… and actually, washing all the measuring cups was even more a nuisance than assembling the recipe. (Rich really likes getting up to a pot of coffee and a plate of hot muffins. He’s less thrilled by the sink full of the liquid measuring cup for the milk, and the dry one for the cornmeal, and the one for the masa, and all the measuring spoons, and the bowl, and the baking tin… Cutting that down was worthwhile.)
So, all right – I developed my own gluten free corn muffin mix. And I do it all by weight, now – so when I bake them, I only use the bowl, the fork, and the muffin tin itself. Not bad. I’ve also continued to tinker a bit with the recipe… nothing major, but you’ll see a few slight changes.
I’m writing this in two posts – one for the actual mix recipe, and, next Monday, baking the muffins from it. (I started it as one, but it got unwieldy.) I usually make muffins in batches of six – that’s plenty for two of us, and the tin fits in the countertop oven, which is less fuss than heating the big one. I’ve doubled it to make a dozen (using the regular oven) with no problem. This is enough mix for six batches of six muffins each… which is as much as I want to make room for. Any mix that isn’t going to be used in about a week should be refrigerated – once the oil and the cornmeal combine, they can start going rancid more quickly. I usually keep about a third out (since I use it often) and put the rest in a big zipper bag in the refrigerator, refilling my container when it is empty.
First I get out the biggest bowl I have. I can do this in the largest one in my Pyrex set – but it gets crowded and, with all the stirring, I sometimes splash some of the cornmeal out and make a mess. If you don’t have a very big one, I will give options as we go.
I put the bowl on my scale, and put into it 900 grams of corn meal. Now – corn meal comes in several sized packages – most of the time I weigh out that amount. But sometimes I get a two pound package – and that is 907 grams, so I just put the whole package in. Trust me, 7 grams of cornmeal over 36 muffins is not going to make any difference… make it easy.
Then I add in 240 grams of masa harina. In my original post I explained why this improves the texture, and gives a nice tender crumb. I have since learned that the amount of egg I use helps that, also – but the masa harina is still a real factor. If you cannot get it, though, go ahead and use regular cornmeal – they’ll still taste good, just be crumbly and coarse. I think it would be worth it to locate a Hispanic store or order some online. And if I use too much of it, I get muffins that are heavy and a bit soggy… this seems to be the best proportion.
After that, I add 30 grams of baking powder, and 20 grams of salt. I take a big balloon whisk and use it to stir everything together well. (One advantage to using yellow cornmeal here is that, if you stir until the color is even, you know it is well mixed… but use your own preference.)
Then I add oil. Now, I have used butter, and cut it in – which is a bit more fuss. It does give a very slightly richer flavor, but I found there wasn’t as much flavor difference as I’d expected. And that really should be refrigerated… so now I generally just use oil. I used canola oil, here, use your preference, but you probably want a mild tasting one.
There are two ways you can do this. Here, I just poured it gradually over the mixture, a little at a time, and whisked it in until it was evenly distributed (which did take some time and effort.) I used the whisk to break up lumps, and then kept stirring. The other option, which I strongly recommend if you are cutting in cold butter or if you do not have a very large bowl, is to use a food processor. It doesn’t have to be big – I have used my mini chop successfully. I put a cup or so (more with a larger processor) of the corn meal mixture into the processor, add all the oil or fat, and whir until it is all distributed evenly. Then mix that into the larger container – you still need to mix well, but you don’t have trouble with clumping.
And there you are. Enough mix to make six batches of six gluten free corn muffins each – or three dozen right now to bring to a potluck (I’d mix that in 2-3 batches, myself) – or anything in between. I actually used an earlier version to make the cornbread for stuffing I made last Thanksgiving. (I made entirely unsuccessful dumplings with it, too – I’ll let you know when/if they work!) and I’ve played with a few other concepts. I really expect this to become a staple in my kitchen. Corn seems to work well for me (though I know it doesn’t for everyone) and it is both readily available and inexpensive – both really useful features. (No – eating gluten free does not have to cost an arm and a leg.. Concentrate on foods that don’t have gluten to begin with. And – it’s easier if you cook from scratch – which I was doing already! Stay with me – I have a whole blog about doing just that…)
And – interestingly – when I wrote last May, I was careful not to say Gluten Free because the masa harina didn’t say so (and I was just learning, and being careful, though it was working for me.) Well – the same package now does say that it is gluten free! It is getting easier to get the information.
In the next post, I’ll give you the muffin recipe. Assemble it while the oven heats (and the coffee drips) using only the bowl and a fork. Bake it in 20 minutes. Serve to great acclaim!
Homemade Corn Muffin Mix
- 900 g corn meal
- 240 g masa harina
- 30 g baking powder
- 20 g salt
- 170 g oil
- Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Use a whisk to blend them very thoroughly.
- Drizzle the oil over the mixture, a little at a time, whisking in between. Continue until it is all blended in, without any lumps.
- Put away for use. Refrigerate any that will not be used within a few days.