Maize flour is synonymous with masa and corn flour and is essentially dried corn that has been grounded into soft, fine particles. It is often soaked with lime during the softening process to make corn tortillas and shells, but this flavoring may be absent in flour used for baking. Once used primarily in the preparation of Mexican and other Latin American dishes, this flour is now widely used as a substitute to wheat flour in many food products and baking mixes that cater to people with wheat or gluten intolerance.
Maize flour is made from corn, which is one of the world’s largest crops. North America produces more corn than any other part of the world, but because of its vast usability in a wide variety of products and processes from food to fuel, it is used practically everywhere. Flour made with maize is low in saturated in fat and has virtually no cholesterol, though it has less protein than flour made from other grains. Still, it is preferable in certain recipes and is a viable alternative to wheat flour.
When baking with wheat flour alternatives, maize flour tends to be lighter than rice and tapioca flours, but a blend of flours usually produces the best result. Using alternative flours when baking typically requires the addition of a binding agent, such as eggs, gelatin or xanthan gum.
It is important to note that when baking or cooking with maize flour, the properties of the flour are very different from wheat flour. This is because of the absence of gluten, which for baking purposes is what binds and allows for air to circulate and cause rising. Though it is possible to substitute corn and other flour for regular all-purpose flour in certain recipes, some modifications may be necessary to yield desired results. There are plenty of recipes that call for maize flour as the main ingredient, so substituting in other recipes should be done for experimental purposes before preparing a recipe for presentation.
Maize flour can be found in most grocery stores where baking supplies are sold. If for some reason it is difficult to locate it at a common grocery retailer, it can more easily be found at health food stores and specialty grocery stores. Also look for flour blends that contain flour from more than one grain source, as the mixture of grains provides a different flavor and texture.