A pan of homemade cornbread.
Unlock Extra Crispy Cornbread Crust With One Ingredient
By Tom Maxwell
There's a way to achieve a particular kind of extra-crispy crust to an otherwise soft and tender cornbread, and the secret is a finely ground corn flour called masa harina. ​​
Masa is essentially corn flour, not cornmeal, and because of that, it is much more finely ground. The way it's processed changes cornbread's flavor and texture.
Unlike cornmeal, masa is made from nixtamalized corn. Nixtamalization is an ancient Mesoamerican process that traditionally uses wood ash.
Nixtamalization increases the body's ability to absorb the corn's vitamins and nutrients while adding aromatic nuance and depth of flavor.
So, apart from the fineness of its grind, what sets masa apart from regular all-purpose flour in terms of texture and flavor is that its corn essence is very much intact.
Combining this soft, bread-flour consistency with ground corn's natural crunch results in a crispy cornbread that all-purpose flour will never achieve.