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jsmeeker

Maseca masa harina

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I was in my local Fiesta Mart this weekend and decided I ought to pick up some Maseca as I've seen it called for as an ingredient in some things, even if it wasn't to make dough for tortillas. So, looking at the shelves, I spied a small bag. It said "Amarilla" on it, along with a proclamation that it was "NEW!" Not knowing exactly what that meant, I compared that bag to the larger bag of Masaca. I couldn't tell the difference. Since I have limited storage space at home, I decided to just pickup that smaller bag. Now, I am not totally sure what I have. Here is what I got.

http://aztecamilling.com/OurBrands.aspx?ID=139

How exactly is this different than the other stuff? If it's a little different, can I use it as a direct substitution for any recipe that simply calls for Maseca (or instant masa harina)


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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Maseca is white corn flour treated with mixatamal if I am not mistaken.

Takes a while to handle this dough or masa because it falls apart too easily to make tortillas and pupusas. Corn flour or Pan Harina from Colombia or Venezuela is milder in flavour yet the same products where arepas are manufactured. In all honesty I prefer to give it to the locals to prepare something along the lines for moi.

Other than that just plain flour will do if you don't mind substituting the flavour.


Edited by piazzola (log)

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It looks like you got the same thing just made from a different color of corn. They should be interchangeable.

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It looks like you got the same thing just made from a different color of corn.  They should be interchangeable.

OK. Cool.

For some reason, I thought regular Maseca masa harnia was made from yellow corn. Hence, the reason I was confused.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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You might be surprised to know that here in Mexico, Maseca isn't as much a kitchen staple as you would think.

Most urban housewives who need a little masa (or a lot, for that matter) head out to the neighborhood tortillería and buy the quantity they need, whether it's for making tortillas and tamales, for sopes, or for thickening atole--in addition to the other gazillion ways to use masa.

Of course, there are still many rural amas de casa (housewives) who grind their own masa on a time-worn metate.


Edited by esperanza (log)

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You might be surprised to know that here in Mexico, Maseca isn't as much a kitchen staple as you would think.

Most urban housewives who need a little masa (or a lot, for that matter) head out to the neighborhood tortillería and buy the quantity they need, whether it's for making tortillas and tamales, for sopes, or for thickening atole--in addition to the other gazillion ways to use masa.

Of course, there are still many rural amas de casa (housewives) who grind their own masa on a time-worn metate.

It would be nice to have that convenience in suburban Dallas. :) Not that there probably aren't places to pick up real fresh ground masa, but it's not going to be too convenient to where I live/work.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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You might be surprised to know that here in Mexico, Maseca isn't as much a kitchen staple as you would think.

Most urban housewives who need a little masa (or a lot, for that matter) head out to the neighborhood tortillería and buy the quantity they need, whether it's for making tortillas and tamales, for sopes, or for thickening atole--in addition to the other gazillion ways to use masa.

Of course, there are still many rural amas de casa (housewives) who grind their own masa on a time-worn metate.

I was under the impression that in recent years, even this "fresh" masa from the tortillerías was actually frequently made from reconstituted masa harina. rancho_gordo posted a link to this article some time ago, and I think that Diana Kennedy has mentioned something along these lines in her books. Do you know if this is the case?


Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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You might be surprised to know that here in Mexico, Maseca isn't as much a kitchen staple as you would think.

Most urban housewives who need a little masa (or a lot, for that matter) head out to the neighborhood tortillería and buy the quantity they need, whether it's for making tortillas and tamales, for sopes, or for thickening atole--in addition to the other gazillion ways to use masa.

Of course, there are still many rural amas de casa (housewives) who grind their own masa on a time-worn metate.

I was under the impression that in recent years, even this "fresh" masa from the tortillerías was actually frequently made from reconstituted masa harina. rancho_gordo posted a link to this article some time ago, and I think that Diana Kennedy has mentioned something along these lines in her books. Do you know if this is the case?

Yes, this is unfortunately the case. It's very unusual to find a tortillería here in Mexico where the masa is made from freshly nixtamal-ized cacahautzintle.

Maseca rules the roost.

*sigh*


Edited by esperanza (log)

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Yes, this is unfortunately the case.  It's very unusual to find a tortillería here in Mexico where the masa is made from freshly nixtamal-ized cacahautzintle

Maseca rules the roost. 

*sigh*

I find that so disheartening... I had intended to seek out real fresh masa here in Oklahoma, but from what I hear there is basically no such thing anymore. Tortillas made from masa harina are better than nothing, but I hear that tamales are much better made with fresh masa.


Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Yes, this is unfortunately the case.  It's very unusual to find a tortillería here in Mexico where the masa is made from freshly nixtamal-ized cacahautzintle

Maseca rules the roost. 

*sigh*

I find that so disheartening... I had intended to seek out real fresh masa here in Oklahoma, but from what I hear there is basically no such thing anymore. Tortillas made from masa harina are better than nothing, but I hear that tamales are much better made with fresh masa.

I agree with you, it is disheartening. Here in Morelia, Michoacán, there are two or three tortillerías where actual nixtamal-ized corn is still used and masa is still ground (albeit by machine, not on a metate), but most everybody uses Maseca.

You're so right about masa para tamales. The Maseca dried stuff makes a poor substitute for real masa.

Time marches on, though. As I often say, not all change is progress.


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Yes, this is unfortunately the case.  It's very unusual to find a tortillería here in Mexico where the masa is made from freshly nixtamal-ized cacahautzintle

Maseca rules the roost. 

*sigh*

I find that so disheartening... I had intended to seek out real fresh masa here in Oklahoma, but from what I hear there is basically no such thing anymore. Tortillas made from masa harina are better than nothing, but I hear that tamales are much better made with fresh masa.

I agree with you, it is disheartening. Here in Morelia, Michoacán, there are two or three tortillerías where actual nixtamal-ized corn is still used and masa is still ground (albeit by machine, not on a metate), but most everybody uses Maseca.

You're so right about masa para tamales. The Maseca dried stuff makes a poor substitute for real masa.

Time marches on, though. As I often say, not all change is progress.

Do you mean the maseca masa harina "para tamales" isn't any better then standard maseca masa harina? Or you simply saying that even the "para tamales" version still falls far short of real fresh masa? (which I have no doubt)

I just got back from a cooking class for making tamales. we used normal maseca. I asked about the "para tamales" type. Instructor said there was just the one kind of maseca (which I know isn't true). we did use lard, but it wasn't fresh rendered lard. It was the kind they sell in the box that sits on the shelf with Crisco. All that said, they were still pretty good. When I make my own, I'll try the maseca "para tamales", plus I'll get fresh lard from the local Fiesta Mart.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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Do you mean the maseca masa harina "para tamales" isn't any better then standard maseca masa harina?  Or you simply saying that even the "para tamales" version still falls far short of real fresh masa? (which I have no doubt)

According to Consuelo Hester (who taught the tamale-making workshop I went to this summer) there is no appreciable difference between tamales made with the "para tamales" as compared to the regular, so she just uses the regular.


Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Hmm.. Interesting.

When I saw the Rick Bayless show on tamales, he said to be sure to use the "para tamales" version. But if there is no real difference, it sure would be easier to stock just one type at home.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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When I saw the Rick Bayless show on tamales, he said to be sure to use the "para tamales" version.  But if there is no real difference, it sure would be easier to stock just one type at home.

Jeff, this may be a dumb question, but I'll ask it anyway...

You live in Dallas, you've got local Mexican markets at which you can shop and source Mexican products. Don't any of those markets have a tortillaria inside or in some way affiliated with the market? Many tortilliarias will produce both masa preparada (for tortillias and other general use) and masa para tamales. If your markets does have a tortilliaria wouldn't it be easier just to purchase the masa para tamales when needed rather than having multiple bags of Maseca for multiple uses sitting on a shelf? With purchased masa para tamales you would still need to beat in the lard/fat and process it to the correct degree of pliability for tamales before proceeding.

As I understand it, for masa para tamales the grind on the corn is not as fine as it would be for masa preparada, giving it a different finished texture and somewhat different flavor profile than regular masa preparada.

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When I saw the Rick Bayless show on tamales, he said to be sure to use the "para tamales" version.  But if there is no real difference, it sure would be easier to stock just one type at home.

Jeff, this may be a dumb question, but I'll ask it anyway...

You live in Dallas, you've got local Mexican markets at which you can shop and source Mexican products. Don't any of those markets have a tortillaria inside or in some way affiliated with the market? Many tortilliarias will produce both masa preparada (for tortillias and other general use) and masa para tamales. If your markets does have a tortilliaria wouldn't it be easier just to purchase the masa para tamales when needed rather than having multiple bags of Maseca for multiple uses sitting on a shelf? With purchased masa para tamales you would still need to beat in the lard/fat and process it to the correct degree of pliability for tamales before proceeding.

As I understand it, for masa para tamales the grind on the corn is not as fine as it would be for masa preparada, giving it a different finished texture and somewhat different flavor profile than regular masa preparada.

Yes, some of the local stores make corn tortillas. I've even gone to a local tortilla factory to buy tortillas (thought I think it was really an outpost, and they weren't made their).

I figure if they are just using Maseca, there isn't much advantage to driving over and getting it, then driving home and using it. If they did use true fresh ground masa, I would be more inclined to go out of my way a bit to get it. and try to figure out what to ask for (my Spanish is virtually non existent save a few words related to food) Still, though, having Maseca on hand is convenient. I haven't done it just yet, but I need to get a tortilla press so I can crank out a few tortillas instead of buying them off the shelf in a local grocery store, only to use half the bag (or less).

But from other posts, it sounds like there may not be much of a need for both types if there really isn't much a difference.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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As long as it has been nixtamalized, it will work.

Like so many cultures around the world, the white corn product (white bread, etc.) is more highly valued as a more upperclass product.

If it has not been nixtamalized (list of contents on the bag/package should include "cal") then it will not behave in the same way.

Regards,

Theabroma


Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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Like so many cultures around the world, the white corn product (white bread, etc.) is more highly valued as a more upperclass product.

Theabroma, what does that mean? I'm a little confused. :blink:


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As long as it has been nixtamalized, it will work. 

Like so many cultures around the world, the white corn product (white bread, etc.) is more highly valued as a more upperclass product.

If it has not been nixtamalized (list of contents on the bag/package should include "cal") then it will not behave in the same way.

Regards,

Theabroma

Interesting. but I still do not understand why adding cal means upper class?


Edited by piazzola (log)

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Interesting. but I still do not understand why adding cal means upper class?

It doesn't. Cal isn't the issue.

It's a white corn vs. yellow corn thing. I've heard, and been told, that tortillas made from white corn masa are more costly and, therefore, more desirable by the those that can afford them because it allows them to display their financial status, not necessarily that it's a better quality tortilla.


Edited by kalypso (log)

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Interesting. but I still do not understand why adding cal means upper class?

It doesn't. Cal isn't the issue.

It's a white corn vs. yellow corn thing. I've heard, and been told, that tortillas made from white corn masa are more costly and, therefore, more desirable by the those that can afford them because it allows them to display their financial status, not necessarily that it's a better quality tortilla.

BINGO!

Let me try this again: In order to be able to make the bread we know as tortillas, the corn must first be nixtamalized. You can nixtamalize any of the field/flint/dent flour corns to achieve a masa with the desired characteristics. Now, where I suggested that culture waltzed through the door is in the choice of the color of corn used or preferred tp make the masa.

Cal (calcium hydroxice) is the medium for the nixtamalization process ... the fact that it happens to be blindingly white is a coincidence that has nothing to do with the cultural preference for white flours for white breads. (Beside s cal, wood ash dissolved in water -lye- or tequesquite - a naturally occurring alkalai forming around brackish water lakes - are also traditionally used to process the corn (think corundas, the famous ash tamales from Michoacan). Neither wood ash nor tequesuqite are white.

Color preferences in breadstuffs are socio-cultural, and are historically evident in Europe, Eastern Europe, to some extent the Middle East, and in Russia, the Trans-Caucasus, and Asia.

Off the top of my head I cannot recall research indicating the color preference prior to or at the time of the Conquest - although a quick run through Sahagun indicates that white corn may have had the edge even then. Post Conquest, with the advent of wheat cultivation in Mexico, the European preference for white bread as a status symbol came to the fore. It would not be unusual to find that preference further reinforced the color choice of corn for tortillas or, for that matter, tamal masa.

The corn of preference is cacahuazintle - a thumb-nail sized, snowy white grain, which when processed with cal, and with the pedicel removed, and then cooked in pozole, will open like some fleshy lily. It is beautiful. I have never seen or been served pozole made with yellow filed corn .... but there is no reason, other than cultural that is cannot be used to make pozole. There is also no reason it cannot be make into tortillas or tamales, but custom wold have it otherwise. My teachers in the ranchos and mercados won't use anything but white corn. Punto. In fact, the one place in Dallas where you could always get freshly made tortillas was El Ranchito on Jefferson Ave. at Llewellyn ... but the masa they use is made from yellow corn. Their explanation to me was that yellow was more traditional in the ranching country along the Frontera ... and I suspect that one uses what corn one has on hand. Yellow, at least in the norte is used as animal feed as well. You will see yellow corn used in caldos and stews.

So my reference to whiteness had to do with color and prestige ... and light/white breads have universally, historically had prestige. This preference is the fulcrum of a bizarre and twisted short story, "White Challah," perhaps the ultimate in prestige breads. The story is a tough read, but it explores the white bread/brown-black bread as contrast and metaphor, making clear the prestige implications.

BTW, I am using 'prestige' in the cultural anthropological sense ... which is a rather different cast of the word than the more narrow "I by all my clothes at Neiman's"-credit-card prestige.

Regards,

Theabroma


Edited by theabroma (log)

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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@Theabroma

I am not a food writer nor a food historian however I do not think today Mexicans are influenced by class choices but rather what people can afford at one time or another yes accept that! This applies to anyone anywhere in the world.

BTW White corn without nixatamal is widely used in North South America for arepas.

On the other hand you must have read about the whiteness of the bread in Eastern Europe because I have no idea. As far as Turkish breadmaking I only know they prefer a high extraction flour which is the same as flour "type 00" yes is whiter than most.

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@Theabroma

I am not a food writer nor a food historian however I do not think today Mexicans are influenced by class choices but rather what people can afford at one time or another yes accept that! This applies to anyone anywhere in the world.

Astor, we meet again!  

A lot of this stuff is not obvious because it has been built quietly, and over a long period of time.  Of course people who must watch their purse (and know they are the lucky ones who have a purse to watch) will buy what is lowest in price.  But the highfliers & trendsetters?  That is another matter, and they are the ones who set the fashion and are emulated.

BTW White corn without nixatamal is widely used in North South America for arepas. 

I thought we were speaking tortilla (Mexican, not Spanish) here?  White corn that has not been nixtamalized, but has been ground is indeed used in South America for arepas, and in the Southern US it is called cornmeal, and is used for mush, corn bread, etc.  Though the yellow is the more common, in my Southern family, the white was saved for making spoonbread - that fluffy, foofy, mush with yolks, and folded in egg whites that shivers and quivers at table like a mousse about to flop.  It was company food.  Everyday cornbread for the family was made with yellow meal.

On the other hand you must have read about the whiteness of the bread in Eastern Europe because I have no idea. As far as Turkish breadmaking I only know they prefer a high extraction flour which is the same as flour "type 00" yes is whiter than most.

I find it an odd trait, frankly, but it is seen in so many cultures:  Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Iran, the Balkans, Europe, on and on.  Doesn't mean it is any better or not, just that it is perceived as "prestige."  Reminds me of Dr. Seuss' The Sneetches. 

And ... I do read a lot about this, in part because of the translations I do, but also because I teach and I also cook.

Regards,

Theabroma


Edited by theabroma (log)

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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Yes, this is unfortunately the case.  It's very unusual to find a tortillería here in Mexico where the masa is made from freshly nixtamal-ized cacahautzintle

Maseca rules the roost. 

Is there a reliable way to tell if the "fresh masa" I buy is really fresh, or if it's just reconstituted dried? After months of searching I finally found a source for "fresh masa" in Oklahoma City, and I'd love to figure out (even if it is only academic) whether it is really fresh.


Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Yes, this is unfortunately the case.  It's very unusual to find a tortillería here in Mexico where the masa is made from freshly nixtamal-ized cacahautzintle

Maseca rules the roost. 

Is there a reliable way to tell if the "fresh masa" I buy is really fresh, or if it's just reconstituted dried? After months of searching I finally found a source for "fresh masa" in Oklahoma City, and I'd love to figure out (even if it is only academic) whether it is really fresh.

I think the thing you need to ask is if it's made from Nixtamal or masa harina.


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And.... those bags of "fresh" masa lurking under the bakery counters at Fiesta are not "fresh" ... its made from Maseca which has been reconstituted.

As for the Maseca (white bag) and Maseca para Tamal (pink bag), the pink bag is typically a coarser grind than the tortilla version. Of course, you can use the white bag stuff to make tamales. In Mexico the coarser grind is used for tamal masa, and the finer grind is used to make certain more specialized, regional varieties.

The difference was lost on me until I moved my tamal-making focus to the DF, Tlaxcala, Puebla, and the center in general. There the tamales are made with an even coarser grind of masa, and they are wonderfully textured, spongy, and fluffy. The Nortenos we are used to here in Texas ... and most of the US have a finer grind and a denser dough than what you typically find in the Centro.

I now make my own harina para tamal from scratch ... and I am trying to source a table-top sized molino I saw in a market in Chihuaha to be able to make more of it more easily. Currently I use a commercial grade Cuisinart (I beg its pardon every time I load the bowl and turn it on) and then sift it out in a huge tamis. It is a royal pain in the nalgas, but it makes wondrous masa and superbly fluffy tamales.

In Dallas there are several tortilleras that make masa from scratch ... Luna's is probably the best. If you purchase it from one, ask at least 2 Questions: 1) is it masa or masa preparada? (already contains fat) and 2) does it contain any additives or dough conditioners? (it should contain only field corn, cal, and water. That, at least, is one benefit of Maseca - it is only corn and cal, cooked, dried, and ground ... none of the other gummy gunk.

Regards,

Theabroma


Edited by theabroma (log)

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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