When it comes to the complex relationships with our food, there is perhaps none more duplicitous as the one we have with corn. It has been modified, vilified, and of course, deep fried. Still, we eagerly await its arrival every summer and can enjoy it in its various states in dishes from morning to night. And for those in-between times, corn is utilized in snack foods both the heavenly and the devilish.
Corn snacks are eaten throughout the world. Luckily we found the best corn snacks, no matter where they might hail from, utilize this versatile vegetable and grain in each of its states without it ever having to take a trip down an extruder. Turn the page for our favorites from Murakai's MamMoth Bakery, El Carriel, and our home kitchen after a trip to Surfas.
There is no other place that has taken advantage of the uncanny adaptability of corn in its kernel state than Japan. It is sprinkled on top of pizzas, adds color to salads and is essential to certain styles of ramen. However, it is in their snack buns where the tables are turned on this much-maligned ingredient, as the corn is not used simply as a carrier or garnish, but is the highlight.
This is exactly the case of the corn buns found at Murakai's in-store bakeshop, MamMoth Bakery. Admittedly, there are certain cravings that can only be satisfied by their hefty creamy corn and tuna filled bun, but what inspires most of our visits to their Gardena location is their cuter in size and name C.O.B. bun.
This bun is more than a play on words, the C stands for corn, the O for onion and B, bacon. Nestled in the middle of a glossy buttery bun and topped with a smattering of fresh parsley, this snack that looks like a dainty corn pie. Yet the reason this threesome works together is because the sweetness of the onion and richness of the bacon heighten the flavor of the corn beyond all appearances.
A rarified form of corn in L.A. is masarepa, a finely milled precooked corn flour that as its name indicates is used to make arepas, fluffy griddled corn cakes. While arepas are most often associated with Venezuela, they are a staple snack in several Latin American countries including Colombia. And it is at Huntington Park's Colombian bakery, El Carriel where we found our favorite stuffed version.
El Carriel makes several different types of arepas to eat in or take home frozen. Small thick ones used to soak up the runny yolk and bean liquor that co-mingle on a plate of bandeja paisa. Also, sweet crumbly arepas de choclo that are an excellent way to end any meal. Nevertheless, the arepas that make El Carriel stand out are their customized stuffed arepas, especially the pineapple and cheese.
This particular arepa is griddled, then split and stuffed with crushed pineapple and cheese before it is returned to the griddle for finishing. As the cheese melts, securing the filling to both sides of the yielding arepa, the pineapple releases its juices and caramelizes on the edges of the arepa. The combined the flavors of savory, sweet with hits of acidity edges out any flavor found in a factory sealed bag.
Recently, years of self imposed cornmeal exile came to an end as White Lily flour reappeared at Surfas. Although their acclaim comes from biscuits made with their self rising soft wheat flour, biscuit making does require a bit of attention to get right. On the other hand, quick corn muffins made using the recipe on their cornmeal mix come out tender with deep corn flavor every time. Just as long as they include BakeWise author and proud southern cook Shirley Corriher's secret ingredient.
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A can of creamed corn added to the cornmeal mix when blending wet to dry ingredients makes all the difference. The creamy texture helps keep the cornmeal moist and the corn kernels shore up the flavor. The batter ends up with the appearance of a thin cake batter, but following the recipe's baking instructions, the muffins still rise and fill the kitchen with the smell of sweet roasted corn.
Most of the time we also add chunks of aged cheddar, crisp bacon and/or hatch chiles to the batter for a savory snack. However, during berry season there is no better accompaniment than compote to top these muffins. Served this way, we have to remind ourselves that it is just a snack. Otherwise, we'd probably dish up a few more and forgo the rest of the day's planned meals.