in my shopping basket: harina de maís

here on guam (in guam? i'll never get it right), the traditional bread is titiyas(tih-tí-jhahs), which as the name suggests, is not unlike the mexican flatbread, tortilla. we have both a corn and wheat flour variety.

the corn titiya is simply made from ground dried corn, or more commonly, masa harina, a flour made from hominy (corn soaked in lye) and water. it is simply pressed out into a large circle and grilled, then cut into wedges. the flour titiya is a little more complicated and significantly different from the mexican one: it involves baking powder, milk, and sugar. it is fatter disc, both sweeter and fluffier, and also made as a large circle and cut into wedges.

i like both the mexican and chamorro corn tortillas, but sometimes i find they are a little dry and tough, and the smell of lye is a little off-putting. when i make corn tortillas and titiyas at home, they tend to be hard and brittle. now i use harina de maís, a pre-cooked corn flour that is used in arepas (ah-ré-pahs), the venezuelan version of a griddle cake, often stuffed with cheese, or sometimes it's also like a tortilla, flat and grilled.

the difference between harina de maís and masa harina is that the harina de maís is made with dried corn that hasn't been turned into hominy. i'm not sure what the difference between harina de maís and a finely ground white cornmeal, though. when using harina de maís in making tortillas, the difference is noticeable; you get a crispy crusted flatbread, with a soft feather-like interior. it's more delicate in texture and in flavour, and worth the effort to make.

harina de maís is also known as harina pan, for the popular brand name. some people swear by it, won't buy any other brand. if you can find it (the company i bought this bag from went out of business!), try using it sometime. it runs about $2.50 for a 1kg bag.