Corn is the most popular product of the summer and the most versatile. The single crop (which can be classified as a vegetable or a grain, depending on when it was harvested) is often made into savory dishes, such as red rice, corn on the cob, or jalapeño cornbread. It can also be enjoyed in desserts, from cakes and puddings to ice cream and even truffles!
The beauty of corn is its light saccharine flavor, which pairs nicely with butter, heavy cream, chocolate, and other key ingredients used in desserts. And so is the texture of its soft, individual grains. The grains can be infused in any liquid of your choice: milk, plant-based alternatives, alcohol, you name it! — to add a touch of corn in traditional recipes.
Here at Salon Food, we look forward to closing out this season by eating a whole host of corn-based treats. To help us get this effort off the ground, we spoke with Kathryn Gordon, Pastry and Baking Chef-Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). Gordon shares a number of helpful tips and tricks on how to showcase corn in everyday desserts:
Fresh corn is the best corn.
When asked which specific varieties of corn work best in candy, Gordon said there isn’t one in particular. The only thing that matters is that the corn you choose is fresh. Fresh corn on the cob is also vibrantly colored, sweet and juicy, making it perfect for summer desserts.
To spot a fresh ear of corn, look for a bright green husk that is tightly wrapped around the corn and slightly moist to the touch. The corn itself should also feel firm: just lightly squeeze it through the husk, but don’t remove the husk and then check the corn kernels, as that will spoil its beautiful tone and crispness.
As for storing freshly purchased corn, Gordon recommends storing it in the refrigerator so it doesn’t dry out. Unhusked corn on the cob can be stored loose in the crisper, while husked corn should be stored in a plastic bag for added protection. Keep in mind that refrigerated corn stays fresh for up to two days. Subsequently, the corn should be moved to the freezer.
“I love sweet corn when it’s freshly picked and you can eat it raw off the cob,” says Gordon. “If I weren’t eating or cooking the corn within 24 hours of the stalk, I would refrigerate the corn for storage, but I would also tend to chop up the kernels and skip it before making it into a dessert.”
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Sometimes life gets hectic and prevents us from keeping track of our fresh corn. For “old” corn that’s dry and shriveled, Gordon says he likes to “briefly boil it or try to get more flavor out of the corn by lightly grilling it first, cooling it a bit, and then chopping up the kernels.”
Corn is starchy, creamy and sweet, so “it’s well suited to savory and sweet foods on a complementary level,” Gordon explains. Starchy flavors, in particular, work exceptionally well with various fats, such as butter, coconut, and cream. Desserts like corn-infused pudding, crème brulee, panna cotta, ice cream, ganache or cheesecake are just a few of the recipes Gordon suggests making.
“Corn also bakes well in a corn-flavored liquid,” he continues. “I personally like the texture, colors, and fiber of the corn, so I often add some to dessert as well, like incorporating fresh corn kernels into corn ice cream or my waffle batter.”
Corn-flavored liquids, such as “corn milk”, are prepared by infusion. The resulting liquid is then used in place of regular milk or buttermilk in recipes for cupcakes, fruit buckle, pancakes, custards, and puddings.
To make an infusion, start by “scraping the kernels from a cob and adding them to the liquid in a recipe (such as milk).” Adds Gordon, “The infusion can be made with a little time and by heating gently and then turning off the heat to infuse the flavor of the corn into the liquid before straining. Then re-measure the liquid and continue with the recipe.”
If you’re running out of time, Gordon recommends blending the corn liquid (once it cools) to speed up the process of extracting the flavor from the corn and allowing the liquid to become more concentrated. The more the liquid is mixed, the smoother the mixture becomes. However, extra effort may be required if you don’t like too much texture in your dessert.
Another corntastic dessert to try
For more adventurous bakers and corn fans, Gordon suggests making a cornbread with corn-infused milk. Bread pieces can be pan-toasted with butter and served hot along with corn-infused ice cream (with fresh kernels folded over) and summer fruits (such as sliced peaches, blackberries, or figs) drenched in light brown sugar and vanilla . To top it off, garnish the bread with caramelized popcorn or fresh mint sprigs.
stories of food in the corn:
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