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Not all cornstarches are created equal.

For some uses, the best starch comes from the ugliest corn kernels. Spurred by the demand for "all-natural" consumables and by microwave and other new food products, researchers at American Maize-Products Co. in Hammond, Ind., surveyed the starches produced by 300 types of corn. They found 10 with potential as sources of starches with new capabilities, says Robert B. Friedman, a chemist with the company,

Cornstarch is a polymer used as a thickener and for making corn syrup. However, most people do not recognize that "a subtle difference in the starch's structure can give you major differences in the way these polymers behave," says Friedman.

For example, gels made with Waxy-Shrunken starch (named for the appearance of the corn kernel) are much more translucent than most cornstarch-based gels. So a WaxyShrunken cornstarch could replace more expensive ingredients such as tapioca in recipes calling for clear gels, he says.

Another, Dull-Waxy cornstarch, makes puddings stiffer and gives baked goods a "velvety texture," says his colleague Frances R. Katz. "It forms a better moisture-holding matrix," she adds, so cakes stay fresher longer.

Typically, corn processors enhance those stiffening and water-holding properties in common cornstarch by crosslinking the starch polymers. In this chemical reaction, new connections form among starch molecules. Dull-Waxy starch needs no such modification, possibly because of more compact branching in the starch molecules, Friedman says.

His company now sells Dull-Waxy cornstarch and eventually plans to introduce other specialty cornstarches, he adds.
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Title Annotation:chemical modifying enhances thickening abilities
Author:Hoppe, Kathryn
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 5, 1992
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