Sunday, July 22, 2007

Making Corn Tortillas

Tortillas are such an important part of the daily diet of so many people, especially in Mexico. I took the above picture last time we were in Mexico. It shows two women making tortillas on an outdoor patio. They used three cinder blocks to contain a small fire and to support a big comal (griddle). They had a bucket of freshly mixed masa (tortilla dough) which they were constantly patting into balls and then into circles. They were making the tortillas for a party of hundreds of guests.

Below is a close up of a method for forming the balls of masa into the tortilla shape. The photo was taken inside my mother-in-law's kitchen. The masa dough ball is placed on a square piece of strong plastic and is rotated in circles. The green towel stayed in place as a cushion. Both hands are needed to guide the dough. One hand pats the dough to flatten it, and the other hand stays on the edge to push and keep the dough in a circular shape.

Above is another method to make tortillas at home, by using a maricona (tortilla press). It is much easier than forming them by hand. I made the masa and then rolled it into 16 balls. I placed a damp towel over them to keep them from drying out. I form the tortillas by placing a square of wax paper on the open maricona, then placing a ball of dough on the wax paper, then covering the ball with another square of wax paper. Then all I do is close the tortilla press and put a bit of pressure on it, and it does all of the work of flattening the masa into a disc.

I cook the tortillas on a small ungreased griddle. A bigger griddle could be used if you have one. I keep the cooked tortillas warm in a towel. Below is the recipe for masa dough that I used. This is an adaptation from the recipe on the bag of Maseca brand masa harina (instant corn masa flour):

Masa for Tortillas

2 cups of Maseca masa flour, loosely measured
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups water (I use warm water)

For extra flavor, I recommend adding either

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or a few drops of soy sauce to the dough or both

Combine the two cups of masa flour, salt, and water (and optional oil or soy sauce). Mix thoroughly (I use my hands) to form a soft dough. If the dough feels dry, add more water, one tablespoon at a time. I had to add quite a bit of extra water as my flour was very absorbent. Divide dough into 16 equal balls. Cover with damp cloth to keep the dough moist. Flatten the dough using your method of choice.

Tips for cooking the tortillas: we cook them one at a time, because we have an electric stove and find they cook better that way. You will know when to flip them when the edges of the tortilla have lifted up from the pan. The recipe says it takes about 50 seconds per side, although we cooked ours longer than that.

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