Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Corn Tortillas

One would understandably be less than thrilled about corn tortillas if his only experience was with the tortillas sold at the grocery store. While these are fine for enchilladas they leave a great deal to be desired when eaten on their own. Homemade corn tortillas are worth seeking out. They are worth making a trip to purchase at a local tortilla factory. They are worth the small investment it takes to learn to make them yourself.

One critical piece of equipment, the absence of which precludes any corn tortilla making, is the tortilla press. These are easily found at Mexican grocery stores and are best when composed entirely of metal. The press allows uniformly thin tortillas and saves a lot of frustration. I received my press for my birthday from my awesome husband and have used it many times in the last month.

Corn tortillas are very authentic Mexican fare. Flour tortillas, though very good, are not typically eaten very far from the northern border. They are made with masa flour, which is a fine flour made from lime-treated corn (i.e. hominy) that has been dried and ground. There is no substitute for masa de harina, but it is easily found in the hispanic food section of most grocery stores I have ever perused. The sweet, rich corn flavor of cooked corn is enhanced in masa harina. This recipe is for a large number of tortillas because I like to have leftovers for pan-fried cinnamon-sugar tortillas at breakfast the next day.

4 cups masa harina
1 1/2 cups water, to start
1 tsp salt

Cut two rounds of heavy plastic (such as a large zip top bag) into a circle that is a little bigger than the face of the press. Combine the ingredients and work the water into the masa until it becomes cohesive and feelsl like play-doh. If this does not happen relatively quickly add additional water, 1 Tbsp at a time until the play-doh consistency is reached. Preheat a pan over medium-high heat. Take a golfball sized lump of dough from the bowl and cover the remaining dough with plastic. Place the dough on your press between the two layers of plastic and press firmly. Carefully peel the tortilla of of the plastic and place into the preheated pan. This may take a few tries but do not give up. This dough is very forgiving and will not grow tough. Cook the tortilla for about a minute or until the edges begin to develop brown spots. Flip and cook the other side until the spots appear. Keep the tortillas hot and soft within a clean dishtowel that is folded over them. Reduce the temperature if the tortilla cooks too quickly. Store leftover tortillas in a sealed plastic bag to keep them fresh overnight.

VEGAN NOTES: These tortillas are vegan.
GLUTEN NOTES: These tortillas are gluten free--a must for the gluten-intolerant repertoire.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, August 2012

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