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Making Homemade Corn Tortillas

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Do you want to learn how to make your own corn tortillas? Get ready! Once you go handmade, its hard to go back to the store bought. The process is fairly easy once you get the hang of it; patience, my little grasshopper, is the key. The first two are horrible, and then the magic happens and you learn from your mistake and “Bippidi-Boppidi-Boo” …your tortillas start to take shape. In the kitchen, making tortillas is one of the things I enjoy the most. Its so rewarding and in my opinion they taste so much better than machine made. Imagine the smell of warm corn filling up the kitchen and the taste of soft fresh tortillas…it has no comparison.

Making tortillas requires lots of patience and “patience”. Yes, if you have patience and a little extra time, go for it! Make them because its 100% worth it. Although I recommend you do not attempt to learn how to make them the night before if you have a big crowd to feed or a party… to do so would be a bit of a nightmare. You do need practice and like I said LOTS of patience. Tortillas don’t like people in a hurry. You have to be in a Zen tortilla mode, focus and get into the groove. It can be frustrating at the beginning. Just like pancakes usually the first one is not so good but once you get the right amount of heat and rhythm you are in tortilla mode.  Soon after a heavenly bite of a soft corn homemade tortilla, this will become the best taco you ever had.  Now, please follow these instructions carefully.  I experimented with several proportions and these were the most successful. It is hard to make a tortilla from fresh masa, the procces is labor intensive, it takes about 2 days to make good fresh masa. From the process of nixtamalization, the grinding and the kneading. In Mexico this process is the regular norm, since tortillas are the main staple on the Mexican diet. you can find places where tortillas are made fresh everyday or the tortillerias which they are also made fresh by a machine, and people line up everyday in the middle of the day to buy fresh tortillas. It is hard to settle when you know the real flavor and texture of a tortilla, being on the states it is more common to find the pre packaged tortillas at supermarkets, which they are far in flavor and texture from the real tortillas. This recipe attempts to recreate that warm, soft, toasty corn flavor that tortillas have when just made out of the comal. Despite the fact they are made from corn Masaharina, the results are much closer to the flavor ant texture of a real mexican tortilla. On the recipe you will find variations and different brands of masaharina. I suggest to follow the instructions and try to find the brand I recommend, for best results in flavor and texture. You can easily find this brand online, if you live abroad, might be easier for you to order online.

This handmade tortillas last about 3-4 days if they are kept on a plastic bag on the refrigerator. How to Reheating next day? No problem!.. My dear 50%Scottish- 50%American husband taught his 100% Mexican wife to reheat the tortillas on the bachelor way: In a toaster. Would you believe?!!! Ha! Well I have to say that it is a very effective method.  What I learned is that by sprinkle them with a little water on each side, then place one tortilla into each toaster slide, set up the toaster number 3-4 depending on the toaster and you will have the most efficient and fast reheating method for tortillas. The tortillas turn out warm and not dry. Be careful using your fingers to remove them, they get very hot. Thank you Ian, but of course for a Mexican the first choice would be a comal, or over the flame on a gas stove to heat them. This char the edges, giving them extra flavor.

When making tortillas, simple dishes are best to eat them with. Like a good Quesadilla, Salsa and Refried Beans. Here are some recipes that a home made tortilla will make the difference! Refried beans, Salsa Roja Asada, Cucumber Avocado Salsa,  Cochinita Pibil, Carne Asada Tacos, Vegetable taco fillings , Pulled Pork Tacos, can make this tortillas irresistible companions…

Lets get started!…

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Making Homemade Corn Tortillas

Makes about 12-14 / 4” little tortillas.

From Fresh Masa:

1 lbs of fresh masa*
1/2 up to 1 cup of warm water (maybe less, maybe more…)
Kosher or sea salt
Tortilla press
1 plastic bag (see photos below for instructions).
*If you are in Austin, Tx you can buy fresh masa at the Milagro Factory on 6th st. Ask for fresh corn masa, not the one that is prepared for tamales, make sure to specify you are making tortillas. If you want to make your own masa… well that is a whole other process… I will work on that… soon : ) !

However If you don’t find fresh masa, dry masa harina is a good choice. Minsa brand, and Arrowheads Mills also offer this type of masa harina. What is special about this masa-harina? Well it is the process of Nixtamalization, which dates from the Aztecs back in 1200-1500 B.C. In this procces, dry corn kernels are soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, made with limestone and water, which helps remove the outer hull of the grains and pre-cook the corn kernels. These corn kernels once are soaked and rinse several times, are grinded, added water, a bit of salt and transform into fresh masa. The brands I previously mentioned are dehydrated masa transformed into Masa-harina. Masa -harina its a very common alternative when there is no access or time to make fresh masa. My best advice is to check with your supermarket, in the international food aisle, today a lot of supermarkets have a “Hispanic food aisle” and if you are abroad, your best bet is to order online. I included my favorite brands at the end of this post.

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From Dry Masa:

1 cup dry Masa harina*

Organic options are suggested at the end of the post, If you are using Organic dry masa harina I will recommend to use 1/2 cup minsa + 1/2 cup Organic white masa harina, for better texture and flavor.

3/4  up to 1  cups warm water

1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Use measuring cups for better results.

*I recently find out that Minsa the other leading brand for Masa harina in Mexico, Has announced their commitment and certification as a  NON GMO, USDA Organic, Kosher, GF and whole grain. This means that this is the best Mexican Masa Harina you can buy. if you want to know more about it please visit their website. Minsa

Preparation:

1. Start by dissolving the kosher salt into the warm water, On a large bowl place 1 cup of masa-harina, mix and make a well add the water in the center and star mixing with your hands little by little until you have a soft ball and all the flour is incorporated. Kneed for 2-3 minutes. Make a ball and cover the masa with a damp towel or plastic wrap let it rest at least 20-30 minutes, let the masa-harina re-hydrate as longer as possible. Usually after this period you need to make some adjustments.
Too dry: it will start to crumble, you need to add more water.
Too wet : it will be sticky on your hands you need to add a bit more masa harina
The right texture resembles a moister play-dough. It is ok for the masa to be a little humid to the touch. Making tortillas is a matter of feeling the masa, the more you make them the better you will get at it. Your masa has to be always room temperature (except if you live in Yakutsk, hehhehe), slightly warm to the touch works best.

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2. After 30 minutes, prepare the resealable bag, by cutting the top sealed lines of the bag and cut open the 2 sides of the bag. Now you have like a plastic folder. Open the tortilla press and put a drop of oil, then lay down the plastic. This will prevent the plastic from moving while pressing the masa. Now, Start by making 1 ½” round ball (you can use a small Ice cream scooper to help make them even size). Remember to Keep your masa covered with a piece of plastic wrap or damp towel at all times to prevent from drying out. Work with one ball of masa at a time. Now, place the masa ball in the center of the opened plastic and flatten slightly with your fingers. Fold the plastic over the masa, and fold down the metal tortilla press. Hold the handle and press down gently until the dough has spread about 4” inch diameter. Rotate the plastic and slightly press if necessary.

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3. On medium-high heat, heat up a large cast iron pan, a griddle, a comal, or a teflon pan will work too. With your hand, hold the tortilla in the plastic, and carefully peel the plastic just like if you where peeling a sticker. Once one side is peeled,  flip it into your writing hand and peel the rest of the plastic. As you peel allow the tortilla to rest halfway on your hand, and half hanging down. Gently lay down the tortilla on the warm skillet. Once you place it Do not try to reposition!, you just have one shot!….

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4. Using a flat spatula, flip the tortilla until the edges start to release from the skillet. Once it releases easily, then its time to flip. You should not battle the flip if it does not release with ease, just give it a bit more time. Usually it takes 30-40 seconds per side, especially with these little tortillas. Once you flip you can press down a little on the edges. After you laid the tortilla on the pan, 2 flips its all it needs. The tortilla should be lightly colored and air pockets will form on the second flip. As soon as the air pockets are forming the tortillas are done. Transfer the tortilla into a tortilla warmer lined up with a clean cotton kitchen towel with a dry paper towel on the bottom to keep them moist. Keep them warm in a tortilla warmer until you finish with all the masa, working one ball at the time. Depending on size you can fit 2 or 3 on a 12″ skillet, and once you start getting a good tortilla rhythm its fun and the process goes fast and smooth.

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My spin for Natural Flavored and Colorful Tortillas:

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Feeling a little whimsical? Why not adding an extra punch of flavor? these variations using chili powders, spices and vegetable purees help a lot, especially when you are using dry masa-harina. They are a great variation and make amazing quesadillas or any taco of your affection.

Add one of the following to the dry masa, and then  proceed with the recipe, adding the water little by little, specially for the purees, you might need to add less water to the masa.

3 teaspoons Ancho powder

2  teaspoons Sweet Paprika

2 teaspoons Turmeric

2 tablespoons of Achiote paste dissolved into the meassured warm water.

5-6 sprigs of Cilantro, remove the stems and smash the cilantro in to a paste, stir into the measured warm water.

1/4 cup packed baby Kale or lacinato kale, remove hard stems and smash the leaves into a paste, (you can use a immersion blender to make the puree) stir puree into the measured water.

1 chile poblano roasted and pureed

2 carrots steamed and pureed

1 small beet steamed and pureed

2 guajillo peppers boiled, pureed and strained to remove the seeds.

Other flavors: Tomato paste, Any other chile, like guajillo, chipotle,  jalapeño, poblanos, spinach, sweet corn, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, Texan’s and New Mexicans : Hatch chile into the mix will be the the bomb!.

Just Follow this principles by adding a powder or a paste.

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Try and play by making crazy ones with different flavors and colors, these are great for quesadillas…

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Tips:

* First tortilla is always a disaster, do not get discouraged, learn from it.

* Feel the masa; t0o wet will stick to the plastic and won’t release, to0 dry, it will crack, and won’t hold together.

* Gear up! a nice heavy cast iron griddle, a Mexican tortilla press and a good old plastic bag…

* When cooking: Too hot griddle will char the tortillas with out cooking them through, too low temperature, will dry out the tortillas before they are cooked, and they won’t be pliable and soft… This temperature issue is the same when you are making pancakes, the first pancake its always a bad one until you bring the pan to the right temperature, …then you are on the right track!

* When making tortillas: Masa and tortillas don’t like to be rushed or people in a hurry.  Get into your tortilla Zen mode first, once you get the tortilla rhythm you will start having fun!…and eating them too heehehe!

* Practice my little grasshopper, practice, because once you get the hang of it there is no comparison from homemade/handmade fresh tortillas than the store bought…that is a fact Jack!

The CORN Organic / Non-GMO situation:

In order to make a better quality of tortilla, I research for an organic Non-GMO Masa Harina. I found three respectable brands with a great commitment to organic and Non-GMO products:

1. Minsa Masa Harina, one of the leading brands in Mexico, has recently made a great commitment by completing all the certifications USDA organic, NON GMO, Kosher, GF, WHole Grain, and GFSI. This makes this brand my first choice when making tortillas from dry masa harina. Its now available on the USA.

2. The closest option I found is a brand named Gold Mine Natural Food.co, they sell Non-GMO, organic, BLUE masa harina. They just started to carry 1lb. bags. for a fairly good price. If you have a big corn tortilla commitment go for the 50lb. bag and share it with your friends hehheeh. Down side is you have to order on-line or ask on your nearest Whole-foods Market if they can carry in stores. Here is the link to their website.

3. Bob’s Red Mill- Masa Harina Golden Corn Flour. I tried this masa harina it has great quality and flavor, but it is made from yellow corn. The variety I’m used to is white corn, since I’m from the South of Mexico. Flavor its different, a little sweeter than the white. You can use as substitute in this recipe, adjusting the water, maybe up to 1-1/4 cups. This Flour its available on line and often found at regular supermarkets.

It is with great sadness, and concern what is happening in Mexico. The government just passed a law that will allow to GMO Corn to be grown in Mexico. This could affect more than 59 types of heirloom corn. If you would like to know more about it and take action signing a petition to revoke that law, click here for more information ad supporting this cause, Save the CORN! for more information about the cause Green Peace Mexico and  ANAA the National Assembly of Environmental Affectings.

Thank you for Caring!
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Have fun!

Music Pairing: Arturo Marquez Danzon No.2 Alondra de la Parra

 

 

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