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~Make Tortillas de Maize from Scratch - Corn Tortillas~

IMG_2361Tortillas de Maize, meaning corn tortillas, originated in Mexico during pre-Columbian times -- the cultures that evolved in parts of Mexico, Central America and Western South America prior to the Spanish conquest during the 16th Century.  This means the corn tortilla predates the wheat-flour tortilla, as wheat was not not grown in the the Americas prior to European colonization in the mid-1500s.  In Aztec times, two or three corn tortillas would have been eaten with each meal.    Maize itself has been a Mexican staple food for centuries and remains the most planted crop in the regions of Mexico, and, you guessed it, gently-cooked soft corn tortillas are consumed daily.

IMG_8374Traditionally, corn tortillas were made by hand by Aztec women by flattening the balls of fresh dough between the palms of their hands and slapping them back and forth between their hands until they created a round, thin flat disc.  Corn tortillas are remarkably easy to make, especially if you own an inexpensive tortilladora, known to most of us as a tortilla press.  Usually made of cast aluminum or cast iron, this mechanical contraption consists of a pair of flat approximately 8"-round surfaces and a handle that presses 1" balls of smooth, soft corn tortilla dough (between two layers of deli paper or wax paper), into thin, flat corn tortillas*.

Once the tortillas are flattened into thin, less than 1/8"-thick discs, each one is placed on a cast iron comal or in a cast iron or nonstick skillet for a brief time, until firm-yet pliable and very lightly-flecked with brown on both sides, about 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second.

* Unlike the corn tortilla, the flour tortilla is typically rolled thin (interleaved between two pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap) using a small wooden rolling pin.  In the event you don't have a tortilla press, or, don't want to make the modest $15.00 - $20.00 investment in a tortilla press (which I highly recommend you do), the rolling-pin method can be used to make corn tortillas too,

IMG_2355Just three ingredients, & two of them are water & salt! 

To make corn tortillas, you will need to pick up a bag of easy-to-find masa harina.  Period.  No substitutions.   This ingredient might look a lot like finely-ground cornmeal, but it's an entirely different product altogether.  Masa is a stable in Latin American cuisine.  When masa is made the tough outer husks of field-corn kernels are removed to make them easier to digest. Next, the kernels are boiled in a lime solution for about 15 minutes then left to soak in it for about 24 hours. After a thorough rinsing, the mixture gets ground into a very fine paste, dried, then ground again.

IMG_22741 1/2  cups masa harina, no substitutuions

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

1 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water, plus, additional warm water, added one tablespoon at a time, if necessary as directed below 

IMG_2279 IMG_2279 IMG_2279 IMG_2279 IMG_2290 IMG_2295 IMG_2295~Step 1.  In a medium bowl, combine the masa and salt, then make a well in the center (similar to making pasta).  Add the water to the well.  Using a tablespoon, and towards the end your hands, incorporate the water into the masa.  The dough should be stiff enough to hold together and should be very smooth in appearance, meaning: not raggedy or crumbly.  If it is not, add water by tablespoonfuls, kneading after each addition until dough is a large, smooth, moist-but-not-sticky, pliable ball.

IMG_2301 IMG_2301 IMG_2301~ Step 2.  To make 4"-round street-size tortillas, using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, portion the dough into 20-22 pieces, then, roll each piece between the palms of hands to form a round ball.  When finished, place the balls back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow them to rest about 15 minutes.  

Note:  To make larger tortillas, use a larger ice-cream scoop to make larger (and fewer) balls. 

IMG_2313 IMG_2313 IMG_2313 IMG_2313 IMG_2313 IMG_2313~Step 3.  To flatten each tortilla, place one ball of dough on the bottom center of the tortilla press that has been lined with an inexpensive sheet of deli-paper or wax-paper.  Place a second sheet of deli paper or wax paper atop the ball of dough. Lower the top of the tortilla press down over the dough, then, judiciously press the handle down to flatten the dough ball to a scant 1/8" thick.  Do not be zealous when pressing the handle down -- if the tortilla becomes to be too thin around the edges, it will rip or tear when trying to release it from between the paper sheets.  Test one to check -- if the paper peels off easily off, repeat process until all tortillas are flattened.  Do not remove any of the papers until finished with all tortillas.

IMG_2342 IMG_2342 IMG_2342~ Step 4.  To cook the tortillas, heat a 10" comal or nonstick skillet over medium- medium-high heat.  Remove the paper from and place three street-sized corn tortillas on the heated surface*.  Cook until top surface appears dry and feels firm, yet very pliable, about 1 1/2-2 minutes.  Using a spatula flip the tortillas over onto the second side.  Continue to cook until top, once again, appears dry and feels firm, yet very pliable, about 45-seconds to 1 minute.  Transfer tortillas from comal (or skillet) to a plate.  Repeat this process until all the tortillas are cooked.  Once all tortillas are cooked, wrap the plate in a large flour-sack-type towel to steam for a few moments prior to serving warm.

* Note:  If larger corn tortillas have been prepared, cook the tortillas just one or two at a time.

One tortilla, two tortillas, 20-22 warm, soft & fresh corn tortillas:

IMG_2369Make Tortillas de Maize from Scratch - Corn Tortillas:  Recipe yields instructions to makes 20-22 small, 4" round street-size corn tortillas.

Special Equipment List: ordinary tablespoon; tortilla press; plastic wrap; 40-44 (inexpensive) deli-paper or wax paper sheets; 10" comal or nonstick skillet; spatula; flour-sack-type kitchen towel

6a0120a8551282970b0263e9570fe0200b-800wiCook's Note:  Nothing is as good as made-from-scratch tortillas.  That said, store-bought fresh corn tortillas are, in fact, a high-quality convenience product. On the other hand, nothing is quite as bad as a taco shell that comes out of a box -- just don't do it. While making tortillas from scratch is not hard, the fresh corn tortillas found in grocery stores nowadays are quite good, and, they fry up exactly like scratch-made.  To learn how to do it, read my post:  ~ Store-Bought Corn Tortillas & the Perfect Taco Shell ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)


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