Feb 18, 2010

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Tortilla Press!

I’ve been meaning to try making corn tortillas at home; they’d be perfecto with my Mexican stew.  I’ve also been meaning to learn to play the piano, scuba dive, oar a drift boat and hunt ducks.  I decided to ramp up cautiously and make the tortillas first.  As it turns out, they’re super easy to make, almost totally forgiving, and a hundred times better than store bought tortillas.  I may never buy a packaged corn tortilla again! 

I used a Goya product called Masarica ‘instant corn dough mix’.  I did not have success with the recipe on the bag – way too wet.  So I browsed the innernet and found formulas that included baking soda and others that didn’t. The baking soda was supposed to aid in ‘lift’ – the formation of air pockets during cooking.  I didn’t know if lift was necessary for a good tortilla, so I made batches of dough with and without baking soda to find out.  A curious thing happened:  there was no obvious difference in lift between the two doughs, but there did seem to be a noticeable shift in color and flavor.  While the tortillas made without baking soda were basically white in color, the tortillas made with baking soda were yellow, and seemed more fragrant and flavorful.  Was I imagining the improvement in flavor based on the deeper color?  I performed a blind taste test.  I could still tell the difference.  So could my husband.  And just so you know how rigorous a researcher I am, I made two new batches of dough and repeated the experiment the next day with the same results.  I can only imagine that the baking soda is reacting with something in the Masarica mix.  That’s what baking soda does, after all.  So even though I didn’t get a lot of lift in my tortillas, those with baking soda in the dough came out looking, smelling, and tasting great.

Do you really need a tortilla press?  I don’t know about you, but I’m running out of space for kitchen gadgets and I’m cheap, too, so I’d rather not buy another piece of equipment that only gets used once a month.  As I demonstrate in the pics, you truly don’t need a tortilla press. 

to see the full instructional photo album, go to:  frankie makes corn tortillas on facebook 

Here’s how I made 6 six inch corn tortillas:
1 cup Masarica instant corn dough mix (or any masa harina flour)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
about 3/4 cup of hot tap water

For pressing the tortillas:
a large Ziploc bag
a small cutting board, piece of wood, or anything flat
some wax paper for stacking the tortillas

Measure the corn flour, salt and baking soda into a medium bowl.  Add 3/4 cup of hot tap water and mix.  Ball up the dough and knead it a few times to fully blend the ingredients.  It will be about the consistency of play-doh.  Add some water if it’s too dry. 

Break off a piece and roll it into a sphere about the size of a golf ball.  Continue making golf balls with the rest of the dough.  Cover the balls with a damp cloth to keep them moist while you press them into tortillas. 

Here’s the fun part:  cut open a large Ziploc bag (wax paper doesn’t work!) and place one of your golf balls between the layers of plastic.  Put it on the floor.  Place your small cutting board on top.  Center the ball of your foot over the dough ball (you can sort of see it through a plastic cutting board) and step on it!  I wasted plenty of time shaping wonky tortillas with a rolling pin before I developed the step-on-it technique. 

Peel the Ziploc away from one side of the tortilla, lay the bare side of the tortilla across your palm, and peel the other layer of plastic away from the tortilla.  Don’t try to peel the tortilla away from the plastic, you’ll mess it up. 

Place your beautiful tortilla on a piece of wax paper, cover with more wax paper, and continue pressing and stacking tortillas.

When you’re ready to cook the tortillas, use a dry pan close to high heat.  I tested both a cast iron skillet and a non stick pan.  The cast iron was a pain because if the temperature wasn’t exact the tortillas would scorch, leaving char in the pan and sullying subsequent tortillas cooked in it.  Don’t even bother!  Use a non stick pan.  At the right temperature, the tortillas took about a minute for each side.   

Stack the tortillas on a towel or in a warm oven until you’re ready to party.


  

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