I would like to you know something. Tortillas, when made at home, are approximately 350% more delicious than when bought in a bag (in this country, anyway).
Of course, I’m no Mexican grandma, so I can’t claim to make the best, most authentic, effortlessly wonderful tortillas you’ll ever eat. But they are delicious, and I guarantee that you can make these. And that they will kind of blow your mind with flavor.
Enter the tortilla press. You don’t technically need it. I used to make my tortillas by pressing plates together firmly, which was a lot of physical effort, and I assumed that my tortillas would be smoother or thinner with a press. Not so. Easier, and maybe a little more round. So don’t fret if you don’t have a press. You’ll just need a bit more elbow grease. Make sure to line the press or plates with thick plastic. Plastic wrap will not be thick enough. I cut up a gallon-sized Ziplock back for mine; Rick Bayless recommends a piece of a (clean) thick garbage bag. You can reuse it, just wipe it with a damp cloth. It’s just corn and water, so nothing is going to spoil over time.
Let me give you this wisdom: it’s easy to make tortillas. Like I said, you can do it, and you’ll enjoy the result. But it is difficult, in my opinion, to make really really good tortillas. I’m still working toward this goal. Using masa harina, which is the dried form of the cal-treated corn, changes the flavor and texture. But it’s hard to find fresh masa unless you live in a part of the world that has a lot of Mexican shops. I can find it here, but would have to buy 5 lbs at once. That’s…a lot of tortillas for two people.
Heat is the other issue. Managing to find the perfect level of heat is a challenge. But you won’t ruin the tortillas if the heat is too low or high. You’ll just know when it’s right.
If they begin to crack extensively (a little may be fine), the dough is probably too dry, and you’ll want to add 1-2 teaspoons water to the dough at a time until it softens. If they don’t easily peel off the plastic on the press, it’s too wet. Add in 1-2 teaspoons dry masa.
These lovely tortillas should be eaten fresh for best texture. You may always reheat, dunk in sauce, or fry in oil. Homemade tortilla chips are EXCELLENT and I highly recommend a shallow fry in bacon fat or lard, a dusting of salt, and a scoop of pico de gallo.
If making tortillas for more than 3 people, you will likely want to double the recipe. Like I said, leftover tortillas necessitate a little effort but they are well-worth it to have around.
Warm, fresh tortillas from scratch! What more could you want?
- 1 cup masa harina
- pinch salt
- 2/3 c. warm water (not hot)
- Blend the water and masa/salt mixture together with your fingers. Mix until you achieve a play-doh type texture, but slightly less wet.
- Cover bowl with a towel and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Divide into small balls: for taquito sized tortillas, about the size of two gumballs. For larger tortillas, about the size of a small golf ball.
- Meanwhile heat a griddle or cast iron pan on medium-high heat.
- Press with a thick plastic-lined tortilla press or between plates, one at a time.
- Peel off plastic onto fingers and slide tortilla off and onto hot pan. You should hear a quiet sizzle.
- When edges of tortilla begin curling, flip over and cook on other side. Little brown char spots are desirable.
- Hold with other tortillas in a cloth basket. Begin eating them in the middle or bottom for softest, most supple tortillas.