Corn tortillas or tortillas de maíz are a type of Mexican flatbread eaten by themselves or used to make tacos, enchiladas and quesadillas. They are great for dipping, scooping and wrapping just about any kind of food and it’s easy to make tortillas at home.
People always look at me like I have “m a s o c h i s t” tattooed on my forehead when I tell them I make my own tortillas. Then, when I tell them it’s less work to make them myself than to go and buy them, they conclude that the tattoo actually says “m o r o n”.
But it’s true, the nearest grocery store that carries corn tortillas is 3 stops on the subway followed by a 20 minute walk. Plus they only seem to come in bags of 1000, so it’s inevitable that I will end up with fuzzy green frisbees at the back of my fridge.
If you consider these facts and weight them against the shelf-life of masa harina and how simple it is to make tortillas at home, it just makes sense… Or at least it does for me, so if you’re still not convinced, let me show you of how easy it is with the following step-by-step tortilla tutorial.
- Mix the salt and masa harina then add the water.
- Mix the masa harina and water together with one hand. The tortilla dough will start out crumbly, but continue mixing it and it will start to come together. Knead it for 2 minutes.
- After kneading, the tortilla dough should have a smooth texture like playdough.
- Form the tortilla dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit for at least an hour.
- After the dough has had a chance to rest, it's time to check the texture. Break off a small piece, roll it into a ball, then press it between your palms.
- If it forms cracks along the edges it's too dry. Knead some more water into the dough a little bit at a time until it looks more like the center picture.
- If the dough sticks to your palms it is too wet. Add more masa harina a little at a time until it doesn't stick anymore.
- Split the dough in half 4 times to get 16 even pieces and roll them into balls (if you're looking for an excuse to use your kitchen scale, the balls should be about 1.5 oz). Be sure to keep the tortilla dough covered with a damp paper towel while you work to keep them from drying out.
- Ideally you'll have a tortilla press, but if you don't, a flat bottomed plate will work. The plate in the photo works out perfectly because it has a very shallow lip that's 5 1/2" in diameter, which just so happens to be the exact size these tortillas are supposed to end up. Wrap your tortilla press or the bottom of your plate and counter top with plastic wrap. This makes it easier to remove the delicate tortillas.
- Start preheating a cast iron skillet over medium heat. If you are using the plate+countertop method, put one ball on your counter and line it up with the middle of your plate. Press down evenly on the plate using your body weight to get it about 1/16" in thickness. It will take some elbow grease and practice, but you can always reuse the dough from your mistakes.
- Your pressed tortilla should look something like this. Carefully peel the tortilla onto the palm and fingers of one hand.
- Move over to your preheated skillet and use a sweeping motion to move your hand out from under the tortilla being careful not to burn your hand.
- Flatten out any ruffles in the tortilla and cook while you press your next tortilla (about 1 minute). The tortilla is initially cooked on only one side and should not brown. Transfer it to a pot with a lid lined with paper towels. Repeat until the rest of the dough balls have been pressed and cooked on one side. You can do these steps ahead of time and store the half cooked tortillas in the fridge until you are ready to serve them.
- When you're ready to serve the tortillas, turn up the heat on the pan to medium high. Place a tortilla in the pan, uncooked side down. Gently press the tortilla with a wadded up paper towel. Once the tortilla has a few brown spots flip one last time and press on it some more. This will cause the steam escaping to blow the tortilla up like a balloon.
- The tortilla is done when it has ballooned up and is lightly toasted on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined pot with a lid to keep warm until they are all ready to serve.