Since Kate left our house (and how we miss her!), I`ve spent a lot of time thinking about gluten. Kate shared so much information about cooking Gluten-free and it fascinates me – after all, gluten is my favorite food group. To imagine living without it is very difficult for me; which is why it has peaked my curiosity. We won`t be going gluten-free any time soon but I`d sure like to learn how to cook without it a whole lot more and see what I learn in the process.
Traditional corn tortillas are made with Masa Flour (also called MASA HARINA). It is similar to cornmeal although the whole dried corn is rinsed in limewater and dried again before being ground into a rough flour. The purpose of the lime is to make the corn somehow more digestible. Although it`s not local, it`s seasonal and we`ll be experimenting with variations to increase the presence of terroir in the dish.
A lot can be learned from the photos (full recipe after the pictures):
Ingredients (to make around 12 medium-size tortillas)
- 1 cup of Masa (around 5 ounces)
- Around 0.75 cups of warm (nearly hot) water. You may need a little more – this weighed 6 ounces.
- Mix the two ingredients. Stir well and work into a dough. It will be a bit more moist than bread dough but not by much; ours looked a lot like bread dough with a bit of a sheen.
- Bring the dough together. We stirred it and then worked it into a ball with our hands. If it`s too wet (i.e. it won`t form a ball) , add some flour – add more masa if it`s too dry (you`ll know this if it forms a ball but starts to crumble). If you`ve never made dough, it`s a bit drier than playdough but not far off.
- Allow it to rest, covered with a damp towel for 5 minutes. The sheen will disappear as the moisture is absorbed by the flour.
- Form the dough into little balls (around the size of doughnut holes).
- Line a tortilla press with parchment paper. I tried to skip the paper but the tortillas end up sticking to both sides of the press and fall apart. You can use the same two pieces of parchment for as many tortillas as you can possibly make. If you don`t have a press (they are around $12-$15) you could press between two cutting boards or roll with a pin.
- Place one of the balls on the press – slighty off-center and closer to the side where the hinge is (this will allow for more perfect circles as the pressure starts from one side).
- Press down. You don`t need to use He-Man or She-Ra strength; just enough to flatten things out.
- Remove the tortilla and parchment, carefully remove one side of the paper and then the other.
- The tortillas are cooked in a warm-hot (about a 6 out of 10) pan – we used a seasoned cast-iron pan without adding oil. They cook for about 2 minutes per side. You`ll know they are ready to flip when the outside of the tortilla begins to curl up and reach for the ceiling.
Here`s a few tips we learned:
- You can make a lot at once. We could have easily made 60-80 tortillas from the 600 gram (just over 1-pound) bag of masa. The bag was just under $5 making these a fraction of the cost of store-bought, even with the one-time cost of the press (we purchased fresh tortillas on the weekend at $5 for 12).
- Don`t crowd the pan. Any part of the tortilla that isn`t in direct contact with the heat source will cook unevenly.
- They should freeze excellently. The package of masa recommends refrigerating or freezing the flour (though it was sold on the shelf so there wasn`t much purpose).
- Let them cook a little longer than you are comfortable – near smoking. They aren`t tender.
- Let them cool separately to avoid sweating as they cool in a pile.
- They taste fantastic.
- Getting them to be uniform in size was tricky – we could have weighed the bits or used a special cutting technique (I`ll do that next time and take pictures to explain) that would have made them far more equal.
- If your hands stick to the dough, keep them damp. Wet fingers don`t stick.
- You could easily add other dried flavors (I plan on hot peppers next time) to the dough.
- The entire exercise was fast – 15-20 minutes. We could have made 60 in an hour or so pretty easily.
- Brushing them with oil on both sides and baking in the oven will crisp them up.
They are simply delicious. I can`t remember making anything this easy in a long time that tasted so fantastic on a first attempt. The texture and the flavor compared to store-bought isn`t a comparison; it will be hard to go back after eating these.