Raised on the Texas and Mexico border, I grew up eating fresh homemade tortillas regularly. I have never ventured to make them myself since really well made fresh tortillas were always readily available; from the store, any number of restaurants, from friends, la abuelita down the street, ect, ect. If I needed a fix, some tortillas for dinner, or a snack, there was no thinking of where to get them, they were just there. But that was Texas.
Then I moved to upstate NY – a Tex Mex wasteland, no fresh tortillas – sigh. The “tortillas” in the grocery stores I wouldn’t call very good. And to be fair I haven’t ventured to eat in any Tex Mex restaurant here as well, so cannot comment on quality at this time. So what is a girl who wants a fix to do. Make it myself! Por supuesto. For this post I am going to explore fresh, from scratch corn tortilla making and the uses thereof.
Real corn tortillas have two ingredients: masa harina and water. Es todo.
If you have anything else in them, they are either not for real or have just additives in them to preserve the shelf life. There are a few brands of masa harina available, the leading one being Maseca. If you are gluten free, Bob’s Red Mill makes a gluten free masa harina variety, pictured here. If you have a good source, depending on where you live, it is possible to find fresh ground masa in the refrigerated section of a grocery or Mexican market. I couldn’t find masa harina at a local grocery here so I ordered it on amazon.com. Behold the beauty of e-commerce:
What is the difference between masa harina and cornmeal?
They are NOT the same. You definitely must buy masa harina. Masa is essentially ground up hominy i.e. field corn soaked and cooked with slaked lime (calcium hydroxide). Lime is highly alkaline and helps breaks down the cell wall of the corn making it gluey when water is added allowing a dough to form. In addition, the lime reacts with the niacin in the corn making it more digestible. Cornmeal, or ground up corn, is chemically unable to bond with water. If you mix cornmeal and water it wouldn’t form a dough and you would just get a sloppy mess. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masa
The basic masa harina to water ratio is 2 cups masa to 1 1/2 to 2 cups water. (optional add ons to this are 1/2 t of sea salt if you want your tortillas more salty and/or 1/4 t baking soda if you want to fluff them up a bit)This will get you anywhere between 12 and 20 tortillas, depending on the size you are making.
What you need:
- Tortillas press (if you don’t have one don’t worry!) In this post I will show you what to do if you don’t own one. All you need is a roller. No problema.
- Masa harina (corn flour)
- Combine masa harina and 1 1/2 cups water in a bowl. Add additional water by the teaspoon until a STIFF dough is formed.
**If your dough sticks to your wax paper it is too wet, add more masa
**If your dough cracks, your dough is too dry, add more water.
- Roll your dough into a 1-2 inch ball (depending on how large you would like your tortillas to be)
- Put your dough ball in the center of two pieces of wax paper. If you do not have wax paper, parchment paper will work as well.
- If you have a tortilla press, put your dough ball and wax paper in tortilla press and press. If not, roll it out between .
*****You can also try to flatten the tortilla by hand, forming a thin type pancake by slapping the dough back and forth, but unless you have experience doing this, pressing it with a tortilla press or roll gets more consistent results.
- Cook tortillas on a skillet. I have a flat, low sided cast iron that works really really well for this sort of thing. Or just make sure you have a skillet large enough to flip your tortilla. Cook by removing the wax paper on each side and gently lay flat on your skillet. It takes about 3o seconds on each side to cook through.
NOTE: Your tortilla is cooked when the edges are dry and there are little brown spots. Remove your tortilla; place and wrap in a kitchen towel to preserve moistness until they are all done. Terminado.
The next step: What can I make with my fresh corn tortillas?
RECIPE: Corn tortillas chips – fried or baked
Frying them up does taste a little better but is more work heavy and messy. A healthier, easier, faster option is baking them. Below I give you two recipes of baked fresh corn tortillas chips – one savory and one sweet.
RECIPE: Baked Cinnamon and Sugar Tortilla Chips
These resemble the flavor of bunuelos, a fried cinnamon sugar corn Mexican bakery awesomeness.
1.Preheat oven to 350
2. Cut your tortillas into desired chip size. When doing chips yourself, you can also be creative on it’s shape. Cut them into traditional triangles or do something a little different like strips or cookie cutters. Why not?
3. Brush a little melted butter or coconut oil onto both sides of the chip. (Coconut oil will impart a little coconut flavor but is better suited to keep the sweet flavor than olive oil, which will work as well if that’s what you have on hand).
4. Mix your cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle on both sides of chip.
5. Bake for about 8-10 minutes until light brown. You will know when they are ready when they are crispy and not soft. This requires most, if not all, of the moisture to come out of the tortilla. The thicker your tortilla, the longer it will take to bake. It you have rolled out thick tortillas, it can take up to 15 minutes.
RECIPE: Baked Chili Limon Tortilla Chips
This is the same as above, just with different spices.
1.Preheat oven to 350
2. Cut your tortillas into desired chip size. When doing chips yourself, you can also be creative on it’s shape. Cut them into traditional triangles or do something a little different like strips or cookie cutters.
3. Brush a little olive oil (or coconut oil) on both sides of chip.
4. Squeeze roughly one lime for the juice and mix with 1 t of chili powder. This is chili heavy, which I like, but please adjust for your flavor. Brush on the liquid mixture lightly on your tortillas. It will take a little longer to bake as there is a little bit more moisture in your chip, but only a couple of extra minutes.
Other spices and flavor suggestions for your tortilla chips (go crazy with it!): chili powder, garlic powder, lime, cinnamon, sugar, cayenne, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, garlic salt, onion powder, paprika, ground flax seed, powdered pre made dips like ranch or onion, taco seasoning.
Other things to make with your fresh corn tortillas:
- Tortilla soup with your fresh chips
- Tacos with whatever you want in them! Fish tacos, pulled pork, yum yum yum
STORAGE NOTE: The shelf life of fresh corn tortillas is about one week, maybe a little longer. Wrap them in paper towels and store in a plastic bag in your refrigerator so they don’t dry out. To rewarm them and keep them nice and flexible, moisten with water and reheat in microwave for a few seconds. But…the best way to store tortillas is to freeze them. They freeze quite well and will about last six months. Divide into stacks of no more than a dozen per bag, wrap in foil and put into freezer bags.