Corn Tortillas - Detail - ©

Classic Dishes: Mexican Corn Tortillas

We’ve recently looked at Mexican Flour Tortillas, where authenticity demands adherence to a number of ancient and immutable techniques. Not that the ingredients are exotic or the skills required are difficult at all. Now, We’re going to see what it takes to make Corn Tortillas…

Corn Tortillas - © howtofeedaloon.comLovely homemade White Corn Tortillas. Yes, you can do it!

You want authentic street Tacos and other Tex Mex treats? You’ve gotta start with authentic Corn Tortillas! And I’m here to tell you, they’re a lot easier to make than you probably thought.

What you need…

Mexican Corn Tortillas are even easier to make than Flour Tortillas – although they require a daintier hand when forming them. And all you need is three ingredients!

  • 2 cups / 500 ml Masa Harina (Corn Flour mix)
  • 2 cups /500 ml Water, hot, not boiling
  • 1 tsp /5 ml Salt

What is Masa Harina?

Well, it’s simple, really. ‘Masa’ means ‘Dough’ and. Masa Harina is Flour made from Hominy, or Field Corn, that has been soaked overnight in Water treated with Slaked Lime and ground into a coarse Dough. The Lime loosens the husks and partially processes the Corn kernels so that they can be more easily digested. In Mexican kitchens, they often just use the fresh Dough from the grinder to make their Tortillas.

The hardest part is already done!

Soaking and grinding the Masa is, without a doubt, the hardest part of making Corn Tortillas totally from scratch. But that’s all taken care of if you do what most contemporary Mexican home cooks do, and just grab a bag of Masa Harina at the store. It’s available at most supermarkets, in the ‘Mexican Foods’ or ‘International Foods’ aisle.

What you do…

First, get your pan pre-heating on a medium-high burner.

Mix together the Salt and Masa Harina in a big Bowl and then add some of the warm Water. Add Water in small amounts, stirring with your hands or the handle of a big wooden spoon, until you have a nice dough. That is, you want it to be not too dry, but soft, cohesive and pliable. On the other hand, you don’t want it sticky at all, either.

Pinch off pieces of dough about the size of a golf ball and roll into little balls with your hands. You can also use a convenient-sized kitchen scoop. Or, you can roll lout the dough into a long ‘snake’ about 1 in. / 2.5 cm thick and cut off pieces 1.5 in. / 4 cm long. However you measure out the dough, you’ll roll it into little balls.

Now, get out your Tortilla Press and line the bottom paddle with parchment paper. You can also form the Tortillas by hand or press between two pie plates that fit snugly into one another. Place a little ball of Dough slightly closer to the hinge side of the press than to the open side. The dough will spread a little toward the open side during pressing. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and press. Open the press and remove the top piece of parchment paper. Behold your first Tortilla. Using the parchment paper, move the raw tortilla to the cooking surface – a dry steel frying pan, a flat grill pan or – by preference – a large cast iron pan.

Turn the raw tortilla over onto the cooking surface and gently peel off the parchment paper. You’ll use the paper gain and again as you form subsequent Tortillas. Cook the Tortillas for about 30 seconds. Turn over with tongs and cook another 30 or so until both sides are firmly cooked and covered in small brown spots. Remove the Tortillas and stack on a warmed plate under a kitchen towel.

Make lots and freeze them!

Once you’ve cooked all the tortillas, set aside the ones you want to eat immediately (or soon) and leave the rest to cool to room temperature under the kitchen towel. When cool, they can be bagged and frozen for anytime use. When  re-heating, place them in a tight foil package and heat gently in a 300 F – 325 F oven until flexible and fragrant again.

And that’s that! Once you’ve made these, you’ll swear off store-bought Tortillas forever!

~ Maggie J.