Friday, March 18, 2016

Fresh Corn Tortillas

Hello! It's been a while. I moved from beautiful, humid Florida, to the desert climate in south central Washington, and have been getting settled - it has taken some time. So, I'm back and ready to experiment cooking in a new climate. 
On to the tortillas!

What could be better than fresh hot tortillas? With perhaps a little salt, butter, and key lime juice? Ummm for me, not much! 
When I lived in Guatemala, the family I lived with asked me if I liked tortillas, and my response was, "sure, I guess" - I didn't dislike them.  For the next couple of weeks, at breakfast and dinner I'd find 10-15 hot corn tortillas, freshly made, wrapped in banana leaves at the table. Finally, we had a discussion, and only one or two tortillas appeared at each meal :) In Guatemala, fresh tortillas are part of every meal. Women cook and sell tortillas three times a day, usually over an open fire on a big lid to a metal barrel/drum called a comal. 
Since I'm not equipped to cook these outside, over an open fire, here's the easier version.   

My children teenagers just happen to LOVE these babies, so this morning I whipped out a batch. While these aren't made from fresh hominy, many Guatemalans also use this "just add water" mix that can be found at many grocery stores, or Walmart - and it's dirt cheap, as in $3-$4 for this bag which makes a whole mess of tortillas.

While there is a recipe on the maseca bag, really, it is trial and error to get the right consistency. Pour some mix into a bowl, and add water. Mix a little, then add more water until it starts to form a ball. If it is too wet, then add more mix, if too dry, add water, a little at a time. Ultimately, it will be quickly apparent when you've got the right consistency. The dough will be soft and pliable, but won't really stick to your hands. Furthermore when you use the quick and easy plastic wrap to roll them out, if it sticks to the plastic and doesn't come off easily, then it needs a little more of the dry mixture.

Here I'm just beginning to mix in the water. It usually takes more water than you imagine!

I mix mine by hand so that I can govern the consistency.
Once you've got the water added in and your dough is the right consistency, scoop out a small amount - about the size of a ping pong ball.  Roll in the palm of your hand, then gently flatten into a small but thick disk - about 2 inches across.  Smooth any rough edges. 
Lay a large piece of plastic wrap onto a flat surface (counter top), and place the dough on half of the plastic wrap. Lightly wrap the other side of the plastic wrap over the dough. Using a cutting board, or similar flat object, press down from the top and center, applying even pressure. 
It should look something like this
(yes, I'm still using my red Christmas and Valentine's Day plastic wrap!)

Note: For the record, you can also just use your hands and "tortillear" these tortillas - the fine art of slapping the dough back and forth between the hands while turning it, turning in the edges and flattening it. I however, have very hot palms, and my hands always dry out the dough too quickly, and my tortillas come out too thick or break. So..the plastic wrap is a surefire method for pretty looking tortillas which cook much more quickly than my thick little hand made hockey puck tortillas (called pistonas).  

Gently peel off the plastic wrap that was folded over the dough. Lift the tortilla up so that the raw dough is in one hand, and use the other hand to gently peel the plastic wrap from the other side. 
If the dough is too sticky and won't peel off, then scrape it off, add it back to the dough in the bowl and work in a little more dry mix. 

Place tortilla onto a hot pan or griddle - no grease or cooking spray needed. 
Because Maseca is a little bland, I grind fresh salt onto the bottom of my pan, and then grind a bit over the top of the tortilla as it begins to cook.

Now for the exciting part - and I really don't know why this is so exciting for me. 
Once the tortilla sears on one side, flip it over. 
As it cooks, tap it. 
Yes, you heard right. Use your fingers (or a spatula if you can't take the heat) and lighty press your fingers over the tortilla. You'll see certain spots that will begin to slightly inflate. This is a great sign! Once you are seeing inflation in various areas of the tortilla, flip it again, and after 15-20 seconds, lightly press in the inflating areas again. 
The inflation means that your tortilla is steaming inside which means it's gonna be a great tortilla! 
Some just don't inflate, but it's like you won the lottery when you consistently get inflated tortillas. It's difficult to see, but below are two nicely inflated tortillas.


After the tortilla has cooked on both sides, and has inflated, remove from the pan, and wrap in a dish towel or tortilla warmer to retain the heat. And repeat until all of the dough has been used. 
These tortillas can accompany any meal (really ANY meal). My favorite is to butter them while hot, and add a splash of key lime juice to them. They are also a great quick snack with re-fried beans, honey, peanut butter, filled with rice and beans or eggs, or just as a general meal accompaniment.   

Store in the refrigerator in plastic wrap. To quickly reheat, wrap in a paper towel, and place in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, or pop into the toaster for a minute. 
Buen provecho! 

No comments:

Post a Comment