How can I make my homemade corn tortillas pliable?
November 13, 2009 4:32 PM   Subscribe

My homemade corn tortillas are never pliable. When I try to bend them, they crack or break entirely. I want tortillas I can put filling in and roll up. What am I doing wrong?

I've checked out this thread, but it doesn't offer hints on softness.

I use the standard corn flour / water / salt recipe, press in a tortilla press and cook in a Teflon pan.
posted by kitcat to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds to me like the dough is too dry and/or the tortillas are a tad too thick. Also try brushing the pan with the tiniest coating of oil -- it keeps them from drying out when they cook.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:35 PM on November 13, 2009

If nothing else works, try adding a little bread flour. I believe it has a higher gluten content, which allows the dough to stretch more. It might be cheating, but then, you're in Canada. Maybe the water there wasn't meant for tortillas, so it's a necessary cheat.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:37 PM on November 13, 2009

Well the thread you link to says it all, lard. Manteca etc. I know you can't make flour tortillas without it, why would masa be different?
posted by Max Power at 4:40 PM on November 13, 2009

And Canadians just love to cheat!

Another vote here for dry dough - remember it can dry out extremely quickly as you're making them and you want to keep adding water to moisten.

Also, just as a process of elimination, try a different masa harina. Perhaps you got a bad batch.
posted by ORthey at 4:42 PM on November 13, 2009

Lard or a bit more water is what it sounds like to me.
posted by caveat at 4:43 PM on November 13, 2009

You people voting for lard - have you actually tried it? How much would you use?
posted by kitcat at 4:45 PM on November 13, 2009

I just asked my grandma, she said no lard for corn tortillas, just flour ones.

She says more water, cook them around 30 seconds on one side and 1 minute on the other, then wrap them in a towel or stack and cover them in a towel.

If they harden during the process try steaming them. She says its a feel (I don't have it).
posted by Max Power at 4:50 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Silly me. I just realized that Manteca is lard. I thought it was a brand name for a kind of corn flour. Will definitely, definitely try.
posted by kitcat at 4:51 PM on November 13, 2009

Try using fresh ground corn in place of corn flour.
posted by hortense at 4:51 PM on November 13, 2009

Are you allowing your dough to rest?

Also, when rolling your masa balls, they should be able to become seamless. If you can't get them seamless, your dough is too dry, or you haven't allowed it to rest long enough.
posted by General Malaise at 5:04 PM on November 13, 2009

You can cheat with lard (or Crisco, if lard is too gross for you).

But you don't need it for a corn tortilla. It just sounds to me like you need more water. And that you need to let the dough sit long enough for the water to be absorbed and rehydrate the corn granules--half an hour, maybe.

And when they come off the griddle, they should be put in a warm, moist environment. I really like those little tortilla boxes they have at Mexican restaurants. You can often buy them at latin markets.
posted by Netzapper at 5:29 PM on November 13, 2009

I've found sometimes, at least with storebought tortillas, that the cure for cracking can be simply to heat them in the toaster right before folding. Guerreros crack easily after spending time in the fridge, but a quick toaster bake gets them nice and pliable again.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 6:37 PM on November 13, 2009

I think maybe the pan isn't hot enough and they are cooking too long resulting in a super dry tortilla.

We just do them on the grill.
posted by 26.2 at 8:05 PM on November 13, 2009

If you're using corn meal or corn flour, you're doing it wrong. Use masa.
posted by gum at 8:59 AM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

1.5ing Max Power's grandma, and gum:

-- Use masa, not corn flour.
-- Do let the wet masa sit and absorb water after mixing; give it a half hour.
-- Be sure to stack them and wrap them in a towel; by sitting in a stack, they sweat into each other and themselves, further moistening the dry corn after cooking. My tortillas are never ready right after cooking: I usually give them at least ten minutes to rest. In that time they go from dry-crumbly to floppy-rubbery.
-- If you're not getting the 'poof' that lysdexic mentions in the thread you linked, you need to keep trying and playing with your timing. Make chilaquiles with your less-successful experiments.
-- Max's grandma's 30sec/1min advice is good in principle but probably too rigid in practice: my own basic rule is 30sec/1min/30sec, heeding the advice that a tortilla should never be flipped more than twice.

Now I'm going to go make some of my own.
posted by xueexueg at 9:48 AM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Steam them. I never got the feel of my favorite burrito shop until I noticed them taking the wrap out of a leaves them pliable and stretchy.
posted by nevercalm at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2009

What are you doing with them after you cook them? I always wrap them in a kitchen towel so they steam and stay pliable.

There seems to be some confusion (yet again) about what kind of tortillas you're making - you do not want lard (or any other fat) in your corn tortillas.
posted by O9scar at 3:11 PM on November 14, 2009

In a desperate bid to make my corn tortillas soft last night, I tired pretty much all of the suggestions above. More water, let dough sit for a 1/2 hour. I put some butter in, lacking lard. Did not flip more than twice. And yes, I think my tortillas are coming out a bit too thick, but such is my tortilla press.

But the one thing that really, truly made a difference was - moisture after cooking. I put the tortillas on a plate underneath a wet dish towel straight off the pan. Success!

They were heavenly. Thanks!
posted by kitcat at 11:52 AM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

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