Tips for Amazing Tortillas
September 19, 2007 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Home-made tortillas: what is your recipe for success?

We've been making our own tortillas lately, having bought a cast iron tortilla press and some instant masa flour. They're already significantly better then the ones you buy at the store but I'd appreciate any and all tips on getting them to be awesome. Usually I just throw the pressed dough (water+masa+salt) into a hot cast iron pan for about a minute per side and then put them in a 250 degree oven to keep them warm while I make the rest. What are the secrets to amazing (corn) tortillas?
posted by otherwordlyglow to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

posted by dersins at 11:17 AM on September 19, 2007

posted by rhizome at 11:38 AM on September 19, 2007

Haven't tried making these, but some lime juice and chili powder in the mix might be good.

Curse you otherworldlyglow. Now I want tacos for dinner.
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 11:48 AM on September 19, 2007

Response by poster: Lard/Manteca: okay so I'm assuming you mean add it to the dough. Maybe on special occasions.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:49 AM on September 19, 2007

Best answer: I just reread your post and you're asking about corn tortillas.

We always used the corn masa mix (Quaker is the best, MASECA isn't bad). Grandma was very good at hand shaping the dough. They came out thick and firm. I have no such talent.

Whenever she wanted fry-able tortillas, she'd roll it out (with slightly more water) on the bottom of a china plate.

I've used tortilla presses and am not impressed with their tendency to rust (corn masa needs a lot more water than flour) My brother made one out of MDF that I liked a lot.

I wouldn't put the finished tortillas in the oven - they would tend to dry out. Get a styrofoam or plastic tortilla warmer to keep the humidity and softness in.

The method we used for "doneness" was a learned skill. The griddle was ready when water droplets bounced and sizzled on the surface. (1) You put the tortilla down and let it cook for a little bit (20 seconds or when the sizzling stops) then flip it over. There should be some brown and black spots at this point. If not, no worries.

So now what you're looking for is the "poof" - The tortilla will turn into a baloon if you're lucky. More likely you'll get some bubbles here and there. You can press down with a spatula to keep it down and evenly cooked. The bubbles indicate that your tortilla will cook all the way through. If there are no bubbles, no worries - you'll have to do the "bend test"

You lift up one end (with the spatula or fork, please!)to see how it bends either on the sides or the middle. The stiffer it is, the more cooked (and thicker) it is. At these high heats you're looking at no more than a minute total.

If the first side didn't have "enough" spots on it, or you just feel like it, pop it over and cook another 10 seconds.

It takes a bit of practice, but hey - the mistakes are delish, too!

On preview - lard/manteca might already be in the mix. You don't need a lot. I usually only use it for tamales. Something for flavor might be chicken/beef/veg broth in place of water.

(1) Grandma used an old cast iron stovetop on top of a gas burner. I use a Lodge flat pan.
posted by lysdexic at 12:01 PM on September 19, 2007 [8 favorites]

Just got back from Mexico where I had tortiillas cooked on an old harrow blade. The blade was dusted with bone meal that was used as an anti stick. The tortillas were buttered and served with diced onion and a touch of origano. Yum. The concave face of the blade made it very easy to flip the tortillas with your fingers.
posted by Raybun at 12:11 PM on September 19, 2007

Watch Robert Rodriguez cook Sin City Breakfast Tacos.
posted by glibhamdreck at 12:12 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yup, that's how you make the flour ones. I'm so jealous of RR's dexterity with the dough. I never could master that.
posted by lysdexic at 12:18 PM on September 19, 2007

Watch Robert Rodriguez cook Sin City Breakfast Tacos.

What he said. I did the entire dish based on these instructions. Kick-ass all around.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:27 PM on September 19, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, as lysdexic points out RR's making flour tortillas, which I think are greatly inferior to corn. And the recipe he makes calls for corn tortillas chopped up in the egg filling but I guess he thinks it's okay to use store-bought for that! Plus, I hated Sin City.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:05 PM on September 19, 2007

I'm still working on my own recipe, but I do have one tip: line the tortilla press to minimize sticking and reduce clean-up. I use a zip-top plastic bag with the top trimmed off and the sides sliced open. Place the folded side near the hinge of the tortilla press so the open sides of the bag line up roughly with the open edges of the press.

I clean the little plastic liner with a bit of dishwashing soap and let it dry, so I can use it again and again. The few crumbs of masa that stick to the press I wipe off with a damp cloth. The less you have to wash it, it the less chance of letting it rust.
posted by Elsa at 2:35 PM on September 19, 2007

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