Homemade tortillas are easy to make and better than store-bought
Tortillas are handy carrying cases for some of the best Tex-Mex foods — tacos, burritos and fajitas, for starters. So, around here it’s almost sacrilege to wrap such good food in bland, store-bought fare when you can make your own.
True, you have to set aside some time to make quality tortillas. But making them is easy and worth it. Here are my two favorite tortilla recipes — one corn and one flour.
Yields: 18 7-inch tortillas
4 cups yellow or white masa harina for tortillas, found in the baking section of your local market
½ teaspoon salt
2 2⁄3 cups hot water
In a medium mixing bowl, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine the masa, salt and most of the water. Mix thoroughly until evenly moistened, adding a teaspoon of water at a time if it seems dry, or more masa if too wet. Cover and let rest for an hour. Keep covered while pressing or rolling out the tortillas.
To shape the tortillas, divide into 18 equal pieces, about the size of a golf ball. Place between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper. (I use a gallon freezer bag with the sides cut.) Use either a tortilla press or a rolling pin to flatten the tortilla. You also can flatten it using your palms, but this takes experience.
To cook the tortillas, heat a heavy cast-iron skillet, griddle or comal over medium high heat. Peel off the plastic and place the tortilla on the hot pan. Cook for 30 seconds on the first side, turn over and cook for 1 minute. Turn back over and cook the first side another 30 seconds. The tortilla will puff up and become speckled with brown spots. Stack on a kitchen towel as you go. The tortillas can be used immediately or wrapped in plastic and refrigerated. Reheat as needed.
Yields: 15 8-to 9-inch tortillas
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt
½ cup lard (you can substitute solid vegetable shortening, butter, bacon drippings, but lard is traditional)
1½ cups warm water
In a medium mixing bowl, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the lard until crumbly.
Gradually add the warm water to the flour mixture, stirring just until the dough sticks together and forms a soft ball. Too much water makes a tough tortilla. Give the dough a few kneads, no longer than a minute. Put in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Divide into 15 equal portions, shaping each into a ball. Cover and let rest 20 to 30 minutes more. Drape each ball around your forefinger, making a depression on the underside. This mushroom shape will create an air bubble, which helps it roll out into an even round. On a lightly floured work surface, flatten ball with your palm. With a thin rolling pin, roll out each ball from the center to the edge, but with out pressing on the edge. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn until it is 8 to 9 inches across. Stack between sheets of plastic as you roll each out.
To cook, heat a griddle, skillet or comal over medium high heat. Place the tortilla on hot pan, cook on first side for 30 seconds. When bubbles form, turn over and cook on second side for 30 seconds, or until dough looks dry and the tortilla is soft but not crisp. Stack as you did with the corn tortillas.