October 15, 2014 | Posted by Christine Sanchez
When a recipe is only three ingredients, one being salt and one being water, one would expect it to fall under the category of “easy, peasy”, right? Guess again. Corn tortillas require some finesse to get just right. Armed with these tips you are sure to be a tortilla-making machine in no time.
If you have ever made them then you may already know what I am talking about: too often they’re too thick, too dry, too brittle, too sticky or just too fragile. Quite maddening indeed! However, when made correctly, fresh corn tortillas take your tacos from tasty to delicioso!
Made from masa (short for masa harina, a flour made from corn that has been cooked with slaked lime then dried and ground), water and occasionally salt, corn tortillas are really the perfect vehicle.
So let’s cut to the chase and tell you how to get them just right… it’s Taco Month, after all!
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE DOUGH:
> The water. Use slightly warmer than room temperature water for best results -- and less is more. Reserve a tablespoon or so of the water and work the dough for a few minutes before deciding if you actually need it or not. Adding too much water results in a sticky, too-wet dough that becomes fragile and very difficult to work with.
> Salt? We think a pinch of salt is important everywhere, and this is no exception (as it makes for a more flavorful tortilla). Adjust the amount based upon your preference.
> Let it rest, covered. Make sure to let the dough rest, covered by a damp towel, for a minimum of 15 minutes before forming your balls. This helps the water to penetrate into the masa, resulting in a more evenly textured and tender dough. Once balls are formed (I like to weigh them to make sure they are truly of equal size but this is not mandatory), keep them covered under a damp towel while pressing them out, one at a time.
> The press. If you have access to a heavy-duty tortilla press, use one! They outperform any hand rolling or flattening technique you may have. Remember, a too-thick tortilla is a bad tortilla.
> Line it. Use a gallon-sized Ziplock bag (freezer ones are the best as they are more durable) to line your tortilla press. Cut off the top zipper as well as the two sides, keeping the bottom connected. Another option would be to use a standard plastic grocery bag, cutting out two circles to place on either side of the tortilla press.
> The skillet. Use a dry, well-seasoned cast iron skillet, making sure it is hot (preheat it for at least 5 minutes first). Keep it over medium-low heat to cook the tortillas for roughly 1-2 minutes per side. The cast iron retains heat really well and produces an evenly cooked tortilla. If you don’t have cast iron, use a heavy-duty skillet instead. Never put any oil in the pan unless you want to make tortilla chips.
> The oven. Preheat your oven to 200º, and line a large baking dish with an aluminum foil pouch to store your cooked tortillas until you are ready to serve. Do not try and skip this step and serve tortillas straight from the skillet. Storing them in the oven helps them steam which ensures a more supple and tender tortilla. (We learned this trick the hard way -- and the difference was mind-blowing!)
> The process. Press one tortilla at a time, cook as you go, and then store in the oven as you continue this process. When it’s time to eat, serve the tortillas wrapped, cozy and warm to the table…. And DIG IN!