Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Making Homemade Tortillas

My friend Ruth brought over her fancy schmancy tortilla maker--the kind that plugs in and squeezes out the dough before cooking it perfectly between two non-stick plates--and I was in awe.  I was completely sold and decided right there that I had to have one too (she should work for Amway because she's obviously a born salesman).

I'd tried to make tortillas once before, I'd even bought one of those little steel hand presses where you put the dough between the plates and squeeze them together with a lever but had had miserable results.  The dough stuck all over the place, the tortillas were anything but round and I secretly wondered if Mexico had been running a scam all these years and that tortillas were actually impossible to make by hand. I threw the tortilla press in the back of the cabinet and the only workout it's had since is when Lillian gets it out to use with her playdough.

But after seeing Ruth's tortilla maker and using her recipe and hearing her methods I was convinced I could do it and I gave things another go. And what do you know? It worked pretty well.  Here's how you do it:

Step One
Mix 2 cups flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I know traditionalists use lard and I'll have to try that sometime because I've heard it's the only way to make them authentic).  Mix all the ingredients in a food processor or mixer and pulse/blend the ingredients until it has the texture of coarse crumbs. Then add 2/3 cup warm water and mix until the dough becomes a ball that isn't too sticky--you can add a touch more flour if necessary.

Step Two
Now wait.  Turns out, this was the crucial part I was missing. You must let the dough relax for the gluten to do its business. Then the dough will be pliable without being too sticky and it will all go so much easier.  So form the dough into 12-15 small balls and set them out to relax for 30 minutes.

Step Three
Press the dough in your tortilla press (or roll them out with a rolling pin if you're up for it). You don't need to grease anything because heaven knows there's enough grease in them already.

Step Four
Lay the flattened circle of dough in a cast iron skillet heated to a medium-high heat. You could use a non-stick skillet instead but the cast iron gives it a nice texture, color and aroma.  You don't need to use any grease, just the dry hot skillet will do the job.  Cook it for 15 seconds or so on one side then flip it to the other side and cook it some more.  If you're doing it right it'll puff up in little pockets of steam.

It might take you a few tortillas to get the hang of it but be patient, it will come in a very zen way.  By the time I was done I was getting some actual circles rather than the amoeba-shaped specimens I first produced.  But no worries, even the ones that looked like mutant organisms still tasted good.

I still like the ease of the electric tortilla maker but compare the cost ($40-$70) to the cost of the press ($14) and that kind of settles things.  And for me the even bigger issue is the space saved.  I have so many gadgets in my kitchen I don't know where I'd put a big electric thingy but the smaller press nestles perfectly in my cast iron skillet when not in use and that seals the deal.


Robin said...

An electric one? I don't think I've ever seen one, my husband makes great tortillas by hand (no press, but I could see where that would be fun to use).

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Robin Sue said...

I do prefer the homemade tortillas, they are so tender and delicious. I don't remember if I told you, but my MIL made me that Wonder Scarf that you posted a while back and it turned out great, I love it. So thanks for sharing!

Melissa said...

I've never seen an electric tortilla maker before. Sounds fun! We have the press and it is sooooo much easier than trying to roll them out by hand. We have a recipe for whole wheat tortillas that we really like. Ours come out thicker, between a tortilla and flat bread, but we really like them - when we make them. It's been a while, but I am getting inspired now. ;-)

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

Being Hispanic I can tell you we never use the press for flour tortillas. Rolling by hand is the only true way to get them. :D

We do use the press for making corn tortillas because the dough is much different. Once you've made homemade enchiladas using homemade corn can never go back to store bought!

Lei said...

Yum, my son LOVES homemade tortillas!

Mobil Keluarga Ideal Terbaik Indonesia said...

Tortilla is my favorite cake thanks for recipe I will read this eith my wife so in the next weekend we can make a tortilla with this recipe

J at said...

I've always been afraid of trying to make homemade tortillas, but I hear they're SO worth it. You make me almost want to give it a try...and chocolate on my cranium suddenly has be wanting enchiladas with homemade corn tortillas!

Anonymous said...

Huh. I had to make my own home made tortillas in Morocco if we wanted Mexican food, which we did, and I did it all by hand. Electic presses are just too fancy :) But they are easy to make, and I got pretty quick at them. Leaving the dough to sit is KEY.