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Homemade Corn Tortillas
I was inspired to make these after seeing a recipe by Paul Hollywood (of the “Bake off” fame). The first time I tried his recipe, I was severely disappointed as he uses far too little water to make the dough and the tortillas were impossible to roll out. The edges were scraggy and broken and the end result wasn’t soft.
I used my mum’s expert knowledge of Indian breads, in particular rotis and “bhakri”, and knew that to get a soft yielding tortilla, I would need to add a lot more water and use it warm to make the dough. I then finished cooking the tortillas on an open gas flame, much as we would do at home with rotis, for a delicious slightly charred flavour.
I also checked with my recently acquired Mexican cookbook by Thomasina Miers (read my review here) and even she adds more water than Mr. Hollywood, and her process is similar to mine. Phew!
Corn tortillas are made from masa harina, a whole grain flour. For the uninitiated, field corn (or maize) is dried and then treated in a solution of lime and water called slaked lime to make masa. This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. In addition, the lime reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract. Don’t substitute with other forms of corn flour; it’s not the same. Masa harina is easy to buy online.
Homemade Corn Tortillas
As masa harina has no gluten, the dough is hard to roll out like other flat breads. The method I find the easiest is to use two baking or plastic sheets to roll out the dough.
Nothing you have ever eaten from a packet will ever match up to these. I urge even the rookies to try it. See notes below on how to use leftovers.
Mix the masa harina and salt in a bowl. Add about half the water and olive oil and let the mixture sit covered for about 10-15 minutes.
After that add most of the remaining water and knead until the dough is smooth. Depending on the absorption of the flour you may not need the last 50ml. Although you don’t want a very sticky dough, the softer the dough, the easier to roll without cracking edges. If the dough feels too sticky add a little more masa harina.
Leave the dough to rest under a damp cloth for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
When you are ready to make the tortillas, heat a flat griddle or frying pan. Make a ball with a portion of the dough, flatten and lightly oil each side. Place between the two sheets of plastic (cut open a zip lock bag or use two reusable baking sheets). Use a rolling pin to roll out quite thinly. See photo.
Peel the tortilla away from the sheet, and carefully place on the griddle. Cook about 30 seconds on the first side before flipping over. Increase the heat slightly and let the second side cook until it starts bubbling. Flip back to finish cooking the first side either on the griddle or by place it directly on an open gas flame.
The tortilla is done once it’s coloured a little and puffed up.
Keep the cooked tortillas warm by wrapping them in a tea towel or foil. See notes below for re-heating instructions.
Left over tortillas freeze well, and if you want a decadent treat cut them into wedges and fry them for your own homemade nacho chips or tacos.
If you decide to make these ahead, keep them wrapped in a tea cloth.
To reheat, use an open gas flame, if you possess one. Use tongs to flip, and give the tortillas about 30 seconds on each side.
For re-heating in a microwave - Sprinkle with a little water, stack together, wrap snugly in kitchen paper and warm in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.