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Tortilla

Mexican food always ranked at the top of my ‘Favorite Food List' by far. So when I was prompt the other night, to get off my comfortable sofa, and get down to Old-Town, this historic and magical small neighborhood of San Diego (SD), I was definitely not going to say no.

Old-Town is the oldest settled area in SD, and it’s one of my favorite paces in the city. Always full of life, rainbow of colors, sounds and smells that encircle you and move you in every imaginable (and unimaginable…) way. Most importantly, Old-Town is fun!

 
 

I was surprised to see the amount of people gathered together, whether just to take a pick and remind ourselves of just how life was not too long ago, or just getting together with family and friends, enjoying a good old fashioned margarita or cold brew, with some freshly made tortillas. That’s when I saw the ‘Tortilla Woman’, tucked away in the back, making fresh flour tortillas with such speed, accuracy and focus, which started to resemble an elegant dance… (’Swan Lake’ ?.... But isn’t this Old Town…I wondered…).

I couldn’t stop thinking of her and how coordinated her moves were, how easy and seamless she made it all look. I immediately knew then; I just had to try and do my own.

This is my attempt making tortillas, both flour and corn. So let’s do this!…

 

FLOUR TORTILLA


Why we use Fat

Typically, both flour tortilla and corn tortilla are made with lard. I know some of you will hear the word lard and cringe, but it does make for a better taste and fluffier tortilla, and there is nothing worse than a dry, lifeless tortilla. There are many ways to extract pork fat, you can fry some bacon and filter the fat or even buy it at your local grocery store or butcher shop. However, I chose to use vegetable shortening, which I find gives you a similar effect, minus the pork fat flavor and it is vegan or vegetarian friendly, just incase you are.

 
  • Serving 2 cups flour = 12-14 tortillas

  • Cuisine Mexican

  • Freezer(ish)? No.

  • Good for Enjoy as close to the time it was prepared.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Cups (400g) All-purpose flour

  • ¼ cup (50g) vegetable shortening

  • 1¾ cups (350mil) lukewarm water

  • 1 Tbs (7g) baking powder

  • 1 Tsp (4g) kosher salt

NOW WHAT...

  • Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk well to combine

  • Add veg shortening and dissolve using your fingers into the flour mix

  • Add water gradually as you mix the dough with your hands.

Note:

You are looking for a ‘Plato’ like texture only slightly softer. To achieve that, add water gradually, so you won’t end up with a wet (sticky) dough.

  • Transfer to your work surface and knead until smooth.

  • Cover and let rest for 10-15 min.

  • Cut dough into 60g (golf size) balls. Use your hands and surface to round them up.

  • Dust your surface area with dough, rolling pin included

  • Flatten the dough ball into a disc shape and dust it slightly with flour

  • Roll pin over dough forward once then back and turn dough disc 90 degrees clockwise

  • Repeat until you are satisfied with the thickness of the tortilla and size.

  • Heat up an iron skillet or comal (Mexican tortilla flat pan), to 450 F (230 C).

  • Cook for 30 sec on each side. Watching the bubbles form and being careful not to burn the tortillas

  • Remove and store covered in a kitchen towel.

Enjoy immediately or keep warm for the day. Fresh tortillas are meant to be eaten the same day and are not recommended to be refrigerated or frozen.

 

CORN TORTILLA

Now that we have made the flour tortilla, it’s time to tackle the undisputed KING of tortillas, the corn tortilla. All my attempts to recreate this amazing corn tortillas, that were freshly grounded (Fresh Masa) just minutes before you tried them, largely ended with disappointment (close to tears even…). It is in my opinion (shared by many others who are more native to Mexican cuisine than I am), that it is simply impossible to create the same experience you get from enjoying a tortilla made from fresh masa.

I am fortunate to live in an area where I can get my hands on some good fresh masa, from local Mexican grocery stores or tortilla factories operating in my vicinity. However, not everyone has that luxury, I know, and I am therefore going to include a recipe below, using store bought masa flour. One thing to notice here though, There are a few types of dry masa flour available nation-wide (and internationally). You must make sure to use corn flour made for tortillas, and not another kind (which often is made for Arepa, a Venezuelan style corn bread, similar to a pita bread only made from corn).

Finally, corn tortillas, due to the lack of gluten mainly, are notorious to dry out fast when done cooking, and should be enjoyed right away for the best experience. Therefore, there should be more planning involved when making these, making sure you cook them as close as possible to your planed Fiesta (party), or your planned breakfast, lunch or dinner.

 

INGREDIENTS

a. Fresh corn Masa

  • 2 cups fresh masa

  • ¼ cup (50g) Vegetable shortening (or lard)

  • ½ cup lukewarm water (100mil)

  • ½ Tsp (2g) salt (optional)

NOW WHAT...

  • In a bowl combine vegetable shortening with fresh masa

  • 2. Work into a ball, add some water only if you find masa too dry.

  • Continue to work the masa into a smooth textured dough. Here too you are looking for a Plato like texture.

  • Transfer to your work surface and knead until smooth.

  • Cover and let rest for 10-15 min.

  • Cut dough into 60g (golf size) balls. Use your hands and surface to round them up.

Note:

You will need a tortilla press, which is easily available in local specialized stores or your Mexican grocery. Also available at Amazon (ofcourse…what don’t they have), which I am leaving a link too here;

 

Note:

You can also use a heavy pan or pot. Just make sure it has a heavy flat bottom.

 
  • Cut circles, roughly 8inch (20.5cm) in diameter. I used a Ziploc bag, but any kind will do.

Note:

You can also use parchment paper, only make sure you have made ready more than one pair.

  • Place one plastic circle on the bottom part of the press plate.

  • Flatten the masa dough and place at center of bottom press plate.

  • Place second plastic circle on top and press, applying moderate and gradual pressure.

  • Repeat until you are satisfied with the thickness of the tortilla and size.

  • Heat up an iron skillet or comal (Mexican tortilla flat pan), to 450 F (230 C).

  • Cook for 1.5min on each side. Watching the edges carefully as they start to brown, and bubbles as they may appear. Be not to burn the tortillas.

  • Remove and store covered in a kitchen towel.

 

b. Store bought Masa flour

  • 2 cups fresh masa

  • ¼ cup (50g) Vegetable shortening (or lard)

  • 1½ cup lukewarm water (100mil)

  • 1 Tsp (4gr) salt

NOW WHAT...

  • In a bowl combine masa flour with vegetable shortening and salt.

  • Add water gradually as you work the flour into a dough.