We have several frugal tips up our sleeve, but none have been as valuable to us as knowing how to make our own corn tortillas. Sure it seems like something that's easier bought than made, but their a super inexpensive way to stretch almost any meal and make any left overs hiding out in your fridge into an edible lunch. It's easier than you think and it only requires two ingredients!
Our own corn tortillas don't hold a candle to those made by the women in South America (and Texas!). Those have an extra layer of deliciousness on them due to the large outdoor griddles they are made on. Sadly they aren't something that's exactly easy to incorporate into your home kitchen, but good news, a frying pan and even better, a griddle will work just as well. We're also convinced they taste better due to the salt in their sweat, but that's not really something we really want to think about. Here's what you'll need to get started:
2 C. Masa Harina
1 1/2 C Water
Zip Top Bag With The Sides Cut
Tortilla Press (or patience and a rolling pin)
Skillet or Griddle (cast iron or non stick)
We use a 2-1.5 ratio of Masa (which is different than corn meal) to water which yields roughly 22, 4-5" tortillas. Depending on the humidity of your environment you might need a little more water or a little less. We'll show you below how to tell when your dough is just right!
Dough can be made ahead of time, but we'd advise letting it not sit for more than 12 hours. Put a damp towel in a bowl, add dough balls and cover with the ends of the towel. This will sit in the fridge until you are ready to use it, however, cold dough doesn't press as nicely as freshly made warm dough and might require a few extra presses, or turning of the dough to get even. It's a quick enough process, the only time we've bothered with making it ahead is when we're doing a large amount and needed to work in stages.
Tortilla presses can be found in a variety of places. Many grocery stores have them, Walmart and World Market carry them and surprisingly enough, hardware stores such as Ace carry them. Don't waste your time with plastic models, the stress you apply to the handle will break them every time (we went through 3 before learning our lesson). Instead, opt for the metal variety which should run you anywhere between $10-$20.
We have a personal preference for smaller and slightly thinner tortillas, but you can make them larger as well. We usually end up making them to serve with a buffet of assorted fillings and plus, we like miniature food. It's easier to eat and darn it if it isn't cute. If you'd like a larger tortilla simple increase the size of your dough balls before pressing to accommodate your needs.
Preheat skillet or pan (medium high, or 350 degrees). Mix Masa and water until combined. You will know your mixture is spot on when you can squeeze it between your fingers and it doesn't break, but yet doesn't stick to your hand when you reopen your fist. It should have the consistency of store bought brand Play-Doh. It will be smooth to the touch and easy to ball up and will feel lighter than you think it should.
We divide all our dough before starting and keep the dough balls covered with a barely damp towel while we work. Use a zip top bag of either sandwich or quart size (cut sides open so it can lay flat) to protect your press allowing for easy removal of your tortilla. Open press, and lay your zip lock so it covers both sides of the press.
Place a dough ball on the bottom plate of the press, making sure to off center it slightly. Keeping the dough closer to the hinge on the back side will help make a perfect tortilla every time! Press. Repress if needed, experiment with rotating your zip lock and repressing. It will give you a thinner more even pressing.
Open press and lay tortilla on your hand, peeling the ziplock off. Flip it down onto your hot, dry (very important) griddle or pan (we prefer an electric griddle since it's easier to control heat and keep things moving). Flip after 30 seconds. Let side on side 2 for 60 more seconds and flip again. Cook for 30 more seconds on side 1 and remove from griddle. You can make them as cooked as you wish, we prefer ours a little crispier and then covered with a towel to keep moist. Others like them thicker and less cooked. As long as you follow the 30-60-30 cooking time you will have heated the Masa enough to be "done." Uncooked Masa will make you sick, so refrain from eating dough or cooking for less time than stated above. Make sure you use a high heat utensil to flip them, although we typically just use our fingers!
If you over cook them, or let them dry out on the counter for too long after cooking, just reheat (either on stove or in microwave) for a few seconds and place in a towel and they will re-soften. They will stay warm the longest if placed in a "foil pouch" and then wrapped in a towel, but usually there's enough people hanging around the stove while they're being made, the disappear before we get a chance to bother.
They are a perfect way for kids to help out in the kitchen and to engage your guests when entertaining. Don't be afraid to put people to work pressing or flipping tortillas on the skillet! Most of all, have fun, handmade tortillas are all about the love!
Related: Recipe: Fish Tacos