Authentic Tortillas

As part of a cooking class I attended with my family on a recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, we began with a walk to the local market to gather our ingredients. The first stop was the tortilleria where we would be picking up fresh masa for making our own corn tortillas. We also got to try a fresh tortilla “hot off the press” and it was one of the best bites of the trip! Masa is made from dried corn that is soaked and infused with minerals (usually lime) in order to tenderize the kernels. This process of nixtamalization is an ancient technology which serves to not only make the corn easier to grind, but also to increase nutritional value and flavor and decrease microbial organisms for food safety.

With the masa in hand, we brought it back to our outdoor kitchen for a day of cooking and eventually used the tortillas we made for tacos, as well as for blending into the base of our tortilla soup! Here is how we made them.

Corn Tortillas

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds tortilla masa (such as this recipe)

  • Water, as needed

Recipe

  1. If the masa is fresh, you may not need extra water, as the dough should be smooth and soft when worked. If the masa has dried out a bit, add a little water until it’s pliable and not at all crumbly.

  2. Heat a nonstick griddle over medium head. Prepare your tortilla press with a sheet of folded wax paper, or simply a piece of wax paper with a rolling pin handy.

  3. Prepare a basket with a clean towel for placing the cooked tortillas.

  4. Divide the dough into 15 equal rounds and keep all but one under plastic so they do not dry out.

  5. Place the first dough ball in the center of the wax paper, flatten it a little and fold the paper over to cover. Press down the lever of your tortilla press, or roll over with your rolling pin. You should not use fill force, rather a medium amount of pressure to create the tortilla. It should be about 1/8” thin, but no less.

  6. Holding the tortilla and wax paper carefully, peel the paper off of the tortilla, rather than peeling the tortilla itself, or else it may tear.

  7. When the griddle is ready, water should sizzle slightly. Place your tortilla on the griddle for about 15 seconds and then flip immediately. Now cook for 30 seconds. When you flip, the underside should be speckled. Flip once more and cook a final 15 seconds. On this last side, the tortilla should start to puff up.

  8. Place the tortillas in the basket as you cook them. The cloth will help to preserve the heat and keep them moist. They can be made ahead and reheated and they will keep well frozen.

Approaching the tortilleria

Approaching the tortilleria

Soaked corn and masa

Soaked corn and masa

This machine processes the masa and makes tortillas

This machine processes the masa and makes tortillas

Adding water to make the masa workable

Adding water to make the masa workable

A prepared tortilla press (with a sheet of wax paper) which belonged to our chef’s grandmother

A prepared tortilla press (with a sheet of wax paper) which belonged to our chef’s grandmother

Pressing a ball of masa

Pressing a ball of masa

A perfect tortilla, ready to throw on the stove

A perfect tortilla, ready to throw on the stove

Slide tortilla onto nonstick pan

Slide tortilla onto nonstick pan

Just about ready!

Just about ready!

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