Mexican cuisine is quite varied from region to region, but one staple is the corn tortilla, made from a special type of hominy flour known as “masa harina.” To understand exactly how masa harina differs from corn meal, you pretty much need a degree in chemistry. There is something about the way the corn is turned into hominy and then transformed into flour that makes it able to be formed into a dough just with the addition of water. Try this with regular corn meal and it won’t work!
So what is hominy? Basically, dried corn kernels are soaked in a solution of lye and calcium hydroxide—yummy, right? The hominy is washed then ground into masa. Fortunately, you can find masa harina easily at any Mexican grocery store, or can order it online.
So, the big question is: why not just buy corn tortillas already made? It’s true that it’s easier, but just like for homemade pasta, there is no comparison to tortillas that are freshly made. So save the packaged tortillas for convenience, but for special occasions, try making your own!
Tortillas de Maíz (Corn Tortillas)
Makes 16 tortillas
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 2 minutes
Cook method: Pan grill
- 1 lb masa harina
1. Put the masa harina in a bowl and add 9 ounces of hot tap water. Knead until thoroughly combined, cover, and set aside for 10-15 minutes. Check the dough. If too stiff, ad a bit more water (a tablespoon at a time) to get a soft but not sticky consistency.
3. Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium high heat.
4. Cut a gallon-sized plastic food storage bag into 2 squares (plastic wrap is too thin). Open your tortilla press and put in one piece of plastic. Put in a piece of dough, slightly flattening, and then the other piece of plastic. Press the dough into a tortilla about 1/8 inch thick. (If you don’t have a tortilla press, use a rolling pin.) Peel off the top piece of plastic, then flip the tortilla onto your hand (tortilla-side down), and carefully peel off the other side of the plastic.
5. Gently place on the hot skillet. Cook for about 30 seconds, just until the tortilla releases, and flip it. Cook for about 60 seconds more, remove from heat and place on a towel-lined plate or basket.
6. Repeat until you’ve made all the tortillas, stacking them on top of each other and keeping them warm until ready to serve.
Use them in one of these classic Mexican recipes:
By Peg Kern
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