This recipe goes for Sadie, who the other day asked for a recipe for corn -tortillas. I thought it would be fun to show pictures of the (rather simple) process. This, of course will be a shortcut, meaning it's based on ready-made corn flour like Maseca or harina P.A.N (which is the only one I was able to find at the local supermarket). Traditionally though, the corn kernels are nixtamalized, that is, soaked in a solution of lime (calcium hydroxide) and water to remove their skins; increasing the bioavailability of nutrients like niacin. The grains are then ground into maize dough (masa).The ready-to-use flours have already undergone this process.
|Detail of the Codex Mendoza's folio 60rshowing a mexica mother teaching her 13-year-old daughter to make tortillas|
Anyhow, to make the dough, simply follow the instructions in the package which can vary per brand: usually 2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water + 2 cups flour + a bit of salt. You should mix everything and knead the dough just a bit. Voilà. You are ready to work with it.
A cast-iron tortilla press can be very useful but it is not 100% necessary. We have been wanting to bring one from Mexico for at least 4 years, but every time our baggage is overweight so we haven't had the chance. In short, you don't need one.
What you need is: a large, plastic bag which you will cut into 2 large circles, something like a wooden cutting board with a handle (to press your tortillas) and a skillet (or, ideally a traditional comal, which you probably don't have if you are not in Mexico).
The process is quite simple really: make little balls of dough, put them in the middle of the two plastic circles (otherwise the dough will stick everywhere), press evenly with your cutting board (or alternative heavy surface), and carefully put them on a hot skillet. You should cook them on both sides, turning them every now and then. Normally you know they are ready when they start making a bubble in the middle, but you will see.
As for the dough, you know it is good when while pressing the masa balls you get almost perfectly round tortillas, instead of getting uneven, crooked edges that tend to rip apart. If such is the case, just add a little bit more water to the dough (or to the ball itself) until you can form your tortillas. You can also make gorditas, which are thicker and smaller in diameter and are meant to be open through the middle and filled (with beans, cheese, meat, lettuce, sauce, sour cream, cheese) or sopes, which are similar except the toppings go on top.
*If you are in the Netherlands, you can find Maseca at Tjin's Toko in Amsterdam (Eerste van der Helststraat 64) or at Kelly's Expat shop in The Hague (Zoutmanstraat 22A), or P.A.N at pretty much any supermarket.