Make Your Own Tortillas

We love Mexican food and Tex-Mex, much of which involves tortillas. I always bought ready-made tortillas until I watched an episode of  Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS in which Pati Jinich assured the audience how easy it is to make your own. Following a Twitter exchange with Pati (She’s very approachable and helpful), I ordered an inexpensive press and bought ingredients for corn tortillas.

There are a couple of tricks you need to know, but Pati’s right. It is easy to make your own tortillas. I may never buy ready-made again. I also may buy a larger tortilla press. 😉 But in the interest of full disclosure, you need to know there’s a learning curve. With practice, though, you’ll be turning out tortillas like some people turn out homemade bread or pasta. I’ll share with you the lessons I learned that helped me improve.

Instead of a recipe, it’s more of a method to making tortillas. Here’s how to make enough for dinner tonight. Mix 2 cups Maseca with 1½ cups water, stirring until blended. Scoop approximately 1 ounce dough for each tortilla.

Lesson One: Keep a full can of nonstick cooking spray handy.

All you need to make corn tortillas? Water, maseca, and cooking spray

All you need to make corn tortillas? Water, maseca, and cooking spray

Lesson Two: Parchment paper works best. The directions that came with my tortilla press suggested wrapping the plates in plastic, but I couldn’t make that work. Next I tried waxed paper, with mixed results. Parchment paper worked best. Spray both sides of each sheet with every tortilla pressed to prevent tearing of the delicate tortilla in its uncooked state.

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Parchment paper and cooking spray prevent sticking

Lesson Three: Position the ball of dough off-center, away from the handle. Press should work easily. Do not force. The dough spreads thinly and makes a delicate tortilla. Handle gently.

Gently press dough. If dough is too stiff, add a tiny bit more water.

Gently press dough. If dough is too stiff, add a tiny bit more water.

Lesson Four: Don’t try to remove the tortilla from both sides of the parchment paper. Allow cooking to begin before peeling back the paper. Then spray and reuse the paper.

Allow dough to cook approximately 30 seconds before peeling the parchment paper.

Allow dough to cook approximately 30 seconds before peeling the parchment paper.

Lesson Five: Don’t spend a lot of money on a tortilla press. I bought a cast aluminum for around twenty bucks. Works fine. If your dough is the proper consistency, you won’t need a rugged, heavy-duty press.

Cook turning every 30 seconds, 3 X per side.

Cook turning every 30 seconds, 3 X per side.

Lesson Six: Use a griddle or large skillet. I used an 8″ skillet, which restricted my movement in turning the tortillas. Next time I’ll use a griddle to allow more maneuvering room.

Lesson Seven: Remember Lesson One? Use the cooking spray generously. It helps hold the parchment paper in place, and it helps crisp the tortillas without added grease.

As you cook the tortillas, wrap them in a napkin to keep them warm. Or allow to cool completely and store in a plastic food storage bag in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Keep corn tortillas wrapped in a napkin in a basket

Keep corn tortillas wrapped in a napkin in a basket

Remember to practice. I discovered tricks to timing the 30 second intervals. While the tortilla cooked, I prepped the press with more spray. Then I flipped the tortilla. Then I scooped dough and placed on the press. Then I flipped the tortilla, and so forth. You’ll develop a rhythm and crank out a set of tortillas just like Pati Jinich. Or close. 😉

Next I plan to master flour tortillas. Stay tuned.

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Filed under bread, cooking, Pati Jinich

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