Tuesday, 20 October 2009

My tortilla factory

Tortillas...the staple of the Mexican diet. While the ones you get in the supermarket are much better than they used to be, nothing beats a fresh corn tortilla.

What you will need:
180g masa harina
50g plain flour
200-300ml warm water
Pinch of salt
A tortilla press*
An old plastic shopping bag/ bin liner (clean, of course)

*Now, if you don't have a tortilla press, don't panic...neither do I! I've come across many hurdles when trying to recreate Mexican classics at home (see making tamales without corn husks) and in this case, I've discovered that a heavy hardback book will suffice...as long as it's one you don't mind standing on it.

What you do:
Mix the flours together in a large bowl. Gradually add the water, a little at a time, until you have a soft dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean. If the dough seems a little sticky, add a little more flour until you reach the right consistency. Knead the dough for another 5-10 mins until soft and pliable (if you pinch a little between two fingers, it shouldn't crack at the ages). Divide into 12 balls and cover with a tea towel.

If you have a tortilla press, line each side with a piece of thin plastic bag / bin liner and press down to form the tortilla. It should be about 5" in diameter. If you are using a book, open and lay down the plastic so that it covers the front page and the inside cover. Place a ball of dough on the first page and shut the book, making sure the dough will be sandwiched between the sheets of plastic. Depending on how strong you are, either press down on top of the book with your hands or place the book on the floor and stand on it for 5-10 secs. Personally, the latter works much better for me. Have a peek and apply more pressure if it isn't large enough.

Heat a heavy based pan over a high heat; it will be ready when a drop of water sizzles upon touch. Carefully pick up the tortilla (still in the plastic), peel back one side and using your hand, flip it into the pan. Cook for 20 secs; when the edges begin to curl up, flip over and cook for another 20 secs. If you've got it right, the tortilla will now begin to puff up. Don't worry, if it doesn't, it'll still taste great and the more you practice, the better they'll become! Flip again for a final 20 secs and slide into a folded tea towel while you continue to make the rest.

If you're not eating them straightaway, the tortillas freeze very well. To reheat, defrost thoroughly and either steam them over a pan of boiling water or microwave on high for 20-30 secs.

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