by the handful

Nutritious culinary and healing recipes collected from the North American garden, orchard, forest, river and ocean

Handmade Tortillas

I sense a bit of uncertainty for many folks that like to cook when it comes to making your own tortillas, but they really are quite quick and easy to make. And of course they are one of a kind. I have made them for a long time and have used numerous instructions. I can now throw them together like clockwork and have tried here to both combine all the tips and tricks necessary to make them easy for the first timer.  There are only two ingredients but making tortillas is all about the method and the details.

2 cups masa harina

1 1/2 + cups  warm water

Parchment paper

You want to make sure you buy masa harina, which is finely ground corn and not the more course cornmeal, which will spell instant doom for your tortillas. It is very helpful to have a tortilla press. They are not expensive and well worth the money. A cast iron skillet or cooking top is also helpful although any pan will work. I have never seen any recipe suggesting the use of parchment paper to keep the tortillas from sticking but it is the only surface I have ever found that does the job.

Add 2 cups masa to a large salad bowl. Next add 1 cup warm water and stir it in with fingers. Add another ½ cup water and mix with the hands to make a dough ball. The dough should be the consistency of clay. If it is a little too crumbly mix in a little bit more water at a time.

Rip the doughball in half and then rip those two balls in half. Do this two more times until you have 16 small rough dough balls. Roll them into balls and tighten down the edges.

Put one piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the tortilla press, add a dough ball in the middle. Cover the ball with another piece of parchment paper and make the tortilla. Make sure to press the handle all the way down until it will not budge any more.

Remove the tortilla and place on the edge of a plate. As you make each tortilla, make a circular pattern around the plate to stack them but not completely overlapping them.

When they are ready to cook bring a cast iron top or skillet to med-high heat. When the surface is hot add a tortilla by touching the edge of the tortilla to the hot surface. As you slide your hand out of the way the tortilla will stick to the hot surface. Let the tortilla rest for about a minute. When it is ready to flip it will unstick. Simply put your fingers on the tortilla and try to move it and when it easily slides around the pan (like a hockey puck) it is ready to flip. Flipping is easiest with a spatula. Cook on the next side and then add tortilla to a kitchen towel and cover. Continue to cook the tortillas and stack on top of each other and cover. As you continue through the stack of tortillas it is usually necessary to reduce heat at some point as cast iron conducts and releases more heat as time goes on. Keep tortillas covered until ready to eat.

Makes 16 tortillas


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  1. Pingback: Wild Mushroom Tacos | by the handful

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