Monday, October 6, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 7: DIY Tortillas

The DIY task appointed by Morgyn at The PPK forums for this week is tortillas. I bought a press yesterday (inexpensive, and worked like a charm), and already had masa harina and water (the only ingredients) on hand.

I followed Rick Bayless' instructions from Authentic Mexican, which are very detailed and helpful. A couple of notes, though - He said the masa should be like soft cookie dough. Mine was too wet at first, and I had to adjust. Also, he mentions using thick plastic on the press, but offers no explanation of where to obtain such. A little internet exploration revealed that one can cut squares from a freezer bag - and they are durable enough to wipe off, keep, and re-use. (If you are trying to avoid plastic, waxed paper works, too, although you don't get many uses from a sheet. I tried both waxed paper and the freezer bag pieces.)

Condensed instructions: Mix masa harina with hot water from the tap until you have a soft but entirely non-sticky dough. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes or more. Place one iron skillet on medium-low heat, and one on medium-high. (No oil. Both skillets are dry.) Use your tortilla press to make a tortilla: Press a walnut-sized ball of masa in-between sheets of plastic or waxed paper, turn 180 degrees, press again, and peel off into your hand. Drop the raw tortilla in the medium low skillet for 20 seconds or so, then flip into the hot skillet for another 20 seconds, then (still in the hot skillet), turn over for a final 20 seconds. It should puff up like a pita (it does, it does!). Wrap the finished tortillas in a kitchen towel, while you continue working.

Having made these once, I have a much better sense of the proper dough consistency, timing, how hot the skillets should be, and so on. It's really easy once you get the hang of it, and if my first tortillas are not so pretty, that's a sacrifice I'm happy to make for the education. Much like yeast bread, there is a tactile learning process here - you have to get your hands in the masa to understand it.

Results: SO much better than the tortillas in the store. I don't think I can buy the pre-made anymore. It's a whole different world. We had them with Soy Curls cooked with taco seasonings, baby spinach, and Cahill Desert Corn Relish (another crazy-delicious swap package score from ViT).

Go make tortillas!


Celine said...

I have a love/hate relationship with making my own tortillas. of course, it might just be laziness.

Anonymous said...

I love corn tortillas, but have failed miserably in my quest to make them myself. No press, so I have to roll them out by hand and they never ever stay together. It's the perfect activity for sending your blood pressure shooting right out the top of your head! lol

Luckily, I can buy pretty good frozen ones with no junky additives, so I'm happy. :-)

JohnP said...

That's great that you can find good frozen ones!

The tortilla press was cheap at a local Mexican market, and worth every penny. If yours are not staying together, I wonder if the dough is too wet or too dry? Mine were too wet to start with, and I couldn't peel them off the plastic without them breaking, etc. A little more masa harina fixed the problem.

Kelly said...

I may have to buy a press and start making my own as well. I have a huge bag of masa harina that I will probably only get to if I diversify how I use it. Great post.

kittee said...

That is one crazy down-home looking press you bought. I would worry about bacteria hiding in the wood or something. How much was that?

Also, homemade tortillas rule. I love my modern (aluminum) press too!


JohnP said...

It was approx 20 dollars - and the plastic or waxed paper covers the wood (which seems pretty clean anyway), so it is not in contact with the dough. The wooden press is heavy and fun to use!

Ali said...

Your tortillas look beautiful. I have made my own a couple times and they have come out pretty thick...not bad but not really like a tortilla either. One of my co-workers says that his grandmother adds just a little white flour to the mix to make a more tender tortilla, but I have not tried this yet.

ChristopherD said...

yum! I used to be able to get incredible tortillas in the Sacramento/ Davis area, but for whatever reason San Francisco (certainly a burrito Mecca) disappoints. I'd love to make my own.

Bianca said...

I really wanna make my own tortillas sometime. Steph bought a press the last time we went to the big Mexican/Asian was cheap. I should go get one.

BTW, I found your blog!!! I was wondering if you had one ... and I searched for "John P and Vegan Mofo" on the Googles ... and voila!