One of my most vivid and fondest childhood memories is being sent to the local tortilleria everyday, sometimes twice, for our daily kilo or so of fresh corn tortillas for our meals. The lines where always long, but just being there and smelling the tortilla dough, feeling the heat and smelling the tortillas as they came off piping hot from the conveyor belt was a great sensory experience. I always had to eat at least one on the walk back home, I just loved it and miss it terribly.
Tortillas are Mexican flat breads that are eaten with almost every meal, one of the most important part of Mexican cuisine. The word comes from Spanish, torta which means a circular cake. In Castilian Spanish and in Spain a tortilla is a thick and round egg omelet, quite different but still delicious. Tortillas have a long history in Mexico and some central American countries, some legends say they date as far back as 10 000 BC or older. There are 2 kinds, corn which is made from masa harina, a whitish cornmeal dough made by soaking dried corn kernels in water and lime to soften them and remove the skin. Then ground to form the masa or dough, made into balls then patted to a flat round bread that was then cooked. The second tortilla type is flour made from wheat flour. I know that flour tortillas aren’t as old as the corn, but not really sure when they were first introduced, (more to come on flour tortillas.). Tortillas are used to make tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, tostadas, chips, and Burritos (made with flour tortillas) and some desserts . So you can see why a Mexican kitchen without tortillas would seem like an incomplete kitchen.
Busy and modern times had ended the traditional ways of preparing your own and nowadays families use commercially prepared tortillas. In the US as in Mexico you can find good commercially made corn and flour tortillas virtually anywhere, but unfortunately in Europe there aren’t any tortilla factories that I’m aware of, although I have come across the flour tortilla packages which I think taste awful. I’m almost certain that the “Mexican” restaurants here make their own corn using reconstituted masa harina. So again I have had to substitute and make do with available ingredients, which means no masa harina. Today’s recipe is made with yellow cornmeal flour, my substitute to the traditional masa harina. (A recipe for my homemade flour tortillas will be added soon).
1 1/2 cups(170 grams) fine yellow corn flour
1 cup (110 grams) white wheat flour*
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) salt
2 TBSP. ( 30 ml) vegetable oil
3/4 cup (177 ml) warm water
rolling pin or tortilla press
2 small sandwich bag / or 2 waxed paper sheets
* the wheat flour helps in keeping the fine corn flour together and easier to work with*
1. In a bowl combine both flours and salt, until well combined. Next add a little of the water and the vegetable oil. Start kneading and combining the dough, gradually adding the rest of the water until the dough stops sticking to your hands. You may need to use either more flour or water to get the balance right. You want a smooth dough that isn’t too dry.
2. Warm the skillet/griddle over medium heat. Separate the dough into small balls,golf ball sized, you should get about 10-12 balls. Take one ball and cover the rest with a kitchen towel, to keep them moist.
If the balls start to dry out as you are rolling the others out, add a drop or two of water to re moisten.
3. Take either your 2 plastic bags or waxed paper and place a dough ball between them. If you have a tortilla press just push down to flatten, If you don’t have a press and are using the rolling pin roll out the ball to a 1/8 inch.
4. Peel the tortilla away from the plastic/waxed paper and put on the hot skillet for 2 minutes on each side. You will see blisters start to form as it cooks. Repeat steps 2-4 until you have finished with all the dough. You can either stack the tortillas up to use right away, or let them cool down a bit and put in a sealed container or bag to store in the refrigerator and use later.
The tortillas will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, then begin to dry out( which you can then fry/bake and use as chips.) The tortillas can be reheated on a warm skillet/griddle, directly on the flame(gas stove) or in a microwave.