Tea-time, Oaxacan Style. Home-made tortillas.
TOCOS FAMILY STYLE. Part 2, the Tortillas
And now for the fun part. You are going to want a tortilla press for this. They are inexpensive and can be found at Latin American grocery stores, or online. A really useful kitchen tool to own. Now, here is some valuable information; DO NOT use plastic wrap when you press them. USE WAX PAPER. Trust me on this one. You will see them using plastic wrap when you watch You Tube videos about making tortillas. Wax paper works SOOO much better. Speaking of You Tube, you might want to watch a couple of “how tos” on making corn tortillas. But, remember, use wax paper, not plastic wrap. And stick with my recipe, it’s much better than plain water.
It has taken me a few trials to learn to make tortillas. It is a definite skill, but once you get the feeling for it, it’s easy. Just accept the fact that it takes a little practice.
I have tried various recipes for tortillas. Although it isn’t authentic, I think they taste better when made with vegetable bouillon, rather than plain water. Maseca is the brand of masa flour you want to use. It is readily available in many grocery stores. Like a lot of other skills, you need just a bit of practice with tortillas. You’ll get it and it’s worth the time to learn to add such a great treat to your bag of tricks. You want to use very warm vegetable bouillon.
Mix 2 cups Maseca Masa with 1 3/4 cups very warm vegetable bouillon. You want the dough to be the consistency of play dough. Not too stiff, but not sticky. The not sticky part is very important, so don’t hesitate to add more masa. If the dough is sticky it will not come off the waxed paper and you’ll have a mess. But, if it’s too stiff, it will be crumbly and not hold together. You can adjust by adding more Maseca or more liquid. It is important that the consistency be right. Knead the dough until it is thoroughly blended, form it into a ball, cover with a very slightly damp paper towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Tear pieces of waxed paper the right length to fit your tortilla press. One piece for the bottom first. Pinch off a piece of the dough that would be equal to about 2 level Tablespoons in size. Don’t try to go too big, because then your tortillas will be too thick. Roll dough into a ball, flatten slightly with your hand and place on the waxed paper lined press. Place it slightly off center towards the hinged side of the press in order for your tortillas to be of even thickness. Repair any little cracks in this piece of dough. Lay another piece of waxed paper on top of the dough and squeeze down the press. Open up, take off the top piece of waxed paper, which should peel right off. Lay the tortilla side down in the palm of your right hand and slowly peel off the bottom layer of waxed paper with your left hand. You now have a naked tortilla in the palm of your hand. On your stove top, have two large skillets, one set on high heat, one on medium high heat. Put the tortilla on the high heat skillet for about a minute, then transfer to the medium high skillet with a spatula, and place the uncooked side down first. After 30 seconds, turn over. 30 more seconds–done. A few brown spots will appear on the tortillas. That’s okay. If you’ve never had a fresh, hand-made tortilla you need to understand that they are very different from the machine made tortillaria versions that you buy in bags.
Work Flow–I pop the cooked tortillas into my toaster oven set on warm as I cook them. You will want about 24 tortillas for 6 people. I press them I go, so while two are cooking I am pressing the next one. This requires a certain amount of concentration, but is much more efficient than pressing them all before cooking. It is less stressful to go ahead and form the balls before you start the pressing and cooking process. Remember, tortilla making is an art, and you may need to practice a bit. Once you get it down you will amaze your friends.
The plan here is for the tortillas to be part of the family-style taco meal. Another great idea is to make some to serve with mescal or tequila, with a bowl of salsa and some guacamole. The traditional style is to serve orange slices with mescal, and a small plate of tajin on the side. Buen provecho!!