I was always intimidated by the prospect of making my own corn tortillas. It seemed really complicated and difficult. Well, I’m here to tell you that it is actually quite easy: you just need the proper tools to do it. I highly recommend getting a tortilla press: unless you’re a Mexican granny with awesome tortilla-rolling skills, having a press will make your tortilla-making project much easier. You can pick up a fairly inexpensive tortilla press at Latin markets. You’ll also need to find masa harina. Masa is made from field corn that has been soaked in lime (calcium hydroxide, not the fruit). You can find fresh masa (dough) in some Mexican markets, but I used dried masa harina, which looks a lot like cornmeal. (Don’t be tempted to substitute regular cornmeal, however. Masa harina and cornmeal are very different – you will not get delicious corn tortillas using regular cornmeal.) Bob’s Red Mill makes a masa harina (which is the brand I used), but you can find Mexican brands at Mexican/Latin markets. It’s best to cook the tortillas on a cast-iron griddle (called a comal in Spanish) or cast iron skillet. A double griddle that fits over two burners is also ideal.
The recipe below is for tortillas made from dried masa harina, and is adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen. Use your fresh corn tortillas for soft tacos, quesadillas, or any other corn tortilla recipe you desire.
1 3/4 cups dried masa harina
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot tap water
Special Equipment: A tortilla press, plastic bags for lining the tortilla press, a cast-iron griddle or comal
- Mix the masa harina and hot water in a large bowl until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
- Work in a few tablespoons of cold water, one tablespoon at a time, or until the masa feels soft and pliable, but not sticky. I usually add 3-4 tablespoons of cold water, but this will depend on the humidity in the air. Cover the dough with plastic wrap.
- Cut two squares out of a large plastic bag (I used clear, heavy duty trash bags) large enough to fit over both plates of your tortilla press.
- Heat your comal or cast iron skillet over high heat. If you are using a double griddle, heat both burners over high heat. The griddle should be very hot when you start to bake your tortillas.
- Pinch off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll it into a uniform ball between your palms, then flatten slightly. Line the bottom plate of the press with a square of plastic and place your flattened dough ball on top of the plastic. Place the other square of plastic on top of the dough. Gently press the dough using the tortilla press.
- Quickly peel off the top layer of plastic. Pick up your newly formed tortilla and gently pull away the plastic on the other side of the dough disk.
- Quickly and gently place the dough disk on the hot griddle. I do this by very carefully draping one half of the disk over my open palm, then gently dropping the disk onto the griddle with my palm up (the back of my hand is close to the griddle).
- Bake on one side for 1 minute, then flip and bake on the other side for 1 minute longer. Theoretically, the tortilla should puff up when flipped. As a novice tortilla-maker, my tortillas only puffed about 60% of the time.
- Remove the tortillas to a cloth-lined bowl. (You can stack them on top of one another. Actually, this steams them slightly and makes them taste much more delicious. They are best after they’ve sat, stacked together, for 10-15 minutes.)