homemade tortillas

soft, golden, and full of corn flavor, homemade tortillas make all the difference in a mexican dish.
there really is no comparison between the tortillas i make in my own kitchen and store-bought ones. jim and i first tasted the real thing in mexico the year after we got married . . . about 22 years ago. and, once we had them, i was determined to learn how to make them because the steamy-soft, corn flavored, flat masa cakes contribute an authentic flavor to the overall taste of a mexican entree.

it was the late 80's when i started making tortillas, and i was lucky to catch a rick bayless tortilla demo on pbs (back then, we didn't have the internet for research!), so i was off to a pretty good start with understanding the tortilla making process. perfecting them was just a matter of time, and trial and error. ditching the measuring cups and going by consistency was also major step forward– like making bread, it all comes down to quality ingredients and the texture of the dough.

you can make tortillas in a large batch and freeze them. to reheat, just let them thaw and wrap them in a cloth napkin, set them on a steamer for just a few minutes, and they taste like you just made them. i serve tortillas under salads, with pepper jack fondue, with fish, meat, and chicken, and topped with just salsa and guacamole. once you have a homemade tortilla, like jim and i, you'll understand there's no comparison to the kind from a package.

• about 1 & 1/2 cups of dried masa
• about 3/4 to 1 cup of water slightly warmed

remember: i don't actually measure the masa and water. what you're after is a moist grainy, but smooth dough, not at all mushy, but damp.
put the dried masa in a large mixing bowl and make a well. pour in about 1/2 cup of water and start mixing with a fork. continue to add as much water as you need to form a ball. knead the dough just a minute or two to evenly distribute the water.

cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and let it rest about 45 min.

heat one griddle on med-high and sprinkle some salt in it. heat another griddle on med-low. you're going to press, then cook, press, then cook- one tortilla at a time.

to press the tortillas:
take a closed handful of masa dough (my hands are pretty small) and roll it into a ball. lay a piece of plastic wrap on the bottom of the tortilla press and cover it with another sheet. lower the top of the press and gently press down the handle to evenly distribute the dough. lift the top and turn the plastic wrap with the tortilla about 1/4 turn- press again. continue until you spread out the tortilla to about the size of the bottom of the press.
to cook the tortillas:
lay the plastic wrap with the tortilla in the palm of one hand. peel off the top layer of plastic. flip it into the palm of the other hand and peel off the bottom layer of plastic. flip the tortilla onto the first griddle and watch until the sides start to curl up a bit. using a spatula, flip it onto the second griddle- now it's face down. cook it until it starts to brown and then flip it again. it should puff up a bit like a pita bread (if it needs help puffing, just drag the spatula across the top to gently separate the layers). flip it one more time until both sides are evenly browned. put the cooked tortilla into a clean napkin and fold it up. as you stack them, they steam and become soft and pliable.
press out another tortilla and continue until all of the masa dough is cooked.

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