Friday, November 18, 2011

Epic tortorial

Hey everybody, brace yourselves for what will probably be the longest and maybe most boringest post ever on this here blog. I hope you're not wearing shoes, because what I am about to show you will blow your socks off!!!! Or not. Ahem.  

Anyhow, this is how I make corn tortillas.  First, dump some masa harina into a bowl.  How much? Who knows?!? I just eyeball it. This time I dumped in about 4 cups and ended up with about 8-9 tortillas. You can totally follow the instructions on the masa package as far as amounts are concerned.  Disclaimer: this here post is more about technique than recipe. 

Nope, masa harina is NOT the same thing as cornmeal. Never has been, never will be.

Add a pinch of salt. Can you see it? It's the slightly paler white stuff just south o' the center.  I estimate that I added about half a tablespoon. You just want enough to where the tortillas aren't totally bland.

Mix the salt in, then keep adding water until you end up with a dough that looks like this. I think it looks like ice cream, or stiff mashed potatoes.  Or what's inside my cold, dead heart. 

You should buy a tortilla press if you can!! Tacky ceramic boots from the thrift store are an optional accessory.  Most cities in the US have Latin markets nowadays so what's stopping you? It can't be the price, as these go for less than $20 USA Fun Tickets. Having said that, if you don't have one, keep reading--I experimented in making these without a press. Because I care. 

Open up the press (pls ignore those brown stains. I have no idea where they came from.)  Tear out a long piece of plastic wrap, long enough to lay across the length of the open press. THIS IS ESSENTIAL!!! I hate plastic wrap on environmental grounds, but even I concede that you must do this or your tortillas will be a miserable failure! Don't worry, hippies (like me)--you can reuse the plastic many times (maybe that's where the brown stains came from?).

Pinch off a ball of the dough, roll it up into a ball, then roll said ball in some masa. Something about the perspective here is off--the ball looks way bigger than it was.  It should be slightly bigger than a golfball. 

Man the presses!!!!  Fire at will!!!

This is what it will look like after pressing, safely ensconced in the plastic wrap. 

Take the flattened dough out, still in the wrap. 

 Peel up one side of the plastic, like so.

Next, flip it over so the bare naked tortilla is resting against your palm. Try to stay calm as you peel up the other side of the plastic. 

Throw it onto a hot skillet! You were preheating one all along, right? Right?! No? Sorry. 

You will need to flip it after a few minutes but I didn't take a picture of that. It's easy, though, not like flipping pancakes or any other "loose" substance where sh*t can get real at the flipping stage.

For those in a state of press-deprivation, I tried making one with a plate and my kitchen counter. 

Like this....

It may not be obvious, but this is insufficiently thin despite me totally pressing down with all my middle aged might. However, a couple of rolls from the rolling pin and it was ready to go. 

With this batch, I made vegan huevos rancheros (corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, refried beans, tofu scramble, red chile sauce, and guacamole).  


  1. I like this post! My boyfriend and I tried to make tortillas once and it was a mess because we didn't have THIS. I also like "tortorial!" That's cute!

  2. Maud, thanks!!! If you try again sometime, let me know! This was my most effortful post ever so I hope it is useful to people.

  3. Thanks for the step -by-step shots! I want to try this...I'll have to get a press though...insufficiently flat dough just doesn't sound good. Those boots look like they're ready to do a dance!

    Those vegan rancheros look super; I'm totally craving some for this weekend.

  4. Genius! Why did I never think of using a plate? Brilliant, witty tortorial ;-) I need a press too, just put it on my Christmas list in fact. And I want that meal. Ho, and I have all the ingredients, and a guest coming for supper...

  5. Hey Rose and Zoa, thanks for reading! I would definitely recommend getting a press. If you have one, you can have a hot stack of fresh tortillas in under 30 minutes--30 mins that you can also spend making a scramble, guac, cooking up some beans, chopping cabbage, tomatoes, etc. It can be done with the plate/rolling pin technique, but it's definitely less efficient.

    I have to say that piling beans/scramble/etc on top of a couple of these is maybe my fave way to enjoy them :).

  6. thanks for the step-by-step! i wanted to make tortillas like a year ago but i bought cornmeal instead of masa harina. derrr. i couldn't find the masa anywhere, but i bet it will be easy to find where i live now. time to try again!

  7. Can I use those boots for vegan huevos rancheros?
    Great post!!

  8. Wow! Intense post! I'm completely drained. And so glad I can just go to the store and buy some premade Corn Tortillas.

    The post ended on a high note: the Heuvos Rancheros look phenomenal.

  9. Hey Sara! Thanks for stopping by! Let me know if you try again. Masa is everywhere these days, even up here in the Great *White* North, so I bet you can score some.

    New commenter!!!! GiGi!!! Thank you! My boots are your boots :).

    Shen, it's funny, I started making these initially because (back in the good ol' 90's) I could not find masa where I was living at the time. But now I'm a pro, and I can't go back to store-bought. Anyhow, thanks for the food props :).

  10. Where I live, it's Masa Harina everywhere. Huge pallets of it wheeled into Walmart hourly.

  11. Great tortorial! After reading your step by step, I am now inspired to try to make my own tortillas. I think I'll try the plate method first, just because I'm too lazy to go out and try to find a press.
    Your huevos rancheros look delish. I see those in my near future along with the homemade tortillas. :o)

  12. Hey Michelle, thanks for reading! If you try it, let me know how it turns out. The plate method end-result was fine, but the press is definitely more efficient. Keep that rolling pin handy!

  13. My mom has a press I could borrow if I ever get motivated. I didn't think this post was boring at all - very inspiring indeed! And as much as you'd like to pretend your heart is cold and dead, we know the truth. Huevos Rancheros, lookin' good!

  14. Hey, thanks, Jenny! You should try the press sometime. I have to say that hot homemade tortillas right off the stove are the bomb!