HOMEMADE CORN TORTILLAS – Perseverance Leads To Perfect Tortillas!

HOMEMADE CORN TORTILLAS – Perseverance Leads To Perfect Tortillas!

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I’m a gal who makes nearly everything from scratch. Pasta, breads, yogurt, cakes, and cookies hold no fear for me. I even successfully started making my own flour tortillas. So it came as a shock when I attempted corn tortillas and failed miserably. I threw out the dough in frustration, banished the remaining masa harina (the flour used to make corn tortillas) to the deep freezer, and vowed to never attempt homemade corn tortillas again.

But every now and then I would come across that siren-like bag of masa harina whilst rummaging around the depths of my freezer. She would beckon, tempting me to try again. “You can do it!” she sang.

So I tried again. And she was right. I DID IT!!! Success!!!

How did I do it? I watched several youtube videos on corn tortilla making. Everyone made it look so easy – which it was…..eventually. But there were many bits of useful information they left out which I had to work out for myself. To spare you the angst, I’m going to impart my new found knowledge onto you. Why reinvent the wheel?!

Be sure to read all of the directions and notes before beginning.

NOTE: If you watch how-to videos of tortilla making, you’ll notice most of them use a tortilla press. I chose to use a rolling pin instead because I really didn’t want to buy a press (cheap!), and I thought if it works well without one, YOU wouldn’t want to buy a press.

CORN TORTILLAS – makes 6 five inch tortillas

  • 1 cup masa harina (4.5 oz)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • about 1/2 cup water

NOTE: The amount of water used will vary according to the masa harina and, perhaps, even the temperature. This is NOT an exact science.

NOTE: Use your hand to mix the dough, not a spoon. It’s important to feel the dough to reach the proper consistency.

In a bowl, mix together the masa harina and salt with one clean hand. With the other hand pour in half of the water. Begin massaging everything together with the first hand. It will feel like wet sand. You want the dough to stick together, but not be too wet and tacky. Slowly keep adding water until it feels like Play Doh. To test, roll a golf ball sized amount and press it into your flat palm. With palm facing down, try to peel it off. If you can’t, it’s too wet – add a little more masa harina. If it falls right off, it’s too dry – add more water. When you think it’s right, cover bowl with a plate and let rest for 15-30 minutes, so the masa harina fully absorbs the water.

After resting, recheck the dough’s consistency by pressing some into your palm again. Don’t worry about overkneading – unlike wheat flour dough, it won’t get tough. The proper feel of the dough will take experience – one or two times, and you’ll get the hang of it.

Divide dough into 6 pieces and roll into balls.

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Now you’re going to do a rolling test to be sure the dough is properly made, so don’t turn on the griddle yet (no point in heating it up unnecessarily). If the dough isn’t quite right, just scrape it back into the mixing bowl and correct with either more water or masa harina, depending on what’s required.

NOTE: You’re going to roll each ball between two pieces of cling wrap (Saran Wrap). Some of the videos suggested waxed paper or using a Ziploc bag cut in half. DON’T! They’re too stiff and increase the odds of tearing the dough when you peel it off.

NOTE: The cling wrap will become less clingy with each tortilla, so use the same pieces for all the tortillas. Less clingy is a good thing – this makes it easier to peel it off.

Place one 8″ piece of cling wrap on a smooth surface. Put one ball in the center and press with fingers until it’s 1/2″ thick. The edges will become jagged.

corn tortilla smash

Keeping your fingers on the disc, use your other hand and press in sides to smooth out edges. The edges will still end up slightly jagged, but much less so by doing this step.

corn tortilla sides

Lay down another piece of 8″ cling wrap at a 45° angle from the bottom cling wrap (so the corners DON’T line up). This will make it easier to separate the two pieces when you peel away the cling wrap.

Smash the disc with a flat object which is at least 5″ in diameter – such as a saucepan, plate, or plastic container. This will start the rolling process.

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Place a rolling pin at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock position, and lightly roll back and forth 4 times to about 1/2″ from the edges.

corn tortilla roll

NOTE: Be sure not to roll the pin over the edge and off the tortilla, or the edge will become too thin and it will be impossible to remove the cling wrap without tearing the dough.

Now turn the rolling pin 90° to the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock position, and roll again the same way. Then again at 10 o’clock and 4 o’clock; and again at 1 o’clock and 7 o’clock.

Repeat the entire rolling process 3 or 4 more times, until the circle is about 5″ in diameter.

Heat the dry griddle (no oil) to medium heat. Give it a minute to warm the surface before attempting to remove the cling wrap from the first tortilla – you want the griddle ready to go once the cling wrap is off since the longer the tortilla is on your hand, the more likely it is to stick to it.

Remove the top piece of cling wrap by grabbing a corner and carefully peeling it away. The top layer is pretty straight forward since it’s laying on the counter. However, if you notice the dough starting to crack – STOP. Try peeling from another corner – you may be able to salvage it. If it keeps tearing, the dough is probably too wet. Scrap the dough off, reform the ball, and begin again.

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Now comes the tricky part – removing the bottom cling wrap. Lay one hand with fingers spread over the tortilla and, putting your other hand underneath the tortilla, flip so that the top hand is on the bottom and bottom hand is on top. The tortilla is still in the middle.

corn tortilla hand on dough

If the tortilla is bigger than your hand, let it hang over on only one side (this is a weak spot). Pick a spot to begin slowly peeling away the cling wrap. Work your way down to the dangling part at the end (unless there is no dangling part) so it doesn’t tear.

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NOTE: You can’t repair a torn tortilla – it’s not like a wheat flour dough. Just scrap it off and start again. You’ll get the hang of it.

NOTE: It’s never too late to adjust the masa harina/water proportions. If at any point you believe the dough is too wet or too dry, go ahead and smash all the balls together and make the correction. (Needless to say, you CAN’T correct a cooked tortilla.)

Flip the dough back to the other hand. (This is the final test to see if the dough is too wet.) If the dough is stuck to your palm and won’t drop out, squish it into a ball and began again. If it transfers without tearing, flip it immediately onto the griddle since the longer it lays on your warm palm, the more likely it will stick.

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NOTE: If the tortilla doesn’t drop onto the griddle flat, DON’T take a spatula to adjust – the dough is too mushy. Let it cook for 30 seconds to firm up before manoeuvring  it.

Cook the first side about 1 minute. The edges will become slightly whiter.

corn tortilla cooked edge

Flip and cook another minute.

NOTE: In some of the videos I watched, their tortillas puffed up. Mine never did and it didn’t seem to matter. They were still delicious and rolled perfectly for enchiladas.

When each is done, place in the center of a tea towel and fold in all 4 corners to cover. This will keep them moist and warm.

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Good luck! Homemade corn tortillas are worth the effort! With a little practice you’ll be able to whip up a few tortillas whenever you want – without having to buy a pack of 10!

 

 

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TOFU PASTA SATAY – A Busy Day Favorite

Tofu Pasta Satay

It goes without saying that I do a LOT of cooking. And I enjoy it. Really, I DO! (Although, not crazy about the washing up!)

However, there are times when I want a fast and easy, yet healthy dinner for my family. When I’m in that mood, TOFU PASTA SATAY is one of my go-to recipes. Bonus – leftovers make a delicious next-day lunch.

While I chose broccoli, red pepper, carrots, and snow peas for my add-ins, you can play fast and loose with your choices, gearing it to suit your taste.

NOTE: The satay sauce can be frozen so, if you like it, next time make extra and freeze it in portion sized containers for future use.

TOFU PASTA SATAY – makes about 6 cups

  • 6 oz tofu
  • 2 cups (6 oz) uncooked spiral pasta (I use multi colored)
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • about 10 snow peas, remove threads from sides
  • 1 cup broccoli pieces
  • 1/3 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 T Sriracha sauce
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • spicy peanuts (I use Chipotle flavor)
  • 3/4 cup Satay Sauce (recipe below)

Press out the excess water from the tofu by placing it on a plate and covering it with another plate. Pour off the water from time to time as you prepare the rest of the recipe. When it seems like not much water is draining, cube the tofu into bite sized pieces, then marinate in the Sriracha and soy sauce.

Cook the pasta. Make sure you don’t overcook it – it will absorb liquid from the Satay Sauce. Drain when done.

Steam the red pepper, broccoli, carrots, and snow peas 1 minute, then remove from heat source and refrigerate. You don’t want to cook the veggies – just break down the fibers a wee bit so they’re more palatable.

In large bowl, combine the steamed veggies, pasta, scallions, tofu, and Satay Sauce. Add peanuts just before serving.

SATAY SAUCE – makes about 3/4 cup

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (any kind)
  • 1 T hot sauce
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • about 2 – 4 T water

In a saucepan, over low heat, combine the peanut butter, hot sauce, soy sauce, curry powder, garlic powder, and pepper flakes. Begin adding water 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved. You may even need more water, depending on the thickness of your peanut butter. The sauce should be thick enough to stick to the salad, but thin enough to spread throughout the pasta.

 

 

 

 

 

LEMON RICE – A Tangy Addition To Boring Brown Rice!

lemon rice with textLemons are one of those ingredients constantly called on to perk up a recipe – from soup to dessert.  Sadly, we’re unable to grow a lemon tree on our property. I was bemoaning this fact after coming across a tempting recipe in my Mousewood cookbook for Lemon Rice, when my friend, Julie, brought a bag of lemons from her tree. Serendipity!

The recipe calls for brown rice. I was a little leery that the lemony taste would be lost using brown rice, and considered switching to white, which would certainly lend itself to a prominent lemon flavor. Of course, brown is a healthier choice, so I decided to follow the recipe. Then, I figured, in for a pound, in for a penny, and went with Brown Rice Medley (a blend of long grain brown rice, black barley, and daikon radish seeds) from Trader Joe’s.

Fabulous! The lemon performed perfectly, and the rice blend offered a nice bite.

LEMON RICE is very easy to make, but do bear in mind the cooking time of the rice – about 35-40 minutes – and plan accordingly.

NOTE: Continuing my duties as Queen of Freeze, since this recipe only calls for egg yolks, I must remind you that the whites freeze well. Be sure to label the container!

LEMON RICE – makes about 2 cups

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice (I used Brown Rice Medley from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 T butter
  • 2¼ cups water
  • 3/4 tsp salt (I used kosher)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 T lemon juice (I used Meyers lemons)
  • 2 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Melt butter in saucepan and sauté rice 3 minutes. Add in water and salt, and bring to a boil. Cover with lid, leaving it slightly askew to allow steam to escape, and lower flame to keep water at a simmer. When water is nearly all absorbed (about 30 minutes or so), turn off flame, fit lid completely on saucepan, and let sit for about 10 minutes to finish cooking. (This helps prevent burning the rice – been there, done that!)

In a small bowl, stir together the yolks, lemon juice, parsley, and cheese. Pour into rice and blend well. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

VEGETARIAN “BEEF” SALSA BURRITOS – Fast And Filling!

"BEEF" SALSA BURRITOS

“BEEF” SALSA BURRITOS

Now that I make my own flour tortillas, “BEEF” SALSA BURRITOS are a go-to dinner for when I’m looking for a last minute meal that’s fast and hearty. The reason is because the main ingredients for this dish are always on-hand in my kitchen: imitation canned beef, jarred salsa, and frozen spinach. If I happen to have fresh spinach, I’ll use that, but I always keep some frozen for emergencies (such as hungry children who won’t eat vegetables except when you sneak it in things so they can’t see it).

You’ll notice “cheese” is on the ingredient list. If you don’t happen to have any, make them anyway – “BEEF” SALSA BURRITOS are still tasty.

To those of you leery of making the tortillas, then you’ll have to buy them. But I encourage you to try – they’re very easy, especially if you have a food processor. Not only are homemade healthier, but you can make just the amount you need, rather than the packaged dozen you have to buy. Since they don’t freeze well, you either have to eat them up or throw them out…and you know how I HATE waste! Click on FLOUR TORTILLAS to learn how.

NOTE:  I would be remiss in my duty as Queen of Freeze if I didn’t point out that the filling for “BEEF” SALSA BURRITOS can be frozen for future use. If you like the recipe (make sure you try it first), next time make double or triple batches and freeze them in portion sized containers. Then, all you’ll need for that crazy no-time-or-energy-to-cook night is to make or buy the tortillas.

“BEEF” SALSA BURRITOS – makes 4 cups filling

  • 1¼ cup thicky & chunky salsa, any spice level (I like medium)
  • 1½ T chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 can (or 1 lb) fake ground beef (I use Loma Linda’s Redi-Burger)IMG_0212
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach (or 8 oz frozen)
  • shredded cheese (I use medium cheddar)
  • about 6 flour tortillas (depending on how much filling you use each)

Into a 10″ skillet or medium sized saucepan, put the salsa, chili powder, and cumin. Mix. Add in the fake meat. Over a medium flame, break up the “beef” (a flat headed wooden stirrer works best) and blend together.

Stir in the spinach with the burner still on for a few minutes. Then, turn the burner off, cover pan, and let sit another 5 minutes to allow the spinach to cook.

Spoon filling into tortillas, roll up, and top with extra salsa (if desired) and cheese. Microwave 1-2 minutes, until heated through.