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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!