Making corn tortillas from scratch is an incredibly simple process with the help of a tortilla press. And I promise it is worth the effort because freshly made corn tortillas absolutely blow away the store-bought bagged version. All you have to do is take a warm homemade tortilla out of the hot pan, sprinkle a little shredded Monterey Jack cheese inside, fold the tortilla over so the cheese can melt, and dig right in with a big bite to know exactly what I am talking about. Yum! And trust me – do not try to take shortcuts by making these without a tortilla press (pictured below) because as far as I’m concerned rolling them out by hand is an impossible task. I’ve tried it several times only to fail miserably so I just want to save you the trouble.
The key ingredient to corn tortillas is “masa harina.” Even though this corn flour does not say “whole grain” on the package I’ve been told it is an exception to the rule. According to the Whole Grains Council, masa harina is not labeled “whole grain” because of the process that’s used to make the flour. Manufacturers start by soaking the corn kernels in an alkali solution; next the liquid is poured off; then the corn is dried and the remaining whole kernels are ground into flour. The thought is that some of the corn is lost when the liquid is drained, but the Council says the loss is so minimal that the end product is very close to a whole grain flour.
- 2 cups masa harina (whole corn flour that is found in the baking aisle – not to be confused with corn meal)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Between 1¼ cup and 1⅓ cup warm water
- Oil spray, tortilla press, and preferably a cast iron skillet for cooking
- Blend the masa harina and salt with a whisk or fork.
- Pour in the warm water. I heat my water in a glass measuring cup in the microwave for 1 minute.
- Stir together the mixture with a wooden spoon until dough starts to form…not too sticky and not too dry. Add more water or flour if necessary. Finish mixing the dough with your hands. You can also mix the dough in a Kitchen Aid Mixer with the dough blade.
- Make a log out of the dough (pictured). Cut it into twelve equal pieces by first cutting down the middle, then cutting each piece in half again, then cutting the remaining pieces into thirds until you have twelve pieces.
- Roll each piece into a round ball. Flatten each ball onto a cutting board then cover the entire board (and dough) with plastic wrap.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over med-high/high heat. It is important to let the pan heat up thoroughly before you start cooking the tortillas. So let the empty pan heat up while the dough rests under the plastic wrap for 10 – 15+ minutes. By the time I am ready to cook my tortillas my pan is smoking a little.
- Flatten the dough balls into tortillas with a tortilla press by doing the following (pictured below)…1. Cover the inside of the top and bottom of the press with plastic wrap,
2. Place one dough ball at a time on the bottom of the press, and
3. Close the top and push down on the handle as hard as you can.
To ensure the dough is pressed evenly you can flip the tortilla around 180 degrees and press again. It’s that simple!
- Spray some oil onto the hot smoking cast iron skillet and then toss in the first tortilla. It only takes a minute to cook on each side (be sure you flip it once). You don’t want the tortilla to cook too much longer than a minute or two because it will start to become stiff.
Keep the tortillas warm and covered until all of them are done.