Toasting Tortillas Without Toil

Nothing can compare to a fresh, hot, homemade tortilla. I remember as a kid, my mom would give us tortillas right off the griddle sprinkled with a little cinnamon, sugar and butter. They were heavenly and  simple to make (if you use the prepared flour).

Mayo Indian Lady Making Tortillas in Mexico's Copper Canyon
Mayo Indian lady making
tortillas in Mexico’s Copper

When you order a tortilla in Spain or South America you’ll receive an omelette—layers of eggs, potatoes and seasonings. But in the U.S., we are familiar with the tortillas of Mexico, kind of flat bread or pancakes. Meals are served with, in or on tortillas made of corn or wheat flour. Tortillas are very versatile and can be wrapped around fillings to make burritos and enchiladas, folded and filled to make tacos, served flat like a plate for a tostada, baked into a bowl for salads, or served like bread with a meal. Since 1985, NASA shuttle missions have been using tortillas to solve their food handling problems and eliminate bread crumbs in the instrument panels.

The Tortilla has become a regular food staple in most kitchens and can be found in every local grocery store. They are almost as common as a loaf of bread.

Of course you can’t beat the tortillas made in the traditional way in Mexico, such as the ones we enjoy on our trips to Mexico’s Copper Canyon , the Yucatan and Chiapas, but you can do a pretty good job of making them yourself.

The traditional way of making tortillas includes curing the corn in lime water until the hulls peel off, then grinding it with a stone mano (a cylinder-shaped stone similar to a rolling pin) and metate (a stone with a concave top for holding the corn). I usually skip this step, as it can be very time consuming.

3 cups flour (wheat, all-purpose or maza harina /corn flour)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
5-6 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups warm water (mas o minos/more or less)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening or lard using a pastry cutter or criss-cross two knives.

If the mixture crumbles, you do not have enough shortening or it is not mixed. If it is a hard ball then you need to add more flour.

Add the warm water and mix the dough quickly by hand moving it around the sides to pick up any flour remaining in the bowl. Continue to knead the dough until it is soft and no longer sticky.

Cover the dough with a towel or plastic wrap to let it rest for about 5 to 10 minutes. Letting the dough set allows the water and flour to mix and will give you a softer tortilla after cooking.

Take your ball of dough and begin forming 1-inch diameter balls. Pat each between your hands, turning and patting until it is shaped like a fat disk. Place it aside and continue to do with the rest of dough.

On a lightly floured surface take one of the dough patties and begin to roll it out until you the dough is about 1/8-inch thick and 8 to 10 inches in diameter.

Heat your comal, or heavy griddle, over medium to medium-high heat.  You will have to adjust
the heat after the first couple of tortillas. Heat till brown spots form, usually about 30 seconds each side.

Pull the tortillas off the griddle and lay them inside a folded towel or tortilla warmer until ready to serve.  You can use these to make tacos, enchiladas or burritos. Or, butter one up and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar for special treat. Can’t get any better!

Makes approximately 2 dozen tortillas

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