The Little Mexican Cooking School-Tortillas

July22

As Sister #3 mentioned earlier, tortillas are made both from corn and white flour, depending upon whether corn or wheat is the most prevalent crop in the region.  I have never attempted to make my own tortillas and watched eagerly for tips at The Little Mexican Cooking School, in case I got adventurous back home.  Sister #3 who is more at home with Mexican cooking even owns her own tortilla press.  But she does find the process far more complicated than it looks.  Kind of like watching a figure skater and wondering how they make something so difficult, appear so effortless.

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Wherever we dine on Isla Mujeres, stacks of these are delivered to the table to accompany almost every dish.  A trip to the tortilla maker equates to a visit to the baker in Europe or (I am ashamed to say) the bakery department of the grocery store in North America. On this day at The Little Mexican Cooking School,  in Puerto Moreles we made corn tortillas and the ingredients are simple: 4 cups of corn flour and 2 1/2 cups of water.  But, as uncomplicated as the ingredients are, the procedure is an art form.  Mix the corn flour and water, little by little and knead to form a “masa”.  If it’s too dry add a little more water, if too wet, add a little more flour.  Then pinch off a piece of masa and roll it into a golf ball sized sphere.

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Set the ball onto the tortilla press between 2 pieces of plastic. Press the masa, flip and press again for uniform thickness.  Transfer to a hot, dry skillet.  Cook for about 30 seconds on one side, gently turn and cook for about 60 seconds on the 2nd side, turn back to the 1st side for another 30 seconds.  Remove and keep warm.

Chef Christrobal demonstrated this and two other ways to form the tortilla.

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By hand, where the masa is constantly passed back and forth between the palms and flipped and pressed with each motion.  The hand motion was fluid and mesmerizing and we could all see that Chef Christrobal had been proficient at the process for a very long time.

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The third way was between two pieces of plastic on a hard surface where the masa was constantly pressed and pounded (gently) into shape.  Chef Christrobal also sent us home with these tips:

Making tortillas is not difficult, but the right portion of wet and dry is key.  The standard ratio is: 2 cups of corn flour to about 1 1/4 to 1 1/3 cups of water.  The tortilla dough can be worked with your hands without suffering.  It needs to be moist enough to stick together in a ball, but not so moist as to stick to the press like glue.

When making tortillas, the masa can dry out quickly.  Keep it covered with a damp cloth while you are working.

The use of a heavy gauge pan or griddle is important.  You are cooking at a high heat on a dry surface, and a lighter weight utensil can warp.  If you don’t have a comal, a heavy electric frying pan or cast iron skillet both work well.

Brown spots on your tortillas are good-an indication that they are handmade.

Put your tortilla in a breathable container, wrapped in a kitchen towel to keep warm and tender.  Corn tortillas can also be made 2 hours in advance, wrapped and reheated.  Reheat them in a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes or in a microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Kath’s quote: “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”-Julia Child

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 


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