Saturday, June 20, 2009

Corn Tortillas

From left: My dad's Aunt Nellie, me, my mom, little Bucksnort, and Jimmy and Jerry's Grandpa

One of my favorite childhood vacation memories comes from a quick trip over the border with my family from Nogales, Arizona into Nogales, Mexico, back when I was 8 or 9.* We walked around the town, and were attracted by the sound of laughter and hand-clapping coming from down an alley. We followed our ears and peeked through an open door into a tortilla factory, where some laughing women were chattering in Spanish and patting out tortillas by hand. I never forgot the sound and the wonderful smells.

When I grew up, I wanted to recreate some of that experience for my family as far as I could. I got my recipe for tortillas from Sunset's Mexican Cook Book. The link is to a much newer edition than mine. My copy was published in 1974 and is falling apart through years of use. There may be more authentic ways to make tortillas, but at the time this was the best information available to me.

You will need a tortilla press to make these, although you are welcome to try the hand-clapping method, just as I did at first. We got our press from because we were living in New Hampshire at the time. Now that we live in New Mexico, I suppose we could get one in just about any hardware store.

2 cups Masa Harina (dehydrated masa flour)
1 1/2 cups warm water

Mix masa flour with warm water until dough holds together well. Using your hands, shape the dough into a smooth ball. Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized pieces, then roll each into a ball.

Press each small ball between waxed paper pieces in the tortilla press.

Peel off the top piece of waxed paper carefully. Invert the tortilla, paper side up, onto a preheated, ungreased medium-hot griddle. As the tortilla becomes warm, you will be able to peel of the remaining paper.

Bake, turning frequently, until the tortilla looks dry and is lightly flecked with brown specks--about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Serve tortillas while still warm.

*This was the same vacation as when we visited Jimmy and Jerry's Grandpa's ranch.

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