Saturday, January 20, 2007

How to Make Really (Really) Good Tortillas

Okay, I've been playing in the tortilla dough again, but this time I have adequate tools to do the job. Here's my recipe, with pictures so you can play along at home.

4 cups flour (the higher the gluten content the better)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup fat - (either shortening, butter or lard - melted but just warmed, not hot)
1 cup hot (but not boiling) water

Put dry ingredients in mixer bowl with dough hook attachment.
Turn mixer on lowest speed.
Pour in melted fat and water around edge of bowl.
Mix until dough is smooth and elastic.
(You can get flames for your mixer at or follow the sidebar link under "stuff I dig right this minute")

When the dough is the right consistency, wrap it up in plastic wrap & let it rest for about 10-15 minutes.

While the dough is resting, pre-heat your tortilla press pre-cooker and comal (tortilla griddle), both available from Tortilla Cocina Mexican Cookware if you don't have a store near you that carries these items.

Line the tortilla warmer with a couple of paper towels. This gadget, also available from Tortilla Cocina, keeps the tortillas warm for a long time. Your favorite Mexican restaurant may serve tortillas in a similar container. If you don't have one of these, you can cover the hot tortillas with a clean dish towel.

Once the dough has rested, pinch off a golfball sized chunk and roll it into a ball.

Flatten your doughball a little and place it off-center in your tortilla press. This one heats up and pre-cooks the dough a little, making them easier to handle. Don't let it preheat too long before you use it or it will get too hot, precook the dough too much and make a loud squeaking noise when you press down the lever. If this happens, unplug the press and let it cool by leaving it open for a couple of minutes, then replug and start again.

Close the press.

Pull the handle/lever over and press down, but not too much. If the tortilla is pressed too thin, it will wind up crispy like a saltine cracker.

Remove the tortilla from the press. Be careful not to burn your fingers.

Lay out the pressed tortillas on a clean surface.

Place the tortilla on the pre-heated (medium heat) comal. You should hear a little sizzle. The dough may puff up, or not. Either way is normal.

After about 30 seconds, give it a flip.

After about 30 more seconds put the tortilla in the warmer and put the lid on.

Store any uncooked tortillas in a zipper bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. The cooked ones will also keep in a zipper bag in the refrigerator for up to a week although usually they don't last long enough to worry about storage.

Never - ever - wash the comal except for the first time you take it out of the box. Just wipe it off. The more it is used the less it sticks. Detergents remove this natural non-stickiness and will make the comal rust. This is bad news for you and worse for your tortillas.

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