Sunday, January 9, 2011

Make it Better Yourself- Fresh Corn Tortillas

This will be the first of a regular series of blog posts about making your own food items at home. Sure, you can buy corn tortillas in the store and they really aren’t too expensive, but I honestly don’t love how they taste. I think most store tortillas have a strong hominy-ish flavor and are too soggy and soft. When I make fresh tortillas they are a little bit crisp, and they are always better when they are still warm. 

Is that enough of a reason to bother to make my own corn tortillas? Maybe not- but there is another big reason why I make some foods at home that I could easily purchase in the store. Do you ever read ingredient labels on the foods you buy? I do. I like to know what I’m eating. I looked on the Ole Mexican foods website, and here are the ingredients listed for white corn tortillas: Corn (ground treated with calcium hydroxide and water), Water, sodium propionate (propionic acid, sodium hydroxide), methylparaben, propylparaben, gum blend, sorbic acid, dextrose.  Yeah, I knew I didn’t want to eat those. Why not? Read here about parabens being found in breast cancer tumors. Yum.  If you need any other reason,  I always consider the fact that the more food I prepare and cook at home, the less likely I am to be the recipient of contaminated food. If you think this sounds a little to conspiracy theorist for your tastes, read here about a recent recall on foods containing hydrolyzed vegetable protein that includes everything from crab cheese spreads to onion soup mix to all Tom’s barbeque flavored chips. 

Anyway, I like tortillas that are made of salt, water, and maize, also known as corn flour. Pretty basic.  In addition to these few ingredients, I also own a tortilla press for shaping (but you could use two flat bottom plates), and I use plastic wrap to line the press for easy tortilla removal. 

The tortilla flour is easy to prepare. On the bag, you will find a chart indicating how much water and salt to mix with the flour. The dough might be crumbly, and this is normal. Use your hands to squeeze it into a large ball. If it won't hold together, add a bit more water, but you want it to be kind of dry. When you have formed the ball, you can divide it according to how many tortillas you are making, or you can do it as you go. You want to keep a clean, damp paper towel or dish towel on top of the flour bowl so your dough does not dry out. Put a ball of maize on the press between the sheets of plastic wrap, and press away!
Next is the slightly tricky part. The raw tortilla will be a bit brittle and is easy to break. Hold the top sheet of plastic wrap down and lift the top plate so it comes up alone without the plastic wrap or the dough. Gingerly remove the top sheet from the tortilla...
 and use the bottom sheet to flip the tortilla into the palm of your hand. Have a dry skillet heated on medium waiting and throw that sucker in. 

Leave it for about 50 seconds and admire your adorable kitchen helper and her dino buddy.

When you flip the tortilla, it will look different. There may be some slightly browned areas, and it will look dry like the tortillas you have purchased before, only more delicious. It will now hold together well. Cook it on the other side for 40 to 50 seconds, and then throw it in a folded clean kitchen towel to keep it warm while you cook the others. You can stack them as you go; they will not stick together. 
So what do you make with them? The only thing limiting you is your culinary imagination. You can round up the usual suspects- beef or chicken, cheese, iceberg lettuce, sour cream, etc. and make any number of Mexican delights. Here on the farm, we like to veg out:

I topped ours with chopped garlic, onions, and cabbage, and threw some cauliflower and black beans into the mix. I grated a bit of parmesan cheese on top and put them on our pizza stone in a 400 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes (until brown at edges).  
My husband chopped some fresh avocado and tomato for the top, and we dressed them up with a little hot sauce. I also love to use plain, fresh yogurt, but the batch I had started was not yet ready to eat. This is the kind of food that makes me feel good when I eat it, and I feel good feeding it to my husband too. The baby isn't there yet...but those teeth are threatening to poke through any day now, and then all bets are off!


  1. Ooooh, I'll be giving these a try! Thank you!

  2. Cool! Do you cook a lot? I used to, but I don't get as much time now. Sometimes I just put the baby in the hiking backpack and give her a kitchen whisk while I cook. You'd think it was the best toy ever :)

  3. I was very interested in your links regarding parabens and also food additive... not sure if it's the same in Australia but usually if it has a number or a name that is not basic (flour, water, salt etc) then I avoid it. I make nearly everything we eat - no frozen, packet or tinned foods if we can help it. Thanks for the tortilla recipe.... not only basic stuff and no add ons but they don't cost a fortune to make and they are quicker than running to the shop to buy them!

  4. Thank you! I try to make a lot from scratch, but I do depend on some canned and frozen stuff now that I have less time (mobile baby!)Do you do any canning yourself? I always try to set aside some tomato sauce, pickly stuff, relish, and jam, but the jam never makes it very far. That is one thing that is often loaded with junk, and it is sooooo good with just fruit and sugar!


Thanks for stopping at Farmhouse Garden! I love to hear from you...