Making tortillas at home has been a game changer for us recently. The process is super simple and fairly fast, and the tortillas are so much better than store bought. I can hardly claim to be an expert at tortillas, but I did want to share some observations I’ve made during my attempts with our new tortilla press kit that might help those of you trying to make corn tortillas for the first time.
First, the ratio of masa to water. How much water you use will vary depending on the moisture content of the masa you’re using, as well as the humidity levels where you’re making them. I’ve been using Bob’s Red Mill Organic Masa Harina, and I find that I need slightly less than equal amounts of water to masa, somewhere around 3/4 cup water to 1 cup of masa. But, I made tortillas recently on day of record-breaking heat and single-digit humidity, and I found that I needed more water than usual as the moisture in the tortillas was evaporating so quickly. So I would recommend starting on the lower end and adding more water as necessary, as you mix. You want the masa to be fully hydrated, but the dough shouldn’t stick to your hands.
Once the dough has sat and hydrated for a bit, and you’ve kneaded it well, you can start pressing. Pinch off about 1.5 oz of dough, about 1.5-2” diameter, and roll into into a ball with your palms. Line the press with parchment paper and place the ball slightly off-center towards the hinge of the press (as the action of pressing will move it towards you slightly). Lower the lid and give it one good press. I usually find that that does the job with this press, no need to press multiple times or rotate the tortilla. If the edges of your tortilla are coming out raggedy, that suggests the dough is not hydrated enough. You can always peel it off, add it back to the dough bowl, adjust water or masa, and start again.
You can experiment with adding things, like edible flowers (squash blossoms are great) to decorate the tortillas. If using squash blossoms, it's best to slice them in half lengthwise so they're less thick. These tortillas fry up better in a little oil or butter (traditional tortillas don't cook in fat) and they work better for something like a quesadilla, as they don't fold as well.
While you're pressing, you should have a pan or comal heating. Our Mineral B Fry Pans work great for this — the best surface will be a heavy, seasoned steel, like a carbon steel or cast iron. Heat it pretty hot, as you want the tortillas to cook quickly before they totally dry out. You don’t need any oil in the pan. Once you have one pressed, carefully peel it off of the parchment and lay it in the hot pan. Repeat that until the pan is full, but don’t overlap or overcrowd the tortillas. One or two at a time is fine if that’s all you have space for. Cook for about 30-60 seconds, then flip and cook another 30-60 seconds.
When each tortilla is done, place it on a tea towel on a plate and fold the edges up over it. Keep stacking them like this wrapped in the towel. The towel is actually crucial — it helps regulate the moisture in the cooked tortillas, as it traps some of the steam to keep them moist, while also allowing excess to escape so they don’t become mush. It’s a simple thing that works very well.
The tortillas will keep well in the towel until they cool. They’re best fresh, but if you want to make extra and store them for later, make sure to refrigerate them in an airtight container. Because they’re so simple to make, I try to only make as many at a time as we’ll eat.