Tuesday, 26 June 2012

White Corn Tortillas


Tortillas! Those amazingly tasty little latin american envelopes of goodness!

This tortilla making phase was brought on by my disgust in ALL the supermarket brands and the exorbitant price of the tortillas in the health food shop. I mean come on - they are basically flour and water! How can you get away with charging $2 per tortilla in a grocery store, or if you refuse to pay that much, the only other option is bland, wheat tortillas laden with Preservatives 202 and 222 and many other numbers.

Give me some corn tortillas! I don't even need to fill them with anything - brush on some melted butter and sprinkle on some brown sugar and I'll happily eat twenty. 

But... it wasn't that easy i'm afraid. My first 5 batches were too tough, too crunchy, had no flavour, cracked when they were rolled into burritos. I cooked them too long, let them rest too little, used the wrong flour, and in general, my results were what you would expect from a gringo making tortillas.

That was, until I met Masa Lista. And Mr. Michael Suas. I have mentioned my Advanced Bread and Pastry book, written by Suas, and I have mentioned before how all the recipes are fabulous. I have not mentioned Masa Lista before, so, to this fantastic flour, I welcome you to fig and walnut. I hope we will be seeing a lot more of you in the future. From what I understood from the lady at Casa Iberica in Fitzroy, the difference between Masa Lista and Masa Harina is that Masa Lista is used for tortillas. But isn't Masa Harina also used for making tortillas you ask? Yes. I believe it is. So what is the difference? As the lovely spanish lady at the counter in Casa Iberica informs me, Masa Lista is treated with lime. But hold on - isn't Masa Harina also treated with lime? Yes. I believe that is also true. So what is the difference, I asked again? Well the difference, she says, is that this (points to the bag of Masa Lista) is Masa Lista, and that (points to the bag of Masa Harina) is Masa Harina. Oh! Well in that case....

After a few more queries, I left the shop with the Masa Lista, which the woman eventually assured me was better for making tortillas. In fact the front of the bag said in big letters - FOR MAKING TORTILLAS. So, who was I to argue? Masa Lista it was.

And Masa Lista it shall always be! At home I googled it, and sifting through a whole lot of not useful information, I ascertained that Masa Lista is a White Corn flour, and Masa Harina is a Yellow corn flour. I don't know how they got that way and what is actually done to each one, but I think I shall just have to accept that I am going to remain in the dark on this one. For the time being anyway...

So this recipe is for...

White Corn Tortillas

Yield: About 10 tortillas depending on the size you roll them out to

280 grams corn flour (Masa Harina, Masa Lista)
190 grams plain unbleached flour (I use wholemeal flour)
280 grams water
4 grams salt

Mix all together with your hands or in a stand mixer until combined and forms a ball. If it doesn't come together than add more water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, incorporating fully before adding more and stopping just as it comes together. We don't want a sticky dough. There are many reasons you may need to vary the water, but some of the main ones are the type of flour used, the environment, and the country in which you purchase your flour - US flour is very different to Australian flour for example.

Leave to rest for 15 - 20 minutes, covered with a tea towel. Divide into medium sized balls - as a rough guide they should weigh somewhere around 85 grams if you want them large, or less if you want them smaller.

Some people have a tortilla press - I don't bother with this. I roll the dough into a close to perfect ball, place a long piece of cling wrap on the bench, place the dough on top. Fold the cling wrap in half over the top of the dough - loosely as there has to be room to for the dough to stretch out. Place a heavy pan on top and push down as hard as you can. You can twist the pan about if you need to, but flatten until it is tortilla thickness. If you are having trouble getting them that flat you can lift off the pan and use a rolling pin to flatten (leaving the cling wrap on) but be careful as rolling will lead to odd shaped tortillas.

Heat a skillet or a cast iron grill plate, or a flat BBQ plate until it is very hot. You can choose whether or not to brush with oil - I don't but try both ways as I believe it is personal preference.

Place a tortilla on the hot pan, flipping when spots are starting to brown and the dough looks cooked through. You can tell when it is cooked as the dough surface will go paler. Some parts that are not directly touching the pan will not cook as quickly but as you don't want to overcook (this will lead your tortillas to crack when you roll them), so just press those parts onto the pan with the back of your tongs. 

Keep in a warm oven until serving!