Sunday Morning Ritual – Homemade Tortillas

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For the second Sunday in a row, I find myself kneading dough before it’s really even bright outside. Usually, our two dogs use this time to stare at me, hoping I will drop some dough bits, and this weekend, we’re watching my parents’ dog, too, so there are three sets of eyes watching me intently. We’ve gotten into the routine of having homemade breakfast burritos around here every workday, so when my amazing husband bought me a comal (off my Pinterest wishlist!) for my birthday, I saw no reason why we should continue to buy tortillas if we eat them almost daily.

I’ve made corn tortillas by hand a couple times, with the help of an aluminum tortilla press like this one, but more often, I’ve made arepas, the chubby primos of the tortilla. In the past, I’ve found that no matter how good the masa is, the flavor is not quite right if we cook it in a regular pan. Now, the seasoned comal gives our tortillas the perfect blistering on the outside, and imparts flavor as only cast iron can.

Last weekend, I opted for a traditional soft flour tortilla recipe that comes from Mexican Cooking by Jane Milton – the cookbook we used for Mexican Week. The only thing I changed in the recipe was the fat – I used light olive oil margarine in place of lard. Everything else was the same.

I used a rolling pin to flatten each tortilla, instead of a press, and this worked well but I struggled to keep them round! There must be a secret to this… in any case, they still tasted delicious. The recipe yielded 17 or 18 tortillas –

The tortillas were great right out of the pan and at the beginning of the week, but as we neared Friday, the texture was definitely tougher, no matter how I tried to revive them and re-soften them for our burritos.

So, we talked about making corn tortillas for this coming week, but then we decided to try making a hybrid masa – one that has all of the flavor and texture of a corn tortilla but will hold up more like a flour tortilla.

I think the hybrid idea might have been my husband’s and let me tell you, it’s genius!!

Here’s what I did:

I went for a 50/50 mix of white AP flour and Maseca corn flour (about 1 3/4 cups each, I think) with a teaspoon of baking powder and a generous sprinkling of sea salt, mixed in about a half cup of light olive oil margarine (with my fingers) until it was nearly invisible in the flour, then added ice water until it formed a ball of dough. Like flour tortillas, I kneaded the dough for 10 minutes on the counter, adding a sprinkle of water when anything started to break away from the dough ball. After kneading the dough, I wrapped it in tin foil and let it sit on the counter.

Like with corn tortillas, I used a press to flatten each ball of dough. It works out well if the dough ball is slightly larger than 1″ around and with the little bit of fat in the dough, there’s no need to line the press with anything (I use two pieces of plastic wrap with corn-only dough).

I only pressed 3 tortillas at a time, since 3 fit perfectly in the comal. As they sit, steam should rise up around each tortilla. It’s important to note here that the comal should be dry, other than any oil left from the last time I cleaned and seasoned it. It doesn’t take long for the tortillas to get blistered, maybe a minute and a half, and the second side takes even less time.

My recipe yields about 2 dozen 3″ tortillas.

About halfway through your batch, you might notice the comal getting too hot – I turn it down a bit on our stove when this happens. Otherwise, the tortillas get black too fast without cooking the middle.

Tortillas that have already been cooked should hang out in a towel – they stay moist and warm that way. I even wrap the towel up with the tortillas when I put them in the fridge – it helps keep their texture fresh.

The wonderful thing about these tortillas is the flavor combination and the texture – it’s got all the nuttiness of the corn masa, but since it’s a kneaded dough, the tortillas actually come out flaky! They are flexible – ready to hold any toppings/fillings, and I can’t wait to use them this week! I just might change up our menu so that we have an excuse to eat more of them… =)

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Kat Salemno

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