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Making Tortillas at Home

Mexican

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#1 Jmahl

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 08:05 PM

So, you want to make tortillas. Not these store bought pieces of cardboard that come in plastic packages but real, fragrant, soft, delicious fresh tortillas.

1. To start you need the following tools;
a. a bowl,
b. tortilla press
Posted Image
c. cast iron comal
2. Supplies you need
a. Corn flour for tortillas (maseca) Posted Image
b. Hot water
3. To begin making the dough (masa)
a. A cup and a half of maseca
b. Add hot water and blend with spatula under a dough is formed, blend with your hands Posted Image
c. Heat the comal until medium hot and form masa into balls Posted Imageyou may perform your masa balls in a bowl Posted Image
d. Place a plastic sheet on your tortilla press and place your masa ball in the center. Posted Image
Put plastic on top Posted Image
and press gently.
Posted Image
e. Remove top plastic and carefully removed raw tortilla. Posted Image
f. Place on comal that has been previously lightly greased with Crisco or manteca. Posted Image
g. Turn over when after a very short while (you will learn with experience.) Posted Image
h. The tortilla will begin to cook – look for spots of browning on bottom side and turn again.Posted Image
i. The tortilla will begin to puff. Posted Image
j. When puffed remove to plate Posted Image
4. Repeat the process until all the masa is used up. Don’t eat all of your production – the aroma will drive your crazy. (don’t listen, eat with a little sea salt) (a tacito)

Now you need some Salsa Crudo and Guacamole estilo rancho Santa Fe del Pino.
1. Salsa,
a. Ingredients, 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, 3 roma tomatoes, half a small white onion and salt to taste.
b. in small fry pan cook with a small amount of oil peppers and tomatoes until skins are browned – remove, cool – skin and chop crudely.
c. Chop onion – sauté in small amount of oil and salt cook – add chopped tomato and peppers – add small amount of water. Cook short time (5 minutes)
2. Guacamole estilo Rancho Santa Fe del Pino.
a. Ripe Hess avocado, tomato, union, fresh cilantro pinch salt.
i. Chop tomato, union and cilantro Posted Image, Posted Image
ii. Cut avocado in half, seed and cut into squires Posted Image
Scoop from skin
Posted Image
iii. Blend ingredients Posted Image
(no lemon and no pits to keep it from turning - It doesn't need it and won't last that long)


iv. Eat

To eat: grill some beef, slice, serve with hot fresh tortillas, salsa, guacamole, frijoles al la chara – wash down with Jose Curvo Tradicional or Mexican beer or both.

Live -

Posted Image
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#2 mrbigjas

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 08:25 PM

wow, nice demo! thank you!

i have to admit that i only make tortillas sometimes, when i'm feeling like doing something a little special. the rest of the time i get them from a tex-mex place here in town that makes pretty nice ones. but they're definitely way better homemade...

#3 torakris

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Posted 12 June 2006 - 09:11 PM

This is incredible!
You have now convinced me I must purchase a tortilla press. :biggrin:

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#4 bandregg

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 12:58 PM

I like to add a scant amount of salt straight to the masa when blending. And, if you don't have a comal you can just use a regular skillet.
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#5 Nathan P.

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 01:06 PM

Nice picture set...

Any ideas on the likely reason my tortillas never puff up completely and evenly like the one in the photo? Temp, dough, pressing etc...???

I don't mix my own but buy premade masa at the local mexican markets and none of them ever get as puffy and as a result seem a bit dense. I have followed cooking directions from Bayless and Kennedy but neither have put me over the top to great tortillas.

#6 torakris

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 03:11 PM

Now that I am seriously considering the tortilla press.... Is there a specific one I should be looking for? any good online sites someone can point me to?

Maseca
Is this a brand name? I have only found one source for this in Japan and I have to buy it in bulk, 10 (1kg) bags, I am not sure I am ready for 10kgs... I know that I have seen other flour like products labeled masa or masa harina are these the same thing?

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#7 Jmahl

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 06:47 PM

Nice picture set...

Any ideas on the likely reason my tortillas never puff up completely and evenly like the one in the photo?  Temp, dough, pressing etc...??? 

I don't mix my own but buy premade masa at the local mexican markets and none of them ever get as puffy and as a result seem a bit dense.  I have followed cooking directions from Bayless and Kennedy but neither have put me over the top to great tortillas.

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Nathan:

Mexican wife says, temp. of comal is critical, not too hot, the first turn happens very early, no browning, just when tortilla starts to cook. To check, if tortilla slides on the comal it is ready to turn. Then you turn again when browning begins and it should puff.

Good luck

Jmahl
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#8 Jmahl

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 06:54 PM

Now that I am seriously considering the tortilla press.... Is there a specific one I should be looking for? any good online sites someone can point me to?

Maseca
Is this a brand name? I have only found one source for this in Japan and I have to buy it in bulk, 10 (1kg) bags, I am not sure I am ready for 10kgs... I know that I have seen other flour like products labeled masa or masa harina are these the same thing?

View Post


Dear Torakris:

Don't know of any online sites but press should be cast iron, not aluminium. I have seen some cheap ones from china and they are not very good. The press should be heavy.

To your question on Maseca. As pictured, yes, it is a brand name of a product made in Mexico that my wife prefers. However other brands of masa harina should work. My wife tell me that the use of hot water in the mix is critical.

Let us know.

Jmahl
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#9 misstenacity

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 07:00 PM

Yes, mine never puff out, either.

But when I've seen them made "live" at El Taco Tote, they are definitely first started on one section of the griddle, presumably at a lower temp, before being flipped and then moved to the hotter section where they almost immediately POOF out and start browning.

So, multiple cooking temps seems to be the key. I'll try it next time, but with my electric stove I think I'll have to use 2 burners rather than adjusting the temp on the fly....

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#10 Jmahl

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 07:04 PM

Yes, mine never puff out, either.

But when I've seen them made "live" at El Taco Tote, they are definitely first started on one section of the griddle, presumably at a lower temp, before being flipped and then moved to the hotter section where they almost immediately POOF out and start browning.

So, multiple cooking temps seems to be the key.  I'll try it next time, but with my electric stove I think I'll have to use 2 burners rather than adjusting the temp on the fly....

Andrea
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Wife says its the timing not two temperatures. She has been making them from the time she was a child. She says, practice, practice, practice. - She also says that the prepared masa she has tried was too heavy and did not puff. Go know.

Good eating,

Jmahl
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#11 dockhl

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 08:07 PM

Any chance of getting a similar tutorial for flour tortillas? My husband's dad used to make them and he is no longer alive---and we don't know how he did it ! I'd love to make some for my hubby for Father's Day :wub:

#12 docsconz

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 08:10 PM

Practice is definitely a factor for making good tortillas. It is not as easy as it looks until one gets the hang of the technique. One can make very good tortillas with the packaged masa, but not overwhelmingly great ones. For those, I think fresh ground masa may be necessary. Nevertheless the fresh tortillas will certainly beat the pre-packaged. Nice demo.
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#13 tazerowe

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Posted 14 June 2006 - 12:36 PM

I love making my own tortillas as well, but I can never get the shape or thickness right. Specifically, long before they are pressed thin enough, the edges crack such that I am left with something that hints at a rounded cross. It isn't completely that way, but far from round. I tried making a moister dough, thinking this would help, but then it just sticks to the plastic or wax paper and won't come off. Any suggestions?

#14 rancho_gordo

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Posted 14 June 2006 - 01:27 PM

I use a large wood mesquite press and fresh, real masa as I'm lucky enough to have access to it. I press it once, then pick up the tortilla and two plastic sheets and flip them over and press again. I press firmly but gently. If I do this twice, it seems to even out the width. it can be too thick or thin on one end because of the hinges.

I use a very hot comal made of steel that gets an occasional wipe of oil and once the tortilla "sets", I immediatley flip it until the bottom gets some brown flecks. I flip it again and I get a good puff about 95% of the time. I cook until there are nice brown flecks.

I was getting weird bubbles that I thought were from too wet a dough but it turns out I was dropping the tortillas too haphazard when you should really roll them evenly abnd carefully on to the hot comal.
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#15 MissAmy

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Posted 14 June 2006 - 01:33 PM

Mmmmmm... Homemade tortillas are the shiznit! When we lived in China, my mom used to make them all the time, as it was a lot easier to just bring in a crap-load of masa than it was to drag in sub-par packaged tortillas from Hong Kong. She would have to make them when my sister and I weren't home because as soon as they'd come off the comal, we'd grab them and eat them quick like lightening! She could never get enough made for her enchiladas with us around!

Next time you make them, grab on hot off the griddle, slap some butter and salt on to it, roll it up, and praise god for the manna that is fresh tortillas with butter.
-Sounds awfully rich!
-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

#16 Ed Ward

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 08:29 AM

dockhi, flour tortillas are easy! Take a cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and mix it all together. Then chop in (or, if you're lazy like me, whir in with your food processor) a couple of tablespoons of -- yup -- lard. Then a quarter cup of water, maybe a bit more depending on the ambient humidity, and mix until you've got a nice ball of dough, which you then let rest wrapped in a paper bag for around a half-hour.

Get out your flour again, put a little on a board, heat up a non-stick frying pan, take a small ball of dough, toss it in the flour, bring it out and flatten it with your hand on the board. Then take a rolling pin and -- the only bit of zen in this whole process -- make sure you apply the pressure mostly towards the center of the tortilla. Peel it off, stick it on the frying pan, start the next one. It'll bubble in a little while, at which point turn it, but don't let it sit too long or you won't be able to fold it. Stick finished tortillas in foil (or a tortilla warmer if you have one) while you make the rest.

This makes me about six 5" or so tortillas for potato-and-egg tacos on Sunday morning.

Wish I could get decent masa here in Berlin, but I understand the EU has made it illegal.

#17 torakris

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 08:19 PM

A couple more questions about the presses...

This site was very informative but I need more practical information.
What is the best size?
Can they be used with flour tortillas or even chapatis, or just with the corn tortillas?

The new cook off on crepes has me wanting a crepe pan as well, could tortillas be cooked in this? I really hate buying things that have only one purpose... :hmmm:

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#18 mrsadm

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 03:50 AM

A couple more questions about the presses...

This site was very informative but I need more practical information.
What is the best size?
Can they be used with flour tortillas or even chapatis, or just with the corn tortillas?

The new cook off on crepes has me wanting a crepe pan as well, could tortillas be cooked in this? I really hate buying things that have only one purpose... :hmmm:

View Post



I use a non-stick griddle, I don't think you need a special item like the comal. A cast iron skillet I think would work well, but something with low/no sides like a griddle will let you see the underside of the tortilla better to judge the cooking.

Gosh I didn't even know they were supposed to puff up! Better get cooking.... and see if I can get that to happen. But maybe next weekend - today I am working on my first empanadas.

Question for the experts here: does the freshness of the masa harina make a difference? I just wonder how long the bags have sat on the shelf at my grocer's in upstate New York. Is this a factor in the puffing up? (edited to add:) I'm sure the problem is my skill level, but I'd like to blame something else :wink:

Edited by mrsadm, 17 June 2006 - 03:55 AM.

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#19 rancho_gordo

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 05:15 AM

[I use a non-stick griddle, I don't think you need a special item like the comal.  A cast iron skillet I think would work well, but something with low/no sides like a griddle will let you see the underside of the tortilla better to judge the cooking.

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I think a cast iron is perfect. I keep hearing such bad things about non-stick at higher heats that it makes me a little nervous, although I don't know if it's been proven. If you get the cast iron, you can also pan roast chiles and slices of onion and bits of garlic, etc, which is handy.

I use a comal (steel and a ceramic one) but I love my toys.
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#20 mrbigjas

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 07:45 AM

A couple more questions about the presses...

This site was very informative but I need more practical information.
What is the best size?
Can they be used with flour tortillas or even chapatis, or just with the corn tortillas?

The new cook off on crepes has me wanting a crepe pan as well, could tortillas be cooked in this? I really hate buying things that have only one purpose... :hmmm:

View Post



to answer your second question: you can use a tortilla press for pretty much anything that needs to be pressed out that way. i saw martin yan use it to make dumpling wrappers one time.

and your third: if you have a relatively heavy steel crepe pan, i don't know why you couldn't use it. it seems like the thing has to be capable of holding a decent amount of heat, though, so probably a thin aluminum nonstick crepe pan wouldn't work as well. a cast iron skillet, or a griddle if you have one, works just fine, though.

#21 BarbaraY

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 08:07 AM

I learned to make flour tortillas when I was about 7 by watching our neighbor Lupe. After rolling with a short piece of dowel she would cook them directly on top of her wood range. Soooo good!

#22 Jmahl

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:46 PM

"Question for the experts here: does the freshness of the masa harina make a difference? I just wonder how long the bags have sat on the shelf at my grocer's in upstate New York. Is this a factor in the puffing up? (edited to add:) I'm sure the problem is my skill level, but I'd like to blame something else :wink:"

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Response,

Wife says, no, freshness is not a factor, however, the fresher the better. Check the date on the package.

Good Puffing,

Jmahl
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#23 Jmahl

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:49 PM

I learned to make flour tortillas when I was about 7 by watching our neighbor Lupe. After rolling with a short piece of dowel she would cook them directly on top of her wood range. Soooo good!

View Post



BarbaraY:

Have you ever tried whole wheat flour tortillas? SOOO Good. If you haven't you should.

Jmahl
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#24 jmcgrath

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:56 PM

The new cook off on crepes has me wanting a crepe pan as well, could tortillas be cooked in this? I really hate buying things that have only one purpose... :hmmm:

View Post

I make crepes in a small cast iron fry pan and it works just fine. Because of the heavier weight, it took some practice to get the batter swirled across the bottom evenly.

Jim

#25 Gabriel Lewis

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 06:10 PM

Ok so I just made corn tortillas for the first time using this very helpful guide and they turned out pretty well. By the time I made my last tortilla I had something of a setup going. I had a 10-inch fairly well seasoned cast iron frying pan well heated on medium heat. I would take a piece of masa dough and roll it into a 1-inch diamater ball before flattening it into a patty and placing it in the tortilla press. I would then place the tortilla in the pan and flip as soon as it would slide freely, I would then cook it on that side for about a minute before flipping it, at which point it would puff up immediately.

Sounds ok right? It seemed pretty good to me but I still have some question I am hoping someone can help me with. The biggest problem for me seemed to be aesthetics. My dough seemed to crack very easily and I was never able to press out a very uniform, clean looking tortilla. I am also curious as to whether or not the indentations in Jmahl's picture (the one just before the masa ball is pressed) serve a purpose. I would very much like to one be able to turn out pretty tortillas like that. The other things were that my seemed to pick up a few more brown spots than the tortillas in the demo, and they never puffed quite so voluminously all the way out to the edges of the tortilla.

Anyone have any advice/tips or detailed information that might help me solve these problems? A detailed description of pressing (I know, I know it's simple but any information at all is usually helpful to me) would be great.

Happy tortilla making!

gabe

#26 Jmahl

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Posted 13 August 2006 - 07:12 PM

Ok so I just made corn tortillas for the first time using this very helpful guide and they turned out pretty well. By the time I made my last tortilla I had something of a setup going. I had a 10-inch fairly well seasoned cast iron frying pan well heated on medium heat. I would take a piece of masa dough and roll it into a 1-inch diamater ball before flattening it into a patty and placing it in the tortilla press. I would then place the tortilla in the pan and flip as soon as it would slide freely, I would then cook it on that side for about a minute before flipping it, at which point it would puff up immediately.

Sounds ok right? It seemed pretty good to me but I still have some question I am hoping someone can help me with. The biggest problem for me seemed to be aesthetics. My dough seemed to crack very easily and I was never able to press out a very uniform, clean looking tortilla. I am also curious as to whether or not the indentations in Jmahl's picture (the one just before the masa ball is pressed) serve a purpose. I would very much like to one be able to turn out pretty tortillas like that. The other things were that my seemed to pick up a few more brown spots than the tortillas in the demo, and they never puffed quite so voluminously all the way out to the edges of the tortilla.

Anyone have any advice/tips or detailed information that might help me solve these problems? A detailed description of pressing (I know, I know it's simple but any information at all is usually helpful to me) would be great.

Happy tortilla making!

gabe

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Dear gabe,

My resident expert says that your dough is probably a little too dry, also use very hot water when mixing your masa. Mix your masa with a spoon so you will not get burned. As far as looks go I'm told it just takes practice. The more you make the better they come.

Good tortilla making.

Jmahl
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#27 infernooo

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Posted 23 August 2006 - 03:15 PM

Hi Jmahl!

I have a couple of questions if you don't mind...

1.) Do you have to knead the dough or just mix it until it comes together?
2.) If you do have to knead it, how long should you knead it for and what kind of consistency are you looking for?
3.) Do you let the dough rest after mixing/kneading it? If so, for how long?

Thanks, and keep up the good work! :-).

#28 Gabriel Lewis

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Posted 24 August 2006 - 03:32 PM

Hey Infernoo,

I'm not Jmahl and no tortilla expert but I will answer to the best of my knowledge, and hopefully those more knowledgeable than I will correct any mistakes I might make.

1) No kneading is necessary. Masa is not really like a flour dough at all, it contains no gluten and wouldn't really knead so much as fall apart.

2) See above

3) No resting period is necessary either, the more the dough rests the more it dries out.

Remember as Jmahl said to use very hot water to mix your dough, in my experience the dough should be fairly moist, pretty much completely saturated with water. If you have not yet bought your tortilla press, look for one like Jmahl's where the force is applied to the center of the press. I made the mistake of purchasing one whose handle presses down off center and produces tortillas of uneven thickness (I now just usually apply force with my hands in the center).

Please feel free to ask any other questions if you have any! I am still learning myself but I can now produce tortillas of the size and thickness I want and have them puff 95% of the time, the next thing I want to learn is how to get rid of those pesky cracked edges if possible. Additionally, you might want to try adding a scant amount of salt to your masa, preference varies but I like them like this.

Good luck,

gabe

#29 infernooo

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Posted 24 August 2006 - 04:06 PM

Thanks for the speedy reply Gabe!

I have a few more questions for you (and Jmahl) if you don't mind. I noticed that some of mine didn't puff up... judging from the above posts, this is most likely due to the mixture being too dry?

The other problem was that even though I used a tortilla press and they came out pretty damn thin and uniform, the insides on them were still a bit pastey/uncooked even though I cooked them for longer than recommended. They were all cooked on an ungreased cast iron pan (and I also tried greased, but it didn't make much difference).

Also, I am pretty sure I had the temperature spot on, so I don't think it was a matter of the pan not being hot enough (I can tell this because they came out with nice brown marks).

Finally, should the dough feel very different to normal bread dough? For example, when I was "kneading" it, it would just sort of squish against the bench top and not hold together as a single piece.

Thanks again!

#30 Gabriel Lewis

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Posted 25 August 2006 - 11:28 PM

Thanks for the speedy reply Gabe!

I have a few more questions for you (and Jmahl) if you don't mind. I noticed that some of mine didn't puff up... judging from the above posts, this is most likely due to the mixture being too dry?

The other problem was that even though I used a tortilla press and they came out pretty damn thin and uniform, the insides on them were still a bit pastey/uncooked even though I cooked them for longer than recommended. They were all cooked on an ungreased cast iron pan (and I also tried greased, but it didn't make much difference).

Also, I am pretty sure I had the temperature spot on, so I don't think it was a matter of the pan not being hot enough (I can tell this because they came out with nice brown marks).

Finally, should the dough feel very different to normal bread dough? For example, when I was "kneading" it, it would just sort of squish against the bench top and not hold together as a single piece.

Thanks again!

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No problem infernoo, always happy to help. I made a batch of about ten today and discovered a number of things. Firstly, the dough shouldn't really feel at all like bread dough. Normal bread dough has gluten which forms long elastic bonds which makes bread dough stretchy. To the best of my knowledge, masa doesn't really share any of the properties of bread dough. The only real variable is how saturated the masa is with water, so as long as you used hot water to mix your masa and add enough to pretty much completely saturate it, I don't think you can go wrong.

I am guessing the ones that seemed "pastey" and uncooked are the ones that didn't puff yes? I have discovered that the puffing is essential to making a good tortilla, if it doesn't puff the middle layer never really gets cooked and the the inside of tortilla is raw and pastey as you described it. In my experience the only reason a tortilla won't puff (assuming you are using the proper method to cook them) is if there is a hole or crack somewhere in the tortilla. It is essential that the air stay trapped inside the tortilla so it will puff up. After you have pressed your tortilla check for cracks or little holes or indentations, if they are any bigger than pin-sized or have any depth to them, chances are your tortilla won't puff. I am still working out the details as to how to ensure that there are no cracks or holes post pressing but I have discovered a few things.

Check the eveness of your tortillas, are they of uniform thickness? If one side is too thin chances are it will crack from the heat and allow the air to escape.

Don't press your tortillas too thin, I find when I press mine too thin they end up cracking from the heat and not puffing.

Make sure your dough is moist, I often rehydrate each individual ball of masa with a little bit of water as I am working with it. I have had the best luck with masa that is essentially fully saturated with water.

Check both surfaces of your tortilla press, are there any lumps or indentations? These may contribute to cracking or holes in your pressed tortillas.

Use thick plastic sheets that are more or less unwrinkled and hole/tear free. Replace the bags you are pressing with if they get too worn.

Additionally, if you find that your tortilla is not puffing when it should be or only part of it is puffing look for cracks or holes where steam is escaping. Often I am able to get them to puff simply by blocking the hole with a cloth or paper towel and holding it there until the tortilla puffs.

Try playing around with the forming and pressing of the masa balls and find out what works well for you. I have only been making tortillas for a month and have learned a lot just by paying careful attention.

Hope this helps! Mine have gotten a lot better in a short time, but are still a little too thick and have too many cracks along the edges for my liking. I think my tortilla press may be partly at fault but I am not sure. One day I hope to have tortillas that are aesthetically just like the ones from the tortilla factory near my house - a perfect circle of uniform size and thickness with no cracked edges (mine still taste better as they are fresher).

gabe





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