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Apr 23, 2010 02:55 PM

Homemade Corn Tortillas

I've made corn tortillas at home now a few times with the usual Masa flour / water mix. I have a press which works pretty well.

They always turn out ok, but just ok. For tacos, etc., they don't have that elasticity / flexibility that you get with good store-bought corn tortillas, and so they don't hold up very well when you use them for tacos. Also I can't ever get them as thin as the store bought ones - eventually the press just destroys the tortilla or the dough gets too thin and I can't peel it from the plastic wrap.

Usually I agree that the homemade stuff beats the store bought stuff every time, but in this case I am not so sure.

And I might be willing to accept that homemade / traditional corn tortillas are just different and that is what makes them so great, except I have been to good mexican restaurants who make their own tortillas and they are more like the store-bought ones than the ones I make at home, and so that leads me to believe that I am missing something.

Anyone have any tips on how to get thinner, better homemade corn tortillas?

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  1. I believe your results are what should be expected according to Master Mexican chef Rick Bayless: His recipe follows the article.

    I've had freshly made tortillas (corn and flour) from a tortillerĂ­a and trust me, store bought ones don't hold a candle to them. I applaud you for making them fresh!

    1. If you have a good tortilla maker nearby then forget making your own. I think the difference is fresh masa vs. masa harina. I keep the masa harina on hand for emergencies, but we just buy tortillas hot from the store.

      But if you want to make, line the press, you may need to add more water, and turn the tortilla around clockwise a few times and repress.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jsaimd

        I use a ratio of 10 oz white bread flour to 14 oz masa harina with some salt, oil and warm water. I've made my own tortillas for years using an electric tortilla press and a hot skillet on the stove. The tortilla press gets them started but isn't hot enough for me so after moment on press, I transfer them to the hot skillet to brown & puff them. I also often make a big batch of dough and freeze some pingpong size balls in the freezer - convenient and they thaw pretty quickly. This texture tortilla works great for fish tacos & rolls up very easily.

        I've also made the tortillas with masa harina only and pureed posole for the liquid. The flavor is great for enchiladas or when it doesn't matter if they fall apart a bit.

      2. I've been trying to make corn tortillas using Quaker's masa harina de maiz flour to which water is added. I completely agree that this is a case in which homemade doesn't come close to store-bought.

        First, the tortillas really need some salt. Apart from the corn flavor, they are just too bland.

        More importantly, when I try to lift the tortillas after rolling out or pressing out the dough, they always tear. They were also tearing when I eventually got them onto the non-stick 12-inch pans that I was using as a griddle (same pans I use for store-bought tortillas). I've managed to get them to not stick in the pans as much by putting a little oil on the pan before dropping the tortilla on - but they still stick in the pan somewhat.

        Now, I have to admit I haven't strictly followed the instructions, so a fair amount of the problem may be my fault. The instructions call for rolling out or pressing the tortilla balls between two sheets of wax paper. Since I haven't had wax paper on hand, I've tried parchment paper, aluminum foil, and a "non-stick" silicone-covered baker's mat. The tortillas would stick to all of these, so I eventually started oiling the silicone mat, which works to a degree, but they are still prone to tearing unless removed very, very carefully. Problem again is that they still tend to tear when I try to flip them in the pan.

        The instructions also call for making the balls of dough to be rolled out only 1 1/2 inches in diameter. But such small balls yield really small tortillas, so I've been making the dough balls larger.

        The tortillas that I've been able to make are also a lot thicker than what you get from the store or a restaurant. If they were any thinner, I wouldn't be able to lift them at all between the sticking and the tearing.

        So I'd only give these 1 star out of 5.

        My experience with Quaker harina preparada for wheat-flour tortillas (again, just add water) was completely different. They are a breeze to make and tasted pretty good. As with the corn flour, the instructions call for 1 1/2-inch dough balls, aiming for 6-inch tortillas, but these are too small for me so I just make them a little bigger. I also haven't been able to make the tortillas as thin as you would get from the store. But they don't tear and are much easier to lift than the corn tortillas, I guess from the gluten in the wheat.

        1. I agree that making good masa yourself is difficult and time consuming. In another post (that I can't find) the best tortilla masa supposedly is made from fresh ground nixtamalized corn kernels plus a little finely ground corn flour added.
          The best corn tortillas I've made were pretty much luck - one package of store bought, prepared masa had the perfect consistency, no preservatives, and I made the tortillas the same day. Possibly a moister batch of dough.
          Still, some taquerias in SoCal consistently manage to buy (or make) them - I just haven't found out where yet :-(.
          I've resigned myself to thicker, sturdier (but still tasty) homemade tortillas - no doubling needed for tacos!

          3 Replies
          1. re: DiveFan

            Recently I read an article about efforts to save water during the nixtamalization process. From that I gathered that in many Mexican towns, one or two businesses specialize in this, providing the fresh masa to neighborhood tortillerias.

            1. re: paulj

              Which is a scary step toward the "Wal-Martization" of Mexican villages.53% of daily caloric intake in Mexico is corn tortillas, and it's becoming an attractive business to corporate interlopers at the village level, much to the detriment of the village.

            2. re: DiveFan

              I notice the gals way down central America use just a plane flimsy grocery store plastic bag to press them. Sure enough I have tried it with my whole ground corn tortilla dough and you can make them thinner and they won't tear or rip and come right off the plastic. As apposed to the thicker zip lock type plastic. I had the same issue until i switched. Now they are thinner and puff up nice. Try nixtamalizing your own corn some time, total change in the tortilla, way awesome corn flavor.

            3. I must be buying some awesome store bought tortillas because mine don't have that durability either.

              I have made home made tortillas however and learned that a light mist of oil on the wrap and they come right off.