Mexican tortillas

From the times of the Aztec and Maya Empires, people have been eating tortillas in the region that today we know as Mexico.

Corn (maze) was their most abundant crop, therefore is not surprising that these cultures based their feeding habits on corn. They used to ground it and produce a flour with which the first corn tortilla was born. It was many years later than the wheat version came to life.

If we are strict, the corn ones should be used for fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, and quesadillas.The wheat versions are mainly eaten in northen Mexico, specially made into burritos.

Outside Mexico, today you can find either corn or wheat tortillas in any of these dishes, and the corn ones are also sold cut in triangles as chips.

Comparing both types, we could say that the corn version is thicker and more consistent in texture. While the wheat one is softer and, because of its gluten content, can be thinner and larger in diameter without breaking so easily.

It is then your choice to use one or the other.

Below you will find easy recipes to prepare both of them.

Compare them and tell me what you think!

Wheat Tortillas

In my search for the perfect recipes, I came up with three main ways to incorporate fat into the wheat version: using 1) lard, 2) shortening or 3) olive oil. I now know that the traditional ones are made with lard, but to be honest with you, all that animal fat put me off and decided to go only for the recipes based on shortening and olive oil. I found both recipes very easy to handle. The ones with shortening look a bit greasier that the ones with olive oil, but both taste delicious. So, here we go:

Recipe including olive oil

(for 10 units)

- 2 cups whole wheat flour (I used plain flour)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup warm water

Put the flour baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.


Add the olive oil in, just a bit at a time, and mixing it in.

Add the warm water, make a dough and knead it many times until homogeneous and a bit sticky, add more water if needed.

Make 10 balls with the dough.

Leave them to rest for 15 minutes, covered with a slightly damp tea towel or cling film.

From now on, the procedure for olive oil and shortening recipes is the same, that is:

Roll out the dough on a floured surface, aiming for a round shape that doesn't exceed the diameter of your pan ;).


Put a large frying pan (ideally a tefloned one) on moderate heat.

Cook the tortilla without adding anything to the pan, for about 30 seconds.


Flipp it and cook for a further 30 seconds.


Tip: You will see bubbles forming and a nice brownish color developing, but don't exceed the 30 seconds if you want to be able to fold it without breaking it. I tried to cook them for longer, they are crispy and nicely brown, but they break more :(.


Roll out the next ball while cooking.

From time to time, remove the brown loose flour that stays in the pan with a dry tea towel, and then carry on.


You will die to eat it inmediately, but you could also keep them in the fridge or even freeze them.




Recipe including shortening

(for 10 units)

- 1/2 cup plain flour
- 2 cups white bread flour (I used strong whitebread flour)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 50 g shortening (refined vegetable fat) out of the fridge
- 1 1/4 boiling water
- plain flour for rolling

Put the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Add the shortening and blend it in.

Slowly add the boiling water, mix first with a wooden spoon and later with your hands until obtaining a bit sticky dough.

Make 10 balls with the dough.

Leave them to rest for at least 1 hour ( don't worry, you have plenty to do meanwhile, for instance, you could start preparing the filling...), covered with a slightly damp tea towel.

Tip: some people suggest to cover them with cling film, but I found that in this manner, the dough "sweats" because of the boiling water, what doesn't help later when the rolling them out...

From now on, the procedure for olive oil and shortening recipes is the same, that is: (see pictures above)

Roll out the dough on a floured surface, aiming for a round shape that doesn't exceed the diameter of your pan ;).

Put a large frying pan (ideally a tefloned one) on moderate heat.

Cook the tortilla without adding anything to the pan, for about 30 seconds.


Flipp it and cook for a further 30 seconds.

Tip: You will see bubbles forming and a nice brownish color developing, but don't exceed the 30 seconds if you want to be able to fold your tortilla without breaking it. I tried to cook them for longer, they are crispy and nicely brown, but they break more :(.


Roll out the next ball while you cook the former one.

From time to time, remove the brown loose flour that stays in the pan with a dry tea towel, and then carry on.


Eat them immediately, although you could also keep them in the fridge or freeze them.


Corn Tortillas

For them you only need two ingredients, including water! The protagonist here is the corn flour, also known as harina de maiz, or masa harina. That happened to be a bit tricky since here in Bristol I couldn't find it!! Be aware that is NOT the cornflour or cornstarch used to thicken gravies and sauces! So, looking for substitutes, I come up with Fine Corn Meal, tried it and it worked! So here we go:

Ingredients

(for 8 units)

- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 teaspoon salt

Preparation

Put the cornmeal in a bowl.


Salt the boiling water and add it on top of the cornmeal.

Stir, when it cools down a bit, make a dough.


Note: the cornmeal tortilla is not so easy to handle as the wheat one, you will not be able to use a rolling pin to obtain a large and thin version. Instead, you will be very happy with a smaller, thicker one. That's fine, even the ones you buy are smaller and thicker that the wheat ones, aren't they?

Put an un-oiled frying pan on medium heat.

Put some cornmeal on the shaping surface and in your hands. Make a dough; if you need to adjust the amount of water or cornmeal for that purpose, do so.

Divide the dough into 8 balls.

Place a ball on the cornmealed surface and start shaping with the help of the palm of your hands and fingers, into a roundish shape. Don't go for a fine one because they will break. Once in the pan, you could use a flat surface to flatten them down a bit further.

With a wide spatula, lift the flatten dough and take to the hot frying pan.


Cook until some brown spots develop. Once cooked, it will be easier to handle.


Flipp it over, cook for few minutes.

Remove the brown dust from your frying pan with a dry tea towel.

Repeat with the rest of the dough balls.


You can use corn tortillas for fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, etc, and since they are not as flexible as the wheat ones, I find them great for quesadillas or cut into chips to serve with

guacamole, or salsa mexicana !!!







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