Friday, October 21, 2011

A Tortilla Tutorial ~ Love, Emily


my first meal in mexico was easily my worst.
it was probably because i had different expectations.

and i wasn't used to any of these crazy things i was about to spend four months eating.

when my mom said,

arroz con huevos

i imagined something my real-life mexican grandmother might make.
beans, chorizo con huevos, homemade tortillas, and some rice on the side.
delicioso! to say the least.

but the plate of food placed in front of me that day was far from delicioso.
i don't like eggs in normal american life.
regular. scrambled. eggs.
imagine my horror when two unseasoned eggs faced me sunny side up
atop an equally unseasoned mound of rice.
the golden yolk was plump and ready to burst.
i swallowed hard.
there could certainly be no way i'd finish this entire plate.

i thought i'd found an escape when my mother offered tortillas.
certainly i could stomach these eggs if i had some homemade flour tortillas to accompany every bite.

and that's when my perfect mexican dreams came to a shattering halt.
the tortillas she offered me were corn.
and they had been warmed in a microwave.
microwave, amigos!
i may be american
but my mexican mother urged us away from such nonsense growing up.
it was against my moral mexican code!

i waited for the perfect moment.
and then i sacrificed the zip-loc baggy of pretzels i'd saved from my plane ride.
and stuffed the eggs, runny yolk and all into the plastic getaway.
and then into my purse.
no one ever knew.

and even i forgot.
until days later, when the smell of rotting eggs nearly choked me.

but enough about that.
the food here has vastly improved since then.
or maybe my tastebuds have changed.
but one thing has remained constant.
i am still searching for the perfect homemade flour tortillas i'd dreamed of.

and that search ended, amigos.
at my lil' ward's enrichment activity.

and now, because i love you so,
i'll share with you my secrets.

Simple Flour Tortillas

here's what you'll need:


i'm going to give you the best measurements i can,
because the sweetie who taught us, just pinched and grabbed 'til her heart was content.
and there is really no way of knowing how much exactly you need.

it just needs to feel right, amigos.
i know for sure,
it was a half-kilo of harina.
which is like 5 cups Flour.

then you add about 3/4 cup of oil.
in small increments.
i didn't take any pictures of this moment
because i was still in i'm-in-mexico-learning-how-to-make-flour-tortillas ecstasy.
sorry about that.

but know this.
add the oil a 1/4 cup at a time.
mix the flour with your hands,
after the first time, the whole bowl should feel just a tad damp.
then add more oil, and continue to mix with your hands until you can start to clump it.
and finally add the last bit of oil so that when you squeeze the flour, it forms to the shape of your hand, but then with another touch, the flour crumbles.

it's a science, amigos. mexican science.

while all this is happening you should be warming some water on the stove.
these little ladies decided that is was a probably a cup and a half of water
give or take a few spoonfuls.
then add a heaping teaspoon of salt.
the salt is all dependent on the flavor you want.
my friend, the cook, maria rosa, informed me that some people use sugar instead.
because they just like them tortillas sweet.
quien sabe?

add the water about a half cup at a time
and knead the dough with your hands.

the end result should be a firm dough,
but soft enough to mold.
maria rosa added a few spoonfuls of water at the end just to get the right consistency.

now this is where it gets fun.
sprinkle the counter with flour.

and maria rosa did this cool trick where she pinched a finger-full of dough
and wiped the counter with it.
i'm not sure what it did.
but it certainly looked cool.


knead the dough some more.
and some more.
and then pinch the dough into balls like so.
she would pinch then knead and flip the dough.
pinch, knead and flip the dough.
pinch, knead and flip the dough.


the balls should be about 2 inches big.
and this dough made about 24 balls.


once you've made all the balls,
take one and flatten it into a little disc.
don't flatten it all the way.
it should look kind of like an english muffin.


then take your rolling pin
and roll up and down.
arriba y abajo.
then turn the tortilla
arriba y abajo.
then again.
and again.
and again.


don't be discouraged if it turns into a little square.
or worse, it looks like mine.
as you see above.

it was my first time, amigos.
i was assured, i'd get better with practice.
as will you, amigos!


then place it on a heated comal.
now if you don't have one of those,
which i know you don't.
just use a good old non-stick frying pan.
it'll work just as well.

the oven at the church building had a built in comal on the stove.
how neat-o is that??


flip the tortilla when you see little burbujas.
each time the bubbles start to form, flip again.
then, this was a mexican trick i had never seen before,
use the tortillas you've already cooked [or start with a towel to begin]
and calm the big bubbles down.
just press gently with your fingertips.

then scoop it up and place it a cloth oven,
to keep the warmth in.


and be sure to be awful proud of yourself
even if your tortilla is a little less than round,
because now you'll never go back to those cheap-o store bought tortillas again.


if you think i ate three of these babies in less that 2 minutes,
you are correct.

mexican dreams come true.
it doesn't get better than this, amigos.


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