Mix the salt and masa harina then add the water.
Mix the masa harina and water together with one hand. The tortilla dough will start out crumbly, but continue mixing it and it will start to come together. Knead it for 2 minutes.
After kneading, the tortilla dough should have a smooth texture like playdough.
Form the tortilla dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit for at least an hour.
After the dough has had a chance to rest, it’s time to check the texture. Break off a small piece, roll it into a ball, then press it between your palms.
If it forms cracks along the edges it’s too dry. Knead some more water into the dough a little bit at a time until it looks more like the center picture.
If the dough sticks to your palms it is too wet. Add more masa harina a little at a time until it doesn’t stick anymore.
Split the dough in half 4 times to get 16 even pieces and roll them into balls (if you’re looking for an excuse to use your kitchen scale, the balls should be about 1.5 oz). Be sure to keep the tortilla dough covered with a damp paper towel while you work to keep them from drying out
Ideally you’ll have a tortilla press, but if you don’t, a flat bottomed plate will work. The plate in the photo works out perfectly because it has a very shallow lip that’s 5 1/2″ in diameter, which just so happens to be the exact size these tortillas are supposed to end up. Wrap your tortilla press or the bottom of your plate and counter top with plastic wrap. This makes it easier to remove the delicate tortillas.
Start preheating a cast iron skillet over medium heat. If you are using the plate+countertop method, put one ball on your counter and line it up with the middle of your plate. Press down evenly on the plate using your body weight to get it about 1/16″ in thickness. It will take some elbow grease and practice, but you can always reuse the dough from your mistakes.
Your pressed tortilla should look something like this. Carefully peel the tortilla onto the palm and fingers of one hand.
Move over to your preheated skillet and use a sweeping motion to move your hand out from under the tortilla being careful not to burn your hand.
Flatten out any ruffles in the tortilla and cook while you press your next tortilla (about 1 minute). The tortilla is initially cooked on only one side and should not brown. Transfer it to a pot with a lid lined with paper towels. Repeat until the rest of the dough balls have been pressed and cooked on one side. You can do these steps ahead of time and store the half cooked tortillas in the fridge until you are ready to serve them.
When you’re ready to serve the tortillas, turn up the heat on the pan to medium high. Place a tortilla in the pan, uncooked side down. Gently press the tortilla with a wadded up paper towel. Once the tortilla has a few brown spots flip one last time and press on it some more. This will cause the steam escaping to blow the tortilla up like a balloon.
The tortilla is done when it has ballooned up and is lightly toasted on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined pot with a lid to keep warm until they are all ready to serve.
1/2 small head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 small yellow or red bell pepper, sliced
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed
Chicken Tortilla Filling
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large skinless chicken breasts (about 12oz)
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
8oz button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 cup sour cream
Cut the chicken into bitesize chunks.
In a deep skillet, sautee chicken in olive oil for 2 minutes. Flip and sautee the other side for 2 minutes more. Add vegetables and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in spices, then sour cream. Continue to cook until chicken is no longer pink. It should only take a few minutes. Serve on top of a green salad with additional sour cream and cheddar cheese or use as a filling for tortillas.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
To make the beef filling, heat the oil in the skillet over medium. Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes or until soft.
Add the ground beef and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until it’s no longer pink (about 4 minutes). Pour off the liquid.
Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt, and tomato sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat for 10 minutes. (If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of water.)
Meanwhile, place your toppings in separate small bowls and set them on the table.
Place the warm tortillas in a basket and the beef filling in a bowl.
Kids’ Steps: Kids can help prepare the toppings. Soft vegetables can be cut with plastic picnic knives, and other items, such as grated cheese and salsa, can simply be arranged in small bowls.
Masa de Harina
Masa Harina literally means dough flour in Spanish and in Mexican cuisine, it refers to flour made from maize that has been soaked in lime water (calcium hydroxide). It is not the same thing as cornmeal and cannot be used interchangeably. The process of soaking the maize in lime water softens the kernels changing the texture so that the finished dough is more elastic and workable. After the maize is soaked, it’s ground then used fresh as masa, or dried to make masa harina.
In the photo above you can see the fine almost white powder on the right with the dough it forms on the left. In the back is a bag of Maseca brand Masa Harina.
What’s it taste like?
It has a nutty slightly minerally flavour that unsurprisingly tastes like corn.
When is it best?
There’s no season, but if you are able to find fresh masa, which looks more like a dough, the flavour and texture are better than rehydrating dried masa harina.
How do I use it?
Masa harina can be worked into a dough by adding water then allowing it to rest for about an hour to fully rehydrate. This dough can then be pressed into corn tortillas which can be “baked” on a hot cast iron skillet. These tortilla’s can then be used to make tacos or enchiladas or just served along side a stew. If they are cut and deep fried you will have tortilla chips. Masa harina can also be used to make tamales, although there is a special kind for tamales (para tamales) that has a more course grind than the kind for tortillas.
The lime water used to treat the maize adds calcium and releases niacin from the niacytin which greatly increases the nutritional value of the corn.
Compiled by : Sanaa 25/04/12
Sources : Various