Thursday, December 9, 2010


Masa flour is available from Chile Mojo

I have been messing around with homemade tortillas for a few years now. There is a lot of confusion as to what ingredients are used to make an authentic tortilla. But after much research its all fairly simple.

Corn flour is the starch of the corn and it is not used to make tortillas.
Corn meal is Polenta and is also not used to make tortillas.
To make authentic tortillas you need Masa Harina flour. Masa is corn meal that has been treated with lime (not the fruit, the mineral - calcium hydroxide). This is how people in Central America have been making it for centuries. The lime adds calcium to the dough and makes the niacin in the corn nutritionally available (ever heard of pellagra?) as corn is not a very high nutrient food without this treatment. It is also what gives the tortillas their lovely, distinct flavour and aroma.

I think its amazing how ancient peoples knew these little tricks, I mean who ever thought of putting calcium hydroxide in food? Or adding pine needles to tea to prevent/cure scurvy? So when tens of thousands across southern USA were dying of pellagra from their corn diet, people south of the border using the same base ingredient were healthy and nourished.
I think Thomas Edison was absolutely right in saying 'The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease'. Maybe one day it will be true.

You cannot substitute corn meal for masa because it will fall apart when cooking and it will not make a nice soft tortilla.

To make the tortillas use a dab of oil but traditionally a dab of lard would be used along with a pinch of salt and warm water. They are the only ingredients so its all very simple.

Make your dough by mixing masa with warm water, a dab of oil or lard and salt. Wrap in cling wrap and rest for about an hour.

Roll the dough out or press in a tortilla press.

Cook in a hot, dry pan turning twice until it puffs up, just a minute or two. They should be nice and soft still so you can roll them up.

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