The Elusive Tortilla–Mastering the Art of Tortilla Making

12 Feb

My Mother was an amazing cook.  She loved trying new recipes, and tasting new dishes.  Especially the Salvadorean cuisines my Father’s family cooked for her.  However, there was one food that she loved, but could never quite master.  That dish is what I affectionately call her elusive tortilla.    She was always on the hunt, trying to figure out how to make these little “flatbreads”. She bought presses, asked coworkers, badgered random people on the street, can you say embarrassing for me and my sister, but ultimately she never learned how to make tortillas.  So, I figured, I would pick up where she left off, besides going up to random people on the street, I also wanted to learn how to make these treats.

I’m sure you are wondering, why I had not asked one of my Tias (Aunts) or Primas (Cousins) to show me when I was younger.  First, I was too busy eating, and second I quickly realized that most of my family didn’t know how to make them either!  Gotta love us lazy kids, who rely on Mom, or Abuelita to make them.  They work fast, and they always come out just right!  Besides when you have a house full of hungry mouths you can’t wait for my tiny, dry, burnt or under cooked tortillas.  Although I was intimidated by these little “cakes” my day to learn finally came, and I jumped on the opportunity.  After all, this is a dying art, people! In an attempt to bring awareness to this endangered species, I have decided to teach you how to make corn tortillas.

I’d also like to add, that I really tried to take good photos for this tutorial.  I have searched and searched for recipes on how to make corn tortillas, and I have yet to find ONE (at least in English) with a tutorial on how to make them like my family traditionally makes them.  Every recipe that I’ve found is usually in the Mexican style, which is fine, and mighty tasty, but it’s not what I want.  I want an authentic Salvadorean Corn Tortilla, made with no press, all done by hand, is that too much to ask for?

If you’d like to learn more about tortillas please visit the website of the Tortilla Industry Association (TIA). I know what you’re thinking, I too had no idea that there was an association for tortillas.  Since I live close to their headquarters, maybe I’ll start my campaign for Salvadorean Corn Tortilla Awareness at their office.


Making Corn Tortillas

Servings – About 12 tortillas

Ingredients (With a Little Commentary)

If you have never attempted to make tortillas before then I would stick with the instructions on the package. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll know what the consistency should be, and you won’t really need to have an accurate measurement.

2 Cups Maseca Corn Flour

1 Tablespoon of Salt

1 1/4 Cup of Water – I usually use cold to luke warm water

2-4 additional tablespoons of water – you’ll want to pour the additional water by the tablespoon, not all together

Prep. Time

Before you start, make sure you place your comal griddle on medium heat, DO NOT oil the pan and make sure there is no water, the griddle should be completely dry.  If you do not have a comal, (like me) then you can use a nonstick square flat griddle.  You know, the one you use for pancakes.

In a medium to large bowl add the flour and salt.  Gradually pour the water and start mixing the flour and water with your hands. Kneed and mix for about 2-4 minutes until the mixtures forms into dough. It should be the consistency of sugar cookies before they bake, or the dough for bread.  If the dough is too dry, then add a tablespoon of water at a time, until it is moist enough to start making the tortillas.

Before you start rolling your tortillas, dip your hands in water to keep them moist.  You’ll need to continue to do this throughout the process, because keeping your hands moist is key in keeping the tortillas from falling apart. Roll the dough into balls, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter.  It should fit into the palm of your hand.  Place the ball in your non dominate hand, since I am right handed it’s easier for me to hold the tortilla in my left.  Leaving the ball in your palm, slightly press it with your index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers, I call it your “four fingers”.  Then use your dominate hand to mold the tortilla, using your thumb, index, and middle finger to “roll” your dough.  You want to roll the dough towards yourself, while pressing the tortilla with the four fingers of your less dominate hand.  Simultaneously, press the tortilla with your thumb and middle finger of your dominate hand.

Use your pointer finger to keep the tortilla even in size, this will also be your guide to how thick it should be, and  keep the tortilla from falling apart.  With the combined pressure of your four fingers, you should be flattening the tortilla, while making a peek in the center.  It should start resembling a sombrero. Once the tortilla has spread to almost the size of your palm, use both palms to flatten the tortilla, going back and forth, from palm, to palm.  (The motion is almost like playing patty cake.)  Your goal is to try to get the tortilla as thin as you can.

Place tortilla on the preheated griddle, let cook on one side for 3-5 minutes, you should start to see the tortilla start to rise.  I usually flip the tortilla with my hands, but if it is too hot then use a spatula.  Also, if you can lift the tortilla with you finger tips (or spatula) then it is ready to be flipped.  If you are unsure lift the tortilla slightly to see if it has browned on one side.  Do the same on the other side, your tortillas should look like this:

Stack, and wrap your finished tortillas tightly, in a towel to keep them warm.

I’m still working on the perfect tortilla, luckily the flour is extremely inexpensive.  All I can say is practice, practice, practice. Pair these tortillas, with fajitas, grilled steak (carne asada) or chicken, beans and rice, salsa, etc. Use them for dipping in soup, or dished with sauce. Enjoy!


4 Responses to “The Elusive Tortilla–Mastering the Art of Tortilla Making”

  1. gvalas February 24, 2017 at 9:37 PM #

    Hi! Thanks for this explanation. I find that when I make these, one side (or both) end up dry and cracked. Any suggestions on how to prevent that?

  2. Taryn Pyle February 12, 2011 at 12:50 PM #

    YUM! You make it look so simple! Congratulations on being one of the fastest growing blogs on WordPress! Your recipes are amazing!


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