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Archive for June 12, 2011

RECIPE: Homemade Corn Tortillas

Yellow and blue corn tortillas, handmade
from hand-ground corn by
HotBreadKitchen.org.

 

We whipped up homemade tortillas yesterday, inspired by this recipe from Hot Bread Kitchen.

Tortillas, a flatbread, are a staple in Mexico. As Mexican food continues to increase in popularity, more of us are buying them to make burritos, enchiladas and tacos at home.

The oldest-known tortillas date back to approximately 10,000 B.C.E., made of the local staple food, corn.*

Many thousands of years later, in 1519, Hernán Cortés and his Spanish troops arrived in the Aztec empire (modern-day Mexico) and noted that the locals ate “flat corn bread.” The Aztec name for the flatbread is tlaxcalli; the Mexicans used the name tortilla, “little cake.”

*The original varieties of corn, hybridized by the Aztecs, were far more nutritious than today’s corn, which has been bred over the years for yield rather than nutrition.

 

The original tortilla was made from nixtamalized† maize/corn flour. However, today’s tortillas are commonly made from less nutritious, less flavorful wheat flour. Wheat is easier to work with. While maize/corn tortillas have a heartier texture and flavor, the gluten in wheat flour tortillas enables them to be made larger and thinner without breaking.

†Nixtamalization is a process that prepares the maize/corn, in which the grain is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and hulled.

For better flavor and nutrition, go for the corn tortillas (wheat tortillas also provide more flavor and nutrition). Another benefit of corn tortillas: they can be gluten free, depending on the manufacturer (Mission tortillas are gluten free). Check the package. Some brands add wheat gluten to corn tortillas to tackle the breaking problem.

Yet, nothing beats the flavor from homemade corn tortillas. Today’s commercial soft corn tortillas are made by stirring hot water into instant masa/corn flour, which is to regular masa what instant mashed potatoes are to the real thing, or what bouillon cubes are to homemade chicken stock.

If you want to make the best corn tortillas ever, buy artisan hominy from Anson Mills and make their tortilla recipe. Their hominy is to supermarket hominy as…well, you get the picture.

You won’t believe how good a tortilla can be until you make these. We like to make them on Saturday morning and enjoy them all weekend.

  

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