No local tortilleria? Make your own tortillas!
If there’s one major national cuisine that isn’t very strongly represented in Canada’s food scene, it’s Mexican. There are a few Mexican restaurants and a couple of Latin American food markets in Toronto – and burritos are certainly a common sight – but the full range and depth of regional Mexican cooking is thoroughly underrepresented, and many essential ingredients can be hard, if not impossible, to track down. (If anyone has a reliable source for epazote in Toronto, please share it with me!)
One of the cornerstones of Mexican cuisine, of course, is the corn tortilla. No, not the saddle-shaped deep-fried kind, but the fresh, soft kind. It’s becoming easier to find them frozen, but quality can be highly inconsistent. So a recent taco craving had me looking to make my own.
As with all cornerstone preparations, the devil is in the details. Tortillas look easy at first: simply mix masa harina with water, roll into balls, flatten, and cook on a griddle. But there’s a little more finesse to it than that. A properly made tortilla should puff as it cooks, and there are a number of factors that determine whether or not this happens, including how much water the dough contains, how thin the tortilla is, and how hot the griddle is.
Because of these factors, my first results were less than stellar, but I learned from the experience and had much more success on the second try. I think the main thing I was doing wrong was adding too little water: my second batch of tortillas had 230 grams of masa harina and 400 grams of water, which felt like a pretty high ratio, but produced superior results. (Probably my favourite thing about working with dough made from corn is that, because corn has no gluten, it doesn’t seem to get sticky the same way wheat dough does.) Even once that adjustment had been made, it took a couple of tries to get my tortillas to puff consistently: like crêpes, the first couple were just warm-ups.
I’ve heard that the best tortillas are not made from masa harina, but from fresh nixtamalized corn, but to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never tasted one. For now, I’m satisfied with the ones I made here, filled simply with some chorizo, salsa, queso panela, green onions and cilantro.