Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Corn Tortilla Compromise

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with a store-bought tortilla. Sane people buy them all the time. They make a taco or fajita dinner into a quick and easy summertime staple. If you like to mess up your kitchen, however, a simple meal of Tacos with Sauteed Greens and Fresh Cheese means planning ahead, making time for homemade tortillas.

So far, homemade tortillas in my kitchen mean exclusively flour tortillas. I’ve tried making corn tortillas. I acquired a big bag of masa harina, purchased a corn tortilla press, read the experts and studied the process. I made mediocre corn tortillas.

And so, when I set out to make my tacos with greens, I went to the supermarket to buy packaged corn tortillas. The designated zone on the shelf was empty. I was beginning to panic get disappointed. A check of one more store also left me empty-handed. Instead of burning even more gasoline in search of some imagined authenticity, I was prepared to fall back on some packaged flour tortillas. I even had the package in my hand.

Now there’s a little something you should understand about me. I actually feel guilty about buying something in a package that I know I could make myself. Since I really enjoy my made-from-scratch lifestyle, this guilt might be triggered by a few too many things (yogurt, granola and granola bars, pizza, most breads, desserts and sweets) with more being added to that list all the time (fresh cheese, rustic crackers, vinegar). Guilt was going to make my 10 minute tacos of sautéed greens into an hour-long adventure. So be it.

Anyway, it wasn’t such a big deal, since I was armed with Gourmet Tortillas by Karen Howarth. The recipes in this book are all for flour tortillas, but there are two recipes for tortillas that contain some form of corn. Perhaps this could be as satisfying compromise, some corn-ish flour tortillas.

I simplified the recipe that seemed closest to what I wanted, and made some mighty fine tortillas. They were soft and a little fluffy with just a hint of cornmeal flavor from the really nice, fine-ground, locally produced cornmeal (made here) that I used. In the end, they definitely weren’t authentic corn tortillas, but with their delicious, mellow flavor and soft, pliable texture, I’d hardly call them a compromise, either.

Flour Tortillas with Cornmeal
With lots of guidance from Gourmet Tortillas by Karen Howarth

1 cup cornmeal (I used finely-ground)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup water

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder. Add the butter and work it into the cornmeal mixture with your hands (or with a fork) until it is well-distributed in small, flour-coated pieces.

2. Add the water and stir together to form a soft dough. Knead a few times to pull it all together into a ball that is only slightly tacky. Add flour or water as needed to achieve the correct consistency.
3. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the dough balls with a towel and let them stand for 15 minutes.

4. Preheat a cast iron griddle (preferred) or a frying pan on the stove over medium-low heat. Take one ball of tortilla dough and flatten it slightly. Place on a well-floured surface. Roll the dough into a circle (or as close to one as you can) about 6 inches in diameter and about 1/8-inch thick.

5. Place the tortilla on the preheated griddle and cook for about 1 minute or until it is beginning to get a few browned spots and the top looks bubbly. Carefully flip the tortilla and cook on the other side about 1 minute more or until just beginning to brown. Repeat with the remaining dough. You can roll out the next tortilla while one is cooking, but be sure to keep an eye on the stove. Stack the tortillas on a wire rack as they are done. Wrap them in a towel to keep them warm until ready to serve.

Makes 12 6-inch tortillas. Keep leftovers in a zip-top bag for a day or so. Reheat in the microwave to serve. Tortillas can also be frozen if well-wrapped.

Other recipes like this one: Yogurt Tortillas with Whole Wheat Flour, Rustic Homemade Crackers with Thyme, Naan with Whole Wheat Flour

One year ago: Sausage and Spinach Soup

Two years ago: Chinese Style Barbecue Sauce and Marinade

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