For Mexicans today, tortillas are an essential part of life. According to Mayan legend, tortillas were invented by a peasant to satisfy his starving king. The first tortillas date back approximately 12,000 years and were made from native corn (dry grain). Today they are made from corn or wheat flour.
If you want to start from scratch, like a Mexican, you should know first of all that here they use corn flour which is called nixtamal. It is made by boiling 1 kg corn ears with 50 g of quicklime in 4 liters of boiling water (I don’t recommend trying it, since you need a special edible type of quicklime that has nothing to do with the kind used in construction!) Once their outer covering has been removed, the corn kernels are ground in a metate.
Tortillas are always round. When small and very thin, they are used for tacos, a kind of Mexican sandwich. In Oaxaca, they are immense and can vary from 6 to 12 or even 15 cm in diameter.
Tortillas can be either soft or crispy. The only difference is the cooking method.
In this relatively poor country, tortillas are made every day, but if there happens to be too many, they are dried in the sun and used as “chilaquiles,” for tostadas and other recipes, in salads, soups, etc.
In some regions or recipes, wheat flour is used; its flavor is more neutral.
Tortillas – Basic Recipe
Ingredients for about 12 tortillas
500 g (18 oz. / 3 1/2 to 5 cups) flour
6 tsp. vegetable shortening
1 tsp. salt
Hot or warm water
- place the flour on a work surface with the salt;
- make the dough by gradually rubbing in the shortening; add a little water to obtain a workable dough;
- divide the dough into small balls about the size of an egg; let rest for 20 minutes on a floured surface;
- using a rolling pin, on a floured surface roll out each ball of dough into a flat thin round;
- cook in oil for approximately two minutes on each side.
Hints & Tips