My Manhattan Kitchen

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Handmade Tortillas in Manhattan April 22, 2010

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My son came by for Sunday Brunch and we made ourselves a little Mexican Feast. Hand made tortillas, fresh guacamole and chorizo tacos. The inspiration came from some locally made chorizo I bought at the Abingdon Square Farmer’s Market on Saturday. I had already sourced masa earlier in the week. I also found a store around the corner that sells Crema Mexicana which is a sour cream more like crème fraîche.

Here is the way to make home made tortillas… once you have made them you may never buy corn tortillas again. THIS IS EASY!!! Really, trust me here.

Buy a tortilla press. You may not live in an area with a Hispanic Market, but they are available there. Also available online. Yes, of course you can roll them with a traditional rolling pin, but take my word for it, the tortilla press is well worth the little you will have to spend on it. I do my flour tortillas by hand, but for corn tortillas the press is the way to go.

Buy Masa. Masa is usually available in any grocery store with even a small hispanic population. Masa is basically finely ground corn flour from corn that has been treated with lime. The Maseca brand is the most prevalent in the US. Of course in Mexico they have communal masa machines and it is available freshly ground every day. You are looking for Masa Instantanea de Maiz (Instant Corn Masa Flour.) This flour is also used for making tamales, pupusas, empanadas and Sopes. I know a chef in Hawaii who uses this very finely ground corn flour for making polenta. I have tried it in that application and I personally prefer stone ground polenta with a bit more texture.

Mix. In a bowl place 2 cups of Masa and add about 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir. Add 1 1/4 cups of water, stir till a moist dough forms. You may need to add a little more water. Allow the dough to rest, covered for at least 10 minutes.

While the dough is resting take a plastic grocery bag and cut it into 2 small squares, slightly larger than the  tortilla press. I learned this trick in Mexico where I went to cooking school and believe me it is really a great trick. I have had a lot of trouble removing the tortilla from the press without it! Wax paper would probably work well You will place one piece of the bag on the bottom of the press and the second on top of the ball of dough.

Pull off as many balls of dough as you want tortillas. Add a few more if you have never made them before because believe me, you are going to eat more of these than you think you will. The balls of  dough should be smaller than a golf ball. The masa dries out quickly so cover the balls with a piece of plastic wrap or a dishtowel while you are making tortillas. Any additional dough can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week, so you can make tortillas at a moment’s notice if you make enough dough.

Prepare your pan. In Mexico a camal is used. This is a large griddle used for many purposes in Mexican cooking. If you do not have one, you can use a traditional griddle, a frying pan or even cook your tortillas on the grill. I only have a frying pan here, so I had to do mine one at a time. A griddle allows you to do several at once.

Make your first tortilla. Place the ball of dough on the center of the tortilla press, close the press and then with a gentle wiggling motion, push down and move the handle back and forth. This creates a thinner tortilla.

Remove the bottom plastic with the tortilla in it and place in the palm of your hand. Carefully peel off the plastic and place the tortilla directly onto the hot pan. Allow the tortilla to cook for a few moments, it should start to slightly puff up, flip it over with a spatula or your hands. The tortilla should be slightly browned but it only takes 1 minute to cook, do not over cook. Place the cooked tortillas in a tortilla warmer or in foil that is wrapped in a towel for insulation. The tortillas will soften slightly from the steam that develops.

That is it! It really could not be easier.

Now for some really good easy Guacamole… this recipe is for two servings. You can easily double or triple the ingredients.


It is easier if you have everything chopped and prepped before compiling the guacamole.

2 avocados (Hass is a dependable variety, but in Hawaii where we have over 100 varieties, some work better for guacamole than others.)

1/4 of a red onion finely chopped

Juice and zest of two small limes

3-5 cloves of garlic, (depending on how much garlic you want.) finely minced.

1-2 Jalapeno peppers seeded and finely chopped. You can use other varieties of peppers, just remember that you can always add more heat, but taking it out is not easy and not everyone loves things spicy.

1 hand full of chopped cilantro

about 1/2 teaspoon of  salt (I use smoked sea salt that I make)

freshly cracked black pepper

Peel the avocado by cutting the fruit in half and then removing the seed. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh out and place in a bowl. Add the lime juice and salt. Mash the Guacamole with a fork or potato masher. Some people like their guac more chunky. I like mine well smashed. Add the remaining ingredients and mash further. Taste for seasoning.  I use the guacamole as a filling for tacos, as a dip and on toast.


One Response to “Handmade Tortillas in Manhattan”

  1. Sehra Says:

    Thanks for the recipe, and the step by step pictures are great.

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