Tips for making tortillas overseas

How to make corn tortillas

How to make corn tortillas at home can include a few tricks you need to know!

A huge part of life #behindtheprayercard is learning to do new things.

For me, that has included a ton of new things in the kitchen and around the house.

Normal, every day tasks take on a new twist in an overseas context and sometimes, it takes a making mistakes, a youtube video and some major fails to figure out the right way to do things.

And not just learning them, but learning how to do them in different ways. Rainy season, dry season, humidity, dusty days… all play a part in the how and when of household chores. One method won’t last you through the year which means another set of tips comes into play to get the job done.

I was talking to my lazy mom friend recently and she said, “Tell us those things. Tell us the “how” even if you don’t think it is all that interesting. People want to know that part of life overseas.”

So this morning, as I sorted the laundry that had sat in a basket for the preferred 36 hours so we don’t get mango worms, I thought through my tasks for the day.

Make iced tea… do I have enough filtered water ready to do that?

Put in more laundry… each load takes an hour and there is 2 more hours of direct sunlight on the line outside which means 2 loads can dry before I lose light.

Thoughts interrupted by the trash guy knocking on the gate and yelling “Poubelle!” Grab Zander, hold his collar so he doesn’t go after the poubelle guy, open the gate, drag the dog and the trash can to the gate, take off the lid, give the trash bag to the guy who will stand outside my gate and sort our trash, keeping what he wants… close gate and let go of Zander. Back to thinking…

Make corn tortillas for the weekend… start this after the water filter is filled so it can drip through while I sort laundry (and empty/fill ice trays!) and start a load that can run while I make tortillas. Multi-tasking in full force.

How to make corn tortillas

The whole process is halted while I grab my mesh vegetable bag because Ida is here with my tomatoes and zucchini… wait, she said the zucchini was bad at the market today so she brought me green peppers instead… ok. Purchase, have a short conversation about the health of our families and then go back into the house to put the veggies in bleach water to soak while I get back to my other list.

This. This is what goes into making corn tortillas overseas. And you can’t buy them at the store so if we want them, I make them. Thankfully, I can get masa flour in Dakar. You can get it here.

Ready for the recipe and tricks?

It does take some tricks and a few awesome tools to make the process run smooth and not take so much time. I do only have the length of a load of laundry to get them done.

You will need:

A tortilla press. I have this one and love it! Ask someone to stick it in a suitcase and bring to you. Or put it on your list for next term. It can be done with a good old rolling pin but this is better. Believe me. Life is stressful enough without trying to roll out sticky dough into perfect circles.

A skillet. I use this Lodge cast iron skillet. If cast iron scares you, read this from The Country Contessa. She’s amazing.

Masa corn flour. This is the brand we can get here and it works really well. I’m sure there are others where you are.

Water. Bowl. Fork. Cooling rack.

Tea towel (We use a lot of tea towels for baking/cooking/serving food. Think dust, flies, ants, dry air, humidity… bring some good ones with you overseas if you can or they make a great, lightweight gift to mail overseas.) Measuring cups. Cooking spray (a TINY bit of oil would work too.)

Before starting the dough, turn the burner on so your skillet can get hot. You want a really hot skillet.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of the masa flour. Slowly, while mixing with a fork, add 1.5 cups of water. The amount of water will change depending on the temp and humidity of the air. In dry season, I tend to need another tablespoon or so of water to get the right consistency.

You want the dough to be damp, stick together well but not at all sticky or tacky. If it gets sticky, add more masa. If it is too dry, add a tiny bit of water.

One time, I made the dough, rolled all the balls, tried one in the press and decided to mash it all back together to add a bit more water and then remake the balls. It takes some practice (as do most new skills) to get it right and a lot depends on the weather.

This is where my girls like to help. They stick their hands in, mush it all together and make small balls with the dough.

(There is sourdough pizza crust under the black tea towel. The dough sat all night and is now in cookie sheets for the second rise. We’ll bake it in a bit before freezing the crust for pizzas later this week.)

Ok, see the plastic on the press?

This is IMPORTANT! Take an old ziplock bag that you’ve washed and reused a few times, cut the zip off and cut down both sides to make an open flap of plastic. This works MUCH better than having to clean the actual press, trying to get the tortilla off the press or messing with plastic wrap.

I use a very thin layer of pan spray on the plastic at the beginning and then sometimes spray it again half way through. You don’t want to use too much or the tortillas get slimy.

Press one ball at a time in the press in the plastic.

Then, transfer the tortilla from the plastic to your hand.

Put the tortilla on the skillet. I’ve found that the whole “transfer the tortilla” method takes practice and smaller tortillas work better.

While the first side cooks, start your next ball in the press.

Flip the tortilla after about 15-25 seconds… it doesn’t take long at all to cook.

Put the finished tortilla on a cooling rack and add the new tortilla to the skillet and then start the next ball in the press.

This process can take a bit so you want a tea towel handy to cover the balls that are waiting to be made. If they get too dry, they will crumble and won’t be easy to press or cook. In dry season, I often get the towel damp to keep moisture on the dough.

We generally make corn and flour tortillas at the same time. The corn tortillas go first while the dough sets for the flour tortillas. We also make the corn tortillas first so that we don’t contaminate them with gluten. The flour dough is ready when the corn tortillas are cooked and the whole process starts again.

This is the recipe we love and use for flour tortillas. Again, you want the skillet to be very hot and the flour tortillas will bubble a bit from the heat, which is what you want!

You can use them for small pizzas, quesadillas, tacos, chips… lots of uses for a good, fresh corn tortilla.

A few things to remember:

This takes practice. It takes knowing your climate and making adjustments. And it takes a press. Really.

Tips for making tortillas overseas

So, now my second load of laundry is ready for the line and I better get to it or I’ll run out of sunshine.

Let me know how your tortillas turn out! Or, if you have a trick to add, I’d love to hear it!




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *