Tortillas de Maiz are a Mexican flatbread made from corn. Nixtamalized corn flour, salt and water are mixed into a pasty, soft dough. The dough is rolled into balls then each ball is pressed into a thin, flat disc using a tortilla press or rolled out using a rolling pin. The raw tortillas are cooked in a pan for a few seconds on each side, taking less than a minute to cook completely.
Nixtamalized corn is made from dried corn kernels which have been boiled and soaked or treated in an alkaline substance like lime. The process is what makes the corn tortilla dough pliable. This type of corn flour is sold as Masa Harina in stores.
Maize means corn and tortillas means little cake, essentially meaning corn cakes. Tortillas are not only made with corn. Aside from the also popular white flour tortilla, they can be made from whole wheat flour, cassava flour, almond flour and even cauliflower.
Tortillas de Maiz have a myriad of uses. They are used to make tacos, burritos, quesadillas and enchiladas. They can be sliced into triangles and fried to make corn chips or transformed into a dessert by adding sweet toppings.
Origin & Cultural Significance
The corn tortilla dates back to when the Mayans walked the earth thousands of years ago. In Mayan mythology, the first corn tortilla was made by a peasant as a present to the Mayan King. Corn played an integral role to the Mayans.
They were the first to domesticate corn, corn and corn tortillas were a staple food, there was even a corn God. Tortillas would later be introduced to Europe by the Spaniards who arrived in Central America in the 1500’s.
Mexican Tortilla de Maiz Recipe
- Masa Harina – 2 ½ cups
- Warm water – 1 2/3 cups
- Salt – ¼ tsp
- In a large bowl, combine the masa harina and salt. Gradually add the warm water, stirring with your hands to make a cohesive dough.
- Mix and knead the dough in the bowl for a minute or so, until it’s smooth and somewhat firm; it should feel like Play-Doh. If the dough sticks to your hands and feels wet, add more masa harina a tablespoon at a time. If you roll a piece into a ball
and squeeze it and the edges crack, add more water a teaspoon at a time.
- Preheat a cast iron, nonstick pan, or a griddle over medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 16 pieces and roll each piece into a ball.
- Place the balls on a clean work surface and cover them with plastic or a damp kitchen towel to keep them from drying out.
- Open your tortilla press and place one sheet of plastic or wax paper on the bottom of the tortilla press, then place a corn dough ball and place the other sheet of plastic or wax paper on top. Close and press, then open it, turn the tortilla while still in the plastic and press again.
- If you do not have a press, sandwich the ball of dough between two pieces of plastic or wax paper and use a rolling pin to roll it out, gently and with light pressure. Use a round cookie cutter to cut out a tortilla with a clean edge.
- Gently lay the tortilla on the hot pan and cook for about 20 seconds.
- Flip and cook the other side for 20 seconds.
- Flip two more times, so each side has been heated twice, just until it browns or develops small freckles. This should take less than a minute to avoid overcooking.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 65Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 38mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 2g