What's in the photo? I won't keep you in suspense -- let's just say that, contrary to what the AP article said, tortillas are not "unbelievably simple to make." Scott saw me take this picture and recommended that I not include it if I ever write a cookbook! But hey, I thought somebody might get a smile out of my -- what should I call them -- corny pancakes!
I was probably 12 years old when I visited a little hut in Guatemala and watched a lady demonstrate how to make a tortilla, beginning with the corn that had to first be ground. I have only a vague recollection of the process, but I have a much better memory of how "authentic" tortillas are supposed to taste. (Side story -- The homemade tortillas were often undercooked and doughy in the middle. I thought I had to choke them down like that until I observed a local pastor hand his (practically raw) tortilla back to be "toasted." The resulting tortilla resembled a gigantic corn chip and tasted delicious!)
The tortillas I find in the US, even in Latino markets, are nothing like the shaped-by-hand, thick corn tortillas I remember from Guatemala. I knew better, really, but when I read an article in the newspaper on how simple it is to make your own, I just had to try it. After procrastinating for the better part of a year, I bought Bob's Red Mill masa harina flour, which is not quite like grinding my own corn, but I figured it was as close as I could get. I then wrote "Tacos" into my menu calendar for the week and deliberately did not buy any tortillas so I'd have to make them myself.
I followed the directions exactly and got a very dry dough. Maybe that was the problem -- I don't know. I put in the maximum amount of water recommended and it still seemed dry. Then I shaped the tortillas and tried to keep them from falling apart as I fried them in a cast iron skillet on the stove. Not quite the open fire I remember, but again as close as I could get. The resulting tortillas looked so awful that I called Scott and asked him to pick up a package on his way home from work! Still not brave enough to actually taste my attempts, I cleaned up the counter and floor from all the crumbles of dough that Munchkin had spread everywhere. At least he had fun.
Sometime during dinner, I finally got brave enough to take a bite and was pleasantly surprised that the tortillas didn't taste nearly as bad as they looked. They were awfully dry, though. Scott couldn't believe I saved them, but I couldn't throw them out knowing how precious corn is in Latin America right now. I choked one down one the next day for a snack and the rest are still sitting on the counter, ten days later. Maybe if they dry out any further they'll turn into corn chips.
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