Making tortillas from scratch in Costa Rica
Tortillas are actually pretty easy to make from scratch, but no one ever suspects that. So when I do decide to take the extra time to make them they are perceived as an impressive delicacy. I mastered the art while living on an organic farm on the foothills of the Talamanca Mountains in Costa Rica, where they are as much of a staple in everyday meals as rice and beans. They are usually made plain, but I prefer to season them up with whatever ingredients I have on hand. Here is one of my favorite recipes:
Garlic Herb Corn Tortillas (makes 10)
- 2 cups harina de maíz (corn flour)
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 1 T finely minced garlic
- 1 T finely minced herbs
- 1 t oil
- Dash salt
1.) Chop up garlic and herbs.
2.) Combine dry ingredients and garlic in a large bowl. Harina is basically finely ground cornmeal and you will be surprised how easy it is to find in most large supermarkets (at least in California). You can use any herb, fresh or dry, and for the garlic feel free to substitute onion or garlic powder.
3.) Mix in water and oil. I have the official ratio listed above, but I never measure. I just add a bit at a time until the dough is moist enough to stick together but not damp. If it gets too wet add more harina, if it gets too dry add more water.
4.) Let the dough sit for an hour or so covered with a damp towel. It is ready to use after it is mixed, but experience has taught me it stays together better after resting.
5.) Take a small handful of dough and make a ball about the size of a small golf ball. Flatten the ball. I use a tortilla press, which is basically just two pieces of wood and a hinge, but two cutting boards will work fine, as will a rolling pin. If you use a press or cutting boards cover with saran wrap so the dough will not stick. Continue with rest of dough.
6.) Heat up a pan on med-high heat. I’m not sure of the exact temperature as I usually cook them on a fire. Cast iron pans work best, but any frying pan will work. I like to coat the pan with a thin layer of oil, but the locals prefer to prepare them without.
7.) Cook the tortillas one or two minutes on either side until done. Exact timing will depend on the heat of the pan and the thickness of the tortillas.
8.) Keep finished tortillas warm under a towel, and serve immediately for a snack with salsa or part of a complete meal. Enjoy!