Letting Life Lead
I taught myself how to make tortillas, and while I won’t make any tortilla master chef proclaim me complete in my studies, I can at least make something that is edible. For a long time I was using the tried, and true squash-with-heavy-pan method. This worked okay, but one day in the store I caught something shiny out of the corner of my eye on a disheveled display shelf that looked like it had been through a stampede. The item had a red tag on it. And bargain shopper’s know what that means. CHEAP!
I had to have this contraption!
I’ve now had this little Norpro press for more than ten years, and while it appears to be flimsy it is not as delicate as it seems (aluminum is a lighter, softer material so I wasn’t expecting it to be a Sherman Tank of my cookery arsenal). It is obviously inexpensive and is just not going to give the heft that a cast iron press does (I so covet cast iron), but It does very well with corn tortillas. Even better it holds up well to
child labor kid power. No matter how quiet I am, I can’t open the drawer where it lives without both minions running from the far reaches of the dustiest corners of the house to come offer their assistance.
The first time I let my daughter use it she was four and could operate it (with all her body weight and a good position above it). You should have heard the begging and pleading. “I can do it Momma! I help you. Please? I can do it! Can I press it? Can I? I want to do it!” I was worn down. “GAH! Okay, okay!” I blurted and let her have a go. I figured she’d press it once, get frustrated, and then run off to tie an impossible knot in a string while constructing a Lego suspension bridge. As the video shows a year later, she has learned how to make corn tortillas faster than I did. She even made the dough balls.
Hrmph…what does she need me for?
If you are new to the wonders of the press, use a plastic bag (or large Ziplock bag) cut into two disks the right diameter or wax paper to line your press. You have to use one bare hand to hold the tortilla and peel off the paper. If you make the Masa properly, it should hold up to handling — if it crumbles it is too dry, if it sticks like crazy it is too wet. Our demonstration dough was made yesterday and it was just a tiny bit drier than I like, but it pressed fine. They take about two minutes to cook (50 seconds each side on a dry, hot pan).
Because the press is aluminum you are going to find that the tortillas are likely going to press unevenly. This is easy to fix.
Tip 1: Set the dough off-center so that when you press it will center itself.
Tip 2: Press down so that the dough is about half the size of its final diameter.
Tip 3: Open the press and rotate the dough 180 degrees and finish flattening. ( If you want the dough really thin, you may have to turn it a few times and press to get it nice and even)
Doing the above three will result in a more even circle, compensate for any uneven pressing, and allow you to make the tortilla quite thin but even. Considering the weight and material this press is made of, it does a fine job. If you at first can’t get it to press evenly or make a circle, call them rustic. They will taste just as delicious.
Whatever you do, don’t give the kids the idea that they can use a cookie cutter to make tortilla shapes, because you will never be able to make a tortilla a boring circle again. If you must do it, do it in secret with all due stealth.
(40 years in the making)
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Freelance Writer: Fiction & Copywriting
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