Mexican tortillas: the world’s most amusing bread
Mexican tortillasare something essential forthe traditional cuisine of this country.
Tortillas, made with corn or wheat flour, are, indeed, almost omnipresent on the table, eaten as a side dish – like our bread – but more frequently used as the main ingredient of many recipes of the Mexican cuisine and of the Tex-Mexcuisine as well.
Similar to Italian piadina, or to the chapati of the Indian tradition, tortillas are substantially a unleavened bread, usually round in shape, made in different diameters.
Of course, when they are homemade, there is a wider diversity in the diameter and, above all, in the irregularity of the circle. However, on the market different sizes can be found.
Mexican tortillas are made with wheat or corn flour. Although they both belong to the Mexican and Tex-Mex culinary tradition, the corn tortilla is undoubtedly the most typical one. As a matter of fact, corn is the basic food in Southern America cuisine, handed down since ancient times, long before Spanish colonization.
The tortillas recipecomes from far away, from the Aztecs’ times. And, before that, comes the way to treat corn and the flour derived from it.
Mexican tortillas corn flour is special
To make Mexican tortillas with corn flour it is necessary to use a specific white flour, called masa. Not only because the tradition says so and its use will guarantee us to make a real food with an authentic Mexican taste, but also because using a corn flour like the one most commonly used in Italy, so yellow and grainy, would ensure us failure.
Yellow corn flour is perfect to make polenta, a traditional dish that spread already in ancient times among the ancient inhabitants of the Mediterranean area, using different cereal flours, like millet and rye.
Then, after the discovery of the new continent, some unknown food products, like corn, arrived to the “Old World”.
Due to the spreading of this cereal, easy to grow and very adaptable, polenta has become the one that we still know today, quite popular in northern and eastern Europe (for example it is very used in the Romanian cuisine, where it is called mamaliga).
However, with polenta would be impossible to obtain a compact and ductile disk like the tortilla. It would break to smithereens.
To avoid this frustration, the chef that wants to attempt to replicate this recipe, that is, all things considered, an easy recipe, must use the corn flour, known as masa in its country of origin, a flour that has gone through the “nixtamalization” process.
What is nixtamalization?
Nixtamalization is basically a chemical process used to treat corn, that was already used among Mesoamerican populations in very ancient times. It is assumed that it was a process discovered already around 1500 B.C.
Although in such ancient times there was little knowledge of what is known by modern science and there wasn’t specific equipment, in Central and Southern America this brilliant way to treat corn made it possible to feed billions of people without facing any food shortage, as we will see later on.
Basically a corn grain must boil in an alkaline solution of calcium hydroxide.
This chemical compound is made by cooking together calcium carbonate and wood ash, obtaining quicklime. After it is diluted with water, quicklime transforms in calcium hydroxide, a whitish liquid that, added in the amount of the 1% to the corn weight, it allows the grain transformation. After it is boiled for almost 1 hour and it is left to settle for 12-24 hours, the grain releases the pericarp, a thin covering that protects it. In this way the alkaline solution seeps into the grain, inflating in and fixing the starch inside.
The “nixtamal” corn grain is then repeatedly cleaned and, lastly, milled. The flour that is obtained is called masaand it is ready to be processed and molded.
Besides the possibility of processing it, that wouldn’t be possible without this procedure, the “nixtamalized” corn flour has a very special taste, very tasty and typical.
However, the greatest merit that must be acknowledged to nixtamalization is that this treatment “releases” the assimilation of the vitamin PP that the human body can’t absorb directly, even if it is present in large quantities in corn.
In a country where almost the 80% of the nutrition is based -on average- on corn, especially in the form of tortillas, the lack of this vitamin could have caused the spread of a terrible disease: pellagra.
During the 18th century in Europe, where the corn growth and its food use were significantly spread, but without applying the nixtamalization process, the pellagra spread was sadly known.
The most famous Mexicantortillas recipes
Both corn and wheat Mexican tortillas can be used in many amazing traditional recipes and, consequently, in the nearby Tex-Mexcuisine.
One of the most successful dishes made using tortillas is the burrito. Burrito is made with a big tortilla with different kinds of filling and that is rolled up and eaten also as a street food.
The most famous burritos of the Tex-Mex tradition are the chili con carne ones.
In the Fine Food Group catalogue Los Hermanos burritos line offers a chorizo version, the traditional Mexican sausage, and a vegetarian version.
Rolled up as well, but tighter, like small filled cannoli, here are the enchiladas. They are stuffed with beans, meat, cheese or vegetables and the recipe requires that the tortilla, a corn tortilla in this case, is dipped in the chili sauce, a thick sauce made with chicken broth, flour and smoked chili peppers.
The tortilla is once again the protagonist in the quesadillas. In this dish the corn or the wheat tortillas are filled with cheese and folded as a pocket.
In the tlayudas, instead, the tortilla is scattered with lard and flavored with beans and Oaxaca cheese. The tortilla is big in size and it is served open, like Italian pizza.
Very similar to the burritos are the chimichangas, tortilla rolls filled with many ingredients, tightly closed and fried in abundant boiling oil.
When the tortilla is folded like a sea shell and it is filled with meat, beans, tomatoes and lots of sauces, it is called tacos. It is one of the most delicious ways to eat Mexican tortillas!
Finally, by making a cross-cut on the tortillas we obtain 4 small triangles that, when they’re fried, become tasty nachos, the crunchy snacks to be dipped in guacamole for a tasty appetizer in full Tex-Mexstyle.
Mexican tortillas are a must in many dishes made according to the traditional recipe. It is the case of chili con carne and the fajitas. If the tortillas don’t accompany them, these dishes can’t be considered complete.
How to prepare tortillas?
Preparing good Mexican tortillas isn’t a simple process, although it may seem easy. As a matter of fact, the few necessary ingredients and the few steps needed may make you think that self-producing your own tortillas may not be a big deal, especially for people with some culinary knowledge. But…
To make tortillas there are many thigs that need attention and, if they are not observed,
Firstly, as we have already seen, to make Mexican corn tortillas, flour choice is essential. The white corn nixtamalized flour, the Maseca Superwhite– that can be found in the Fine Food Group catalogue- is what you need.
The Masecaflour, besides being completely gluten-free, assures the amalgam that is impossible to obtain with an ordinary yellow flour (to be clear, the one used to make polenta).
In the traditional corn tortillas recipe, the ingredients are just masaflour and water. Salt is optional and to personal taste.
By mixing flour and water, which we recommend you to use rather warm, in the ratio of two cups of flour for half cup of water, you can obtain a smooth and thick dough.
At this point, after letting the dough sit for a few minutes, you make spheres, in different sizes according to the diameter we want to give our tortillas.
Be careful, the tortillas dough, even if it is well blended, tends to break. So, it is important to calibrate the necessary amount of water for the dough, to increase it elasticity, and then handle carefully the dough spheres when we roll it out.
To roll out the small spheres avoiding that our dough crumbles, we must take into account what follows:
- it is a good idea to gently flatten them by hand;
- it is preferable to use a proper press, you can easily find it online;
- It is useful to cover our work surface with film, to place in the middle the half-flatted sphere, to cover it with another film sheet and to roll it out very carefully with the press.
To make wheat tortillas, instead, the recipe involves the use of a good amount of fat, may it be lard, butter or olive oil.
How to cook Mexican tortillas?
In the Mexican tradition, tortillas are cooked on an earthenware plate called comal, that guarantees a deep cooking and that doesn’t need any use of fat.
If you don’t have comal, you can use a cast iron or an iron plate heated to high temperatures. Cook the tortilla no longer than two minutes per side, until it gets a little dark.
Mexican tortillas are ready when small dark parts appear.
How to keep Mexican tortillas warm?
As the tortillas are cooked, they have to be placed on a clean rag, rolled so it will keep them warm. Once they are cooked, they can be eaten as if they were bread or you can prepare a particular recipe that you want, and they can be even frozen.
How to warm up Mexican tortillas?
To warm wheat flour tortillas up, the suggestion is to make them regain a good humidity level. So, whether in an oven or in a microwave, to make the tortillas once again soft and flexible the trick is to put a slightly moisten napkin between the tortillas layers, placed in a proper size container.
To warm corn flour tortillas up, instead, with their grainier texture that tends to break, the suggestion is to use once again the comal, or a similar cooking plate.
If tortillas are particularly stiff, a traditional method to bring them to a good softness level suggests to wet them completely and to put them on a high heated pan, and to roast them to a complete drying. This is the perfect way to make the tortillas go back to the perfect consistency!
To keep them warm, after making them recover one way or another, the rolled rug is a method that works. If the tortillas are kept in the specific Tortillas Server the problem is solved, whether you need to keep them warm until the time you will cook them according to the dish you want to prepare with it, or you need to serve theme soft and fragrant.
Mexican tortillas: nutritional values
Generally Mexican tortillasare a nourishing food and, essentially, light. Furthermore, the ones made with corn flour are completely gluten-free and, so, they are suitable for coeliac people.
They have a low caloric value, they are free from fat or cholesterol, and a low sodium content.
Mexican tortillas, nice and done
Besides cooking them by ourselves, with mixed successes and the need of time and space not always available, the Mexican tortillas can be found ready…nice and done, that just need to be warmed up, filled and served, tasty and scented. In the Fine Food Group catalogue, a company that has made Mexican, Tex-Mex and American cuisines its focus, tortillas occupy an important position, with a designated category.
So the selection is quite wide. It includes corn and wheat tortillas, with different diameters, and many kinds of tortilla chips, the irresistible nachos for appetizers and as a tasty side dish.
Frozen wheat tortillas can be found in different diameters, 12, 15, 25, 30 centimeters. The same selection is available also at ambient temperature.
Corn tortillas are available both frozen, with a 10 and 15 centimeters diameter, and at ambient temperature, 12 and 15 centimeters diameter.
To keep talking about taste, there are two products made with flavored dough: the Tomato wrap and the Spinach wrap both wheat tortillas, with 30 centimeters diameter, ready to be used.
To make excellent tacos, with corn tortillas shells, what Fine Food Group suggests is the Taco shell, ready to be filled.
Perfectly placed on Tacosholders, according to their right size, tacosalways look great!
Regarding the nachos selection, starting from the unfried kind, that are frozen corn tortilla triangles ready to be fried, then we can find the tasty tortilla chips, both slightly flavored and au naturel. One original chips offer is the beetroot one.
Mexican tortillas are essential
Maybe we can do without them if we decided to open a place where we just want to sell pasta. However, for all those restaurants which want to have an ethnic profile, or want to stand out for a versatile, smart menu, full of taste and color, Mexican tortillas are the right ingredient that -together with the chef’s fantasy or used in a rigorous way, according to tradition- will guarantee us the approval of our clients.