Store bought tortillas are easy. But they’re also a bland, texture-less imitation of the delicious little disks you’d be served at a beach stand in Baja.
Taking a few extra minutes to make your own tortillas is a pretty painless way to elevate your fajitas. Also, if you’re cooking for two, it won’t hurt your evening to show her your culinary range extends beyond grilling meat and chopping vegetables.
The ingredient list is short and the steps are simple in this recipe from Keith Dresser, Cook’s Illustrated’s executive food editor. You don’t even need a tortilla press or other task-specific contraptions, Dresser says. A glass pie plate or the round lid of a casserole dish will get the job done.
20 five-inch tortillas
• 2 cups masa harina—a ground-corn flour you can get at most grocery stores
• 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 ¼ cups warm water, plus extra as needed
Mix the masa harina, one teaspoon of vegetable oil, water, and salt in a large bowl using a rubber spatula. “Oil isn’t a traditional ingredient in corn tortillas,” Dresser says. “But we found that a small amount added to the dough makes it more pliable and easier to work with.”
When the ingredients are combined, start kneading the mixture with your hands. Your goal is dough that’s tacky but not sticky, so be prepared to add warm water—one tablespoon at a time—until you get that consistency. “We say it should be like Play-Doh,” Dresser says. “And we’re talking about new, just-out-of-the-package Play-Doh, not the old dry stuff.”
When you get the dough to its properly Play-Doh’ish state, cover its bowl with a dish towel and set it aside for five minutes. Now take a minute to cut two sides of a gallon-sized zipper-lock bag so that it opens up like a book. (You’re going to use this to keep the tortilla dough from sticking to your pie plate or Pyrex dish.)
Heat the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil in an eight-inch (or larger) non-stick pan over medium-high heat. When the oil starts shimmering—but before it starts smoking—wipe out the pan with paper towel, leaving behind just the residue of the oil.
Pinch off about two tablespoons worth of dough and roll it into a 1¼-inch ball. Put the ball on a flat counter space or cutting board between the two halves of the zipper-lock bag, then use the pie plate or dish to flatten the ball down into a 5-inch disk. You want the thickness of the tortilla dough to be as even as possible, Dresser says.
Carefully peel away the plastic and place the dough into your hot pan. Let it sit for about 30 seconds—until it slides easily when you jostle the pan—and then flip it over. Cook until the edges start to curl—roughly one minute—and then flip again. Cook for another 30 to 60 seconds until it starts to puff up at its center and its surface is spotty brown. Slide it between two damp dishcloths and repeat the process until you’ve gone through all your dough.
You’re done. It takes time and effort, but that’s true of almost anything worthwhile in life. You can eat the tortillas immediately or refrigerate them in a zipper-lock bag for up to five days, Dresser says.