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In dishes where the tortilla is not fried, a homemade tortilla can be the difference between a good and an amazing dish. Although making them at home can be a fair amount of work, there are some tips that can make the process easier. If you are making corn tortillas, always use masa harina, a specially processed cornmeal, and stick with all-purpose flour for flour tortillas. As you work, keep any dough that you are not using covered to preserve its pliability. To ensure evenness, use a heavy, flat object or a press to shape the tortillas, and always flatten each one over a piece of plastic to prevent sticking.
The most important part of making a homemade tortilla is the type of cornmeal or flour with which you prepare it. While the standard all-purpose flour that you use for baking works well when making homemade flour tortillas, standard cornmeal does not work for corn varieties. When making this dish at home, always use a cornmeal labeled as partially cooked or as masa harina, which translates into English as "dough flour." This means that the corn has been cooked, dried, and treated with lime before being ground, dried, and then ground again. Standard cornmeal will not make a very good homemade tortilla in either texture or flavor.
As you are working with the dough, you should keep each individual piece covered as much as possible. For a fluffy, fresh homemade tortilla, the dough needs to retain as much moisture as possible, and it can easily dry out if left uncovered while you are working on another tortilla. Small sheets of plastic wrap can be used to cover each ball, or you can keep each piece of dough between the plastic that you use when shaping to keep everything covered.
Shaping the dough is perhaps the most time consuming part of preparartion, especially when making large batches. A good tip for doing so is to use a heavy, flat object that is about the same size as you want your tortillas to be if you do not have a press. If you plan to make homemade tortillas on a regular basis, investing in a quality metal tortilla press is also a good tip. This kitchen tool can take a fair amount of the physical work out of making a homemade tortilla, as well as give it an even shape.
Whether you’re making a corn or a flour tortilla, the dough is usually very sticky, which can be a problem when you are shaping each dough ball into a flat disk. To prevent sticking, which can lead to tearing, always place the ball of dough between two pieces of plastic before you shape it. This will help to prevent it from sticking to your counter, press, or any other object that you are using to make a homemade tortilla. Doing this also has the added benefit of keeping your dough covered for almost the entire time leading up to the cooking process.
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