TORTILLAS (16 small tortillas about 5 inches in diameter)
2 cups masa harina (Diana says Quaker brand masa harina is the only satisfactory American product for making tortillas)
1-1/4 cup warm water (or less in humid weather)
2 cast-iron frying pans (or a Mexican cast iron comal that covers 2 burners)
a 6 inch tortilla press
2 sandwich-size polyethylene bags
1. Mix the flour and water together into a soft dough.
2. Heat the pans, one over a low flame, the other over a rather high flame.
3. Place one of the bags on the bottom part of the tortilla press. Roll a piece of dough into a ball about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Place the ball almost on the center of the bag – a little more toward the hinge of the press. Place the second bag on top of the ball of dough. Close the press and push the handle down hard, then open the press and peel the top bag off of the flattened dough, starting at the side opposite the handle, since the dough nearest the handle is too thin to pick up easily. If the dough is still rather thick and has a grainy, uneven edge, then it is too dry. Add some more water to the dough and knead it well.
4. Pick up the second bag, together with the dough, and place the dough on your fingers – not on your palm. Carefully peel the bag off the dough – do not try to peel the dough off of the bag. If the dough does not come away easily from the bag, or if it sticks to your hands, it is too wet. Add some more flour and knead the dough again well and lightly grease your hands to make the dough easier to handle.
5. Place the tortilla on the cooler of the 2 pans. After a few seconds, the dough will begin to dry out at the edge. Do not wait for it to curl up, but flip the tortilla over onto the hotter pan and let it cook until it is speckled with dark brown patches. Flip it back onto the first side, still on the hotter pan, and let it cook further and color a little. The total cooking time for each tortilla is about 2 minutes.
6. The second side, which is not on top, is the “face” of the tortilla. It will probably puff up, indicating that the tortilla will be light and nicely cooked through. You can encourage the puffing by pressing lightly on the tortilla just before it finishes cooking with a piece of cloth of paper towel – Mexican cook use their fingers and say they are “tickling” the tortilla.
7. As each tortilla is cooked, stack it on top of the others in a dry cloth, which should cover them completely. Tortillas can be made about 2 hours ahead and warmed up, wrapped in cloth and then in tin foil, in the oven for about 20 minutes. Wipe the tortilla press with a dry cloth or sponge and store it with some paper toweling between the plates.
QUAKER MASA HARINA
MY VERY OWN WELL USED AND ABUSED TORTILLA PRESS AND COMAL
from Diana Kennedy, The Cuisines of Mexico