The corn tortilla, with many variants, has been a staple food in North American and Mesoamerican cultures since pre-Columbian times. It predates the alternative wheat flour version of the tortilla (tortilla de harina or tortilla de trigo) in all such cultures, as wheat was not grown in the Americas prior to European contact.
In Aztec times, two or three corn tortillas would be eaten with each meal, either plain or dipped in mole or a chili pepper and water sauce. Tortillas were also sold at Aztec marketplaces filled with turkey meat, turkey eggs, beans, honey, squash, prickly pears and chili pepper.
Tortilla, from Spanish torta, cake, plus the diminutive -illa, literally means "little cake". Nahuatl tlaxcalli is derived from the verb (i)xca "to bake" with the help of the prefix tla- and two common suffixes -l- and -li (<-tli), that is "something baked".
- 2 cups masa harina (white corn flour such as Maseca)
- 1 to 2 cups hot tap water
- Tortilla Press
- 2 plastic or parchment paper sheets the same size as the plates of the tortilla press
- 1 comal or griddle
In a bowl, combine the masa harina with one cup of hot tap water and knead with hands. Add water as needed and continue kneading until dough is the consistency of cookie dough, slightly sticky. Cover and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Take a small piece of the dough between your hands and roll it into a ball of one-inch diameter – should be around 20 balls.
Place one masa ball between the tortilla press lined with plastic or parchment paper – close the press and press the tortillera handle until dough is flattened to around six inches in diameter.
Lift the tortilla off the press by placing the tortilla on your right (or left) hand. Lay the tortilla on a medium heated comal or griddle. Let it cook for one minute then turn the tortilla over for another minute. Turn it over once more and gently press with your fingers on the tortilla surface – it will inflate and look like a balloon!