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There’s nothing quite like a homemade tortilla

MAKING your own tortillas is well worth the extra time — only as much time as it takes to make pancakes, and it’s just about as easy. All you need is masa (either prepared or mixed at home from instant masa flour), a tortilla press, two small plastic bags and a griddle or

comal.

A comal is a round or oval skillet, usually made of aluminum, sheet metal or cast iron, traditionally used in Mexican kitchens to cook tortillas. (Both comals and tortilla presses are available in Latino markets as well as through many online sources such as www.mexgrocer.com, www.mifiesta.com and www.cooking.com.)

Although many cookbooks suggest using a nonstick sauté pan or cast-iron skillet, an aluminum comal works best, as it conducts heat faster than the nonstick but doesn’t retain it as long as the cast-iron skillet.

Simply mix up some masa, using masa flour, some water and a little salt (follow the directions on the package) — mix it with your hands until it’s smooth and pliant. (Or use prepared masa, which is available from many Latino markets.)

The dough should be soft and easy to work with; if it’s crumbly, just mix in a little more water. Then form the dough into balls, about 1 1/2 ounces each — or about the size of a golf ball. Cover them under plastic wrap so they don’t dry out.

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Heat an ungreased comal or skillet over medium heat. While the comal is heating, place one of the plastic bags on the open tortilla press to keep the dough from sticking, then put one of the balls of masa on the bag, pressing it a little with your fingers to flatten it. Put the other bag on top of the dough, then press down firmly on the press. (The dough should be thin, about one-eighth of an inch.)

Open up the press and peel the top bag off. Then carefully pull the second bag off the flattened dough.

With your fingers, lay the dough flat onto the comal and cook for about 30 seconds, or until the dough loses its shine.

Flip the tortilla with a spatula and cook on the other side for about a minute, until it begins to brown a little. (If the tortilla begins to burn or colors too quickly, turn the heat down.) Flip again and cook for 15 seconds or so more, pushing down on the tortilla with your fingers or with a spatula so that it puffs up slightly, like a pita.

Once the tortilla has puffed and has a little color on both sides, remove from the comal and place in a basket lined with a cloth. Repeat, layering the cooked tortillas on top of one another and covering with the cloth to keep warm.

— Amy Scattergood


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