Problem with patting out tortillas...

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Senior Cook
Feb 4, 2003
Here in So Cal we enjoy a lot of "Mexican" food - I guess it is becoming popular throught the country now.

A major problem with making authentic Mexican cuisine is the making of the humble - but absolutely essential - tortilla.

In rural Mexico, tortilla are still made by patting out masa harina dough balls by hand into near perfect circlers which, when baked on a dry, hot surface, develop a flavor and texture that cannot be attained by any other means.

My problem is, hard as I try, I cannot pat those darned things out. I just don't have the knack.

Any of you have any tips on what I might try?

There is a tool for this, but you can only get it in Mexico - it looks like two small skillets with their backs together. Try squashing them between the backs of two plates. I like buying pre-made extra-thin ones myself.
I have one of those tortilla presses. From a flavor standpoint (and texture, too), nothing seems to attain that given by hand-patting. Even the machine made tortillas in Mexico are not nearly of the sam quality as those made by hand.
hi oldcoot,
you've got me curious--
the same ingredients go into the tortilla, yet you definitely notice a taste difference depending on how they are pressed out? i can understand that there might be a texture difference, but it seems strange that the taste would be affected (although i don't doubt it)--do you have any idea why the pressing method would affect the flavor?
The only possibility that occurs to me, Carnivore, is that, due to the irregularities in thickness and surface, the hand-patted tortilla bakes differently on that smooth, hot surface. This would result in different degrees of "doneness" of the dough, which conceivably might alter the flavor.
hi oldcoot,
that makes sense. i also really like the "human factor" in food (nothing is perfect, aka done by a machine). if you ever figure out how to do it, be sure to post the answer--i'm hungry for some really good Mexican food :!:
the tortillia press does just fine...IF you cook the tortillia on a tortilla skillet/grill...whatever you want to call it.....please don't ask me why. I just know that the basic recipe tastes different, and WONDERFUL...when shaped with an authentic Mexican press, then cooked on an authentic Mexican grill/griddle. And this comes from a Texan, who's daughter is married to a Mexico City, Mexican...and both the the press and the griddle came from Mexico.
Hi, oldcoot! Are you patting out your tortillas horizontally or vertically? The reason I ask is that, having a bunch of ignominious failures to my credit, I couldn't begin to fathom how the Mexican women pat out their tortillas by hand. Then one day I saw a home video from South America, wherein women were patting out tortillas, by hand, and they were holding these balls of dough between their palms (think "Praying Hands" and then move the hands down until they are at a 90 degree angle from the body), patting and turning them simultaneously, and turning out a finished tortilla about every 30 seconds.

So I tried it that way and had much better success, though I have still a long way to go to get it down really right. (If I'm in a hurry I still just slap that dough ball down on my countertop and whack it with the bottom of my 6-inch cast iron skillet, and counters and skillet bottoms are not nearly as easy to clean as a pair of hands!)

I think I'm going to use boiling water for the dough the next time around, and see if that improves the cohesion.
tortillas from a mexican

Back when I was a young lad in Sunday school, one of the mexican parents came in (I don't remember what this had to do with religion) and showed us how they made tortillas.

They first showed the ease at doing it with the tortilla press.

Then by hand.

Then for those of us who did not have a press, or skill with hands. They demonstrated taking a golf ball size hunk of dough and sandwiching between layers of flour-dusted wax paper. Roll to a 2 mm thickness with a rolling pin!

We took our tortillas and put them on a greased cast iron skilletcooking both sides till brown bubbles formed and served hot with shredded cheddar cheese.

BTW the dough was about 25 percent white flour, a little salt and 80 percent masa harina or Quaker cornmeal.

If I wasn't currently doing low carb, I'd make some now! Mmmmm

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