Sunday, January 24, 2010

4 Grain Tortillas

On Thursday night, I had the great pleasure of spending the evening with Chef Becca. Becca is a personal chef here in San Francisco who teaches cooking classes at Glide Memorial Church. The fascinating thing about her classes is that the students are young kids from the impoverished SF neighborhood known as the Tenderloin. Becca teaches this magical bunch how to cook with the vegetables they have grown on the rooftop with the help of Maya Donelson. The program is primarily funded by donors. If you are interested in helping out, please visit the church's website. It's truly a worthy cause.

Upon my arrival at home, I opened the door to the sights and smells that most every wife out there would be envious of. In the kitchen stood my husband -- flank steak and onions in the skillet, avocado sliced alongside jalapenos, cilantro and onions, Tecate poured...and inside a small, rainbow-colored, Mexican basket there was a steaming pile of freshly cooked tortillas. Ay, Dios, que marido tengo yo!

It is not necessary to have a tortilla press. You may use a rolling pin, still keeping the dough pressed between wax paper to avoid sticking. Fashion your own press by using a flat baking sheet with a weight on top. Ben insists that if you are feeling abuela-like, you may also pat them out by hand -- although this technique does require a certain amount of practice.

Makes 10 small tortillas

3/4 cup Maseca
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup rye flour
salt, to taste
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. When the dough starts to form a ball, turn the dough out on the counter, and begin kneading with your hands. Knead for approximately 2 minutes or until the dough is smooth.
2. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat while you begin pressing tortillas.
3. Tear off two sheets of wax paper. Lay one sheet on the bottom of a tortilla press. Place a ball of dough the size of 2 teaspoons on the wax paper. Lay the second sheet over the top. Press down tightly with the press until the tortilla is as thin as you can make it, about 4-5 inches in diameter.
4. When the skillet is hot, lay the tortilla in the pan with your hand. To do so, place the tortilla on the palm of your hand. Using a quick flick of the wrist and an upward swooping motion, turn your palm downward, sending your pinky finger up in the air. (Just try it - you'll see what I mean.) Cook for approximately 1 minute or until the tortilla starts to brown in patches. Flip, using your fingers or a pair of tongs, and cook for 1 minute on the other side.
5. Transfer the tortillas to a towel lined basket, stacking them up as you go. Cover with the towel; the residual heat will steam the tortillas.
6. Enjoy!

The picture above is one of my favorite photos shot by Ben. We were learning to make tortillas at La Villa Bonita.


  1. mesca? please tell me what and where to find it

  2. Maseca is actually the brand name for a very common type of dried corn flour used as the base of corn tortillas. "Seca" means dry, and when you add water to the maseca, you get "masa" which means dough. Once you have added water and hence created masa, you can begin pressing the tortilla. It can be that easy. We just like to add in few additional grains for added nutrition. I'm willing to bet that you can find Maseca at most large grocery stores. If not, all Latin groceries should carry it. It is sold in 4.4 pound sacks similar to wheat flour. For more info, go to