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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

My Homemade Tortilla and Taco Shells

Here is currently snow covered Ontario I would not think twice about making dough for fresh baked bread for dinner.  In the southern US most would not think twice about whipping up a batch of homemade bisquits or corn bread for dinner.  The same applies to Mexican cuisine where taco shells and tortillas take the place of bisquits, corn bread or yeast bread.  I showed a short video of how to make homemade taco shells a few days ago. 

Rather than use store bought tortillas for wraps or pre-made taco shells I used the tortilla press to make both.  I did not do this because store bought tortillas and taco shells are expensive.  While I did end up saving on making both with 8 taco shells costing about 30¢ verses 12 store bought for $1.99 and 8 tortillas about the same verses store bought at $1.79 for 10, the primary goal of this exercise was not saving money, it was all about discovery and experimenting in the kitchen! 

using the tortilla press
Using the tortilla press was not difficult at all.  I ended up using two methods.  The first method involved using plastic wrap to sandwich the dough between for the taco shells.  The second method (pictured) used flour on the tortilla press.

To use a tortilla press you break off a piece of the dough, form it into a ball then press between your palms to flatten a bit.  Place the flattened ball in the centre of the tortilla press then close the top portion over the dough.  Pull the handle up over the top portion using enough pressure to flatten the dough.  The flattened, shaped dough is now ready for cooking on a hot griddle.

homemade tortillas
I followed the recipe that was included with my tortilla press.  The recipes was fairly straight forward but the results were not.  The tortillas were thicker than I would have like and it didn't matter how I adjusted the press the tortillas thickened up when cooking.  Now all is not lost because the tortillas I made are very similar to Greek style pocketless pitas so serendipity has given me another homemade product to do a bit of tweaking.  If I did them a bit thicker they would be just like the thin breads (Fill'ems) I was telling you about.  This really is what cooking is all about!  The recipe didn't work as I was expecting but I ended up with a result that works for another purpose.  I will be testing out more tortilla recipes in the very near future.

Homemade Tortillas

2 c all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp lard
¼ to ½c lukewarm water

Combine dry ingredients then mix in lard by hand.  Add lukewarm water to form dough into a ball.  Rub the dough with a little lard.  Cover with plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes.  Pinch off balls of dough and shape into balls.  Dust the tortilla press with flour.  Place a dough ball in the centre and close press.  Press down the handle.  Remove the formed dough and cook on a hot griddle (450ºF) until just browning.  Turn over and repeat.  Remove from griddle.  Keep warm for serving or allow to cool for later use.

homemade taco shells
Making taco shells is a two step process using two cooking methods.  First the dough is formed into tortillas using a tortilla press and cooked briefly at 450ºF for 20 to 30 seconds on each side.  Next the cooked tortillas are allowed to dry then then are fried forming their shape with whatever kitchen utensil gets the job done to create the desired shape.  In the video the taco shells were fried in a pan on the stovetop first on one side then turned using spatulas to create the shape while frying.

Homemade taco shells are nothing like store bought other than shape.  Oh my the flavour is incredible!     Mine were a bit rough around the edges but considering this was my first attempt, I was rather pleased.  I used instant corn masa bought as a foodie find while at our vacation home in the fall.  This is made with 100% premium white corn.  te the shape while frying.  I decided to modify this to use my deep fryer and tongs making the whole process a bit easier and streamlined.  This method worked quite nicely.  Unlike store bought taco shells homemade ones puff a bit when frying.  I wasn't put off by this though as this just adds to the crunch.

Taco Shells

1 c harina de maiz (instant corn masa)
¾ c water

Mix together to form a smooth ball.  Divide the ball into 8 equal sized pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball then flatten between your palms.  Place on a piece of plastic wrap on a tortilla press.  Place another piece of plastic wrap on top.  Close the tortilla press and press down with firm pressure.  Remove from press and peel off the plastic wrap.  Cook on hot grill at 450ºF for 20 to 30 seconds then turn and cook for another 20 to 30 seconds.  Cover and keep warm for serving.  If making taco shells:  Allow the cooked corn tortillas to dry then fry while shaping.

Clearly I need to do a bit more practicing to get both the tortillas and taco shells looking closer to what I want but this really was a valuable learning experience for me.  First off a flub turned into another product that certainly will not go to waste.  It planted the seed as to how to make those new thin sandwich breads.  Homemade came in at 3¢ a piece for both taco shells and tortillas.  In perspective a family of 4 using 12  of either for one meal could save $1.56 on that meal which doesn't sound like a lot of money but consider if they had tacos twice a month for the year the overall savings would be $37.44, enough to make a difference.  The most important thing though is the whole experience has sparked the desire to explore a bit more to see how I can tweak the recipes and methods to get exactly what I want.

4 food lovers commented:

LindaG said...

Looks like a good start to me. :)

Daniel White said...

Those look really nice, and are probably better for us than the prepacked stuff that comes from the stores (some of which taste horrible and fake).

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Linda, I think it was a good start but have a taco shell former on the way so I think the results will be even better. I will post about that as soon as it arrives.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Daniel and thanks for visiting :) Homemade does taste so much nicer! I can't wait for my taco shell former that will solve the puffing of the taco shells when fried.