Saturday, May 16, 2020

Homemade Corn Tortillas with Instant Pot Hominy

We are a corn tortilla-preferring family. While I don’t mind wheat tortillas, both of my kids really just don’t like them much. We always have storebought corn tortillas in the fridge. I’ve made my own a few times using dried masa harina, but I didn’t love the result enough to make it a regular thing. I also eat far fewer tortillas than the rest of the family and couldn’t muster up the energy to produce enough to replace storebought. But then a few things happened. First of all, I was reading the comments on the Rancho Gordo site for their white corn posole and a commenter mentioned using it to make tortillas. I had never considered this before. I bought some posole and tucked the idea away into my brain where it sat for at least six months.

And then Coronavirus lockdown happened. It took about two months but then I finally got enough energy to think about trying it. I was going to make some Pork and Hominy Soup so decided to use dried hominy this time instead of canned and I set aside some as a test case for tortillas. Well, it was such a success that I immediately soaked another pound of posole/hominy to try again at larger volume. One pound of dried hominy makes almost 3lb of cooked hominy to use for tortillas. You can get about 25-30 tortillas from this amount.

In my test batch, I used hominy that I had refrigerated for a few days. I processed it with hot water and enough masa harina to make a dough. This worked just great but I wondered if I would get a smoother, better texture if I processed the hominy while it was still warm from the Instant Pot. It was certainly different. I needed hardly any hot water or masa harina to bring it together. I think the dough does work best if you can let it sit for 30-60 minutes at room temperature, covered with a damp towel. This allows the water to be absorbed more fully.

Because I made such a big batch of dough, I didn’t cook up all of the tortillas at once. My grand plan was that I could keep dough in the fridge and we could cook tortillas to order for the week. This worked with the extra dough of my test batch but was an utter failure with the bigger batch made from warm hominy. I have no idea what the science is behind this but the good news is that I just broke the dough into chunks and put it back in the food processor and brought it back to the right texture with hot water and masa harina. While this worked, I do think it put paid to my idea of leaving the dough in the fridge. I think it’s going to work much better to cook up all the tortillas and then reheat them as needed. They won’t last as long as storebought but they should last us the week—the only problem being the family loves them so much that we are eating far more tortillas than usual! Alternatively, you could do what I did the first time, which is put the whole cooked hominy in the fridge and just process with hot water and masa to order. It all depends on how important that fresh-off-the griddle quality is to your family.

The good news for us is that the kids are older now and absolutely love pressing the tortillas. My 12yo is a fine cook and minded the entire last batch for me without me even having to ask so I could work with the younger one on the pressing part. I think we’ll be able to have a whole family operation so that tortilla-making is a pleasure rather than a chore.

I use an old Cook’s Illustrated trick of brining my hominy. I have no idea if the hominy is the same as beans and takes on some seasoning from the brining, but it’s no more effort and if it can lead to a more delicious result it’s worth it.

I do use a few gadgets: Instant Pot, tortilla press, griddle and silicone tortilla warmer. You don’t have to have any of these things, but they work well for us and the IP definitely saves a ton of time.

UPDATE: We have been making tortillas 1-2 times per week for over a month now and I have a few discoveries. Thankfully it is not necessary to use the hominy steaming hot from the Instant Pot. Now I rinse it in cold water and use cold water to mix it in the food processor. Because I am imprecise and don’t know the exact texture I’m looking for, my tortillas vary from batch to batch, with we are okay with. I bought an 8 inch cast iron tortilla press to replace my 6.5 inch aluminum one and it is a vast improvement. Today I made a batch that seemed fine but was way too sticky—it wouldn’t come off the plastic bag I use in my press. I had already measured out my 60g balls (perfect for the 8 inch press). Undaunted, I put some masa harina in a bowl and took each ball and flattened it. I coated it on both sides with masa and then worked it and rolled back into a ball. The great thing about corn tortillas is that there is no gluten so you cannot overwork them. Don’t be afraid to work the heck out of them to get the right texture. This worked extremely well and the batch was saved. I’ve updated the instructions below.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb dried prepared hominy/posole*
4 qt water
3 TBSP Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt

1 additional tsp kosher salt

Up to 2 c water (from the tap temperature or cold is fine)
Up to 1 c masa harina (do not use polenta or corn meal)
Up to 1 more tsp kosher salt

*prepared means that the corn has already been treated. You can make your own by nixtamalizing corn yourself but I will never go quite this far

HOMINY DIRECTIONS

  1. Dissolve the 3 TBSP kosher salt in 4 qt of water in a large container. Rinse your dried hominy then add to the container. Let sit 8-24 hours at room temperature, covered
  2. After the soaking time is up, drain the hominy and rinse well
  3. Place the hominy in the Instant Pot and cover with water by 3-4 inches. I am very generous with the amount of water because the hominy is going to swell a lot, even after soaking. Add 1 tsp more salt
  4. Using the Multigrain or Manual setting, cook at high pressure for 25 minutes. I always let the pressure come down for at least 10 minutes before releasing. It doesn’t matter if you leave Keep Warm on or turn it off
  5. Drain the cooked hominy. You should probably taste one to make sure it’s the right doneness level for you. Rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly. At this point you can refrigerate your hominy to process later or you can go straight to the next phase. Know that if you process from the fridge you’ll need both more water and more masa harina to get the right texture
DOUGH DIRECTIONS
  1. Put cooked hominy in the food process and process until you get as fine a texture as you can and it starts to come together. Add water through the feed tube slowly as needed and stop to scrape down. When the hominy is as fine as you think you’re going to get it, take the dough and turn out into a very large bowl. I used a giant stainless steel bowl. I like it because it gives me tons of room to work and it also allows the dough to get a lot of exposure to the air so it cools down enough to knead
  2. Knead the dough a bit and then test the consistently by making a small ball and squeezing it. If the sides crack, then your dough needs more moisture. If it’s extremely sticky, you’ll want to add more masa harina. I gave my dough 5-10 really good turns to make sure all the masa was integrated and it seemed like a nice texture. Give it a taste and add more salt if you like
  3. If you have the time, leave the dough at room temperature, covered with a lightly damp cloth, for 30-60 minutes (you could do this all in the morning or afternoon if you want tortillas for lunch or dinner). My latest batch was the best yet and I didn't let it rest, so you may be able to skip this step
COOKING DIRECTIONS
  1. If you’re making tortillas for a crowd, a griddle is the best option. Otherwise you can use a cast iron or other pan. Heat on medium high until quite hot and oil the pan a bit if you like. You're not deep-frying the tortillas (unless you want to make hard-shell tacos), just making sure the tortilla can move around easily and browns a bit
  2. Make a ball of dough about 35-50g in weight. A 50g ball will give you about a 6-inch tortilla whereas a 35g ball will give you a smaller, but probably thinner tortilla. Use around 60g for an 8 inch press. When my 7yo presses them the tortilla ends up about the same diameter no matter how much dough is used--she's only got so much strength. Just experiment to see what works best for you. I don't mind the chew of a thick tortilla even if it doesn't fold as well
  3. I like to use a plastic bag that I’ve cut on the sides as a liner for my tortilla press. Put the dough ball in the bag and then press. If you wish, turn the plastic 180 degrees and press again. I most often do not bother with the second squish. If your tortilla is too sticky, take your ball of dough and dip into masa harina on all sides then work it back into a ball, making sure the masa is well integrated then try again. Repeat if needed
  4. Lift the top layer of plastic off the tortilla and take the tortilla in your hand, then place on the hot griddle
  5. Cook for a minute or two and then flip. If you’re lucky you might get some puffing but that’s been rare for me
  6. Cook another minute or two on the second side and then remove to a tortilla warmer or into a clean tea towel
Isn’t this the cutest baby tortilla ever? It was the last bit of dough so I made one the size of a sand dollar. I think the kids would love to have all of their tortillas this small if their appetites for them weren’t so big!

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