Monday, 3 September 2007

Making tortillas, Bonsai Carlos

Some time ago in Papantla I bought my very own tortilla press from a market. Great idea I'm sure seeing as it is made from cast iron and we have 3 weeks of backpacking left to do. These are the liberties you can take when you pack light, i.e. carry lots.

So I have been pottering around with it in this hostel kitchen in Merida. We bought some (wheat) flour from the shop. This is a matter of some controversy- we like the wheat flour ones better, and they are quite common further west, but we are entering a more maize- loyal zone now (and 'loyal' really isn't too strong a word) so my choice elicited some grumbling from the man who helped me make them, Bonsai Carlos ("Sabes bonsai? Me encaaanta las bonsais. Tengo como setenta plantas en mi casa! Vengan!") who considers it an insidious import, or substandard at the least.

To use the press you must put your dough (flour and water) between two sheets of plastic, probably from an old bag, then squeeze it with the vice. He showed me the 'authentic Mayan' way of doing it too, which is to grip the dough in one hand between the flats of your fingers and your palm, fingers together, then use your other hand to squeeze your tortilla-holding hand. As you squash it, the idea is to rotate it and flatten it out.

I think tortillas originally must have been really quite small and thick- not like the pancakes things we often have today, and his choice of when to say it 'its ready' affirmed this. Even the ones me made in the press we couldn't get that thin- the elasticity of the wheat meant they actually refattened about 20% (can you have percentages of fatness?) as soon as you took the pressure off.

We fried our fat little tortillas dry, one by one and ate them with a can of refried beans and an ad hoc chile blanco salsa. A nice meal.

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