I wanted to offer up one final option for any of you out there who want to turn Pro.
Yes, using Masa Harina will give you some great tasting tortillas, as we just saw in the Homemade Corn Tortillas recipe. But you will get an upgrade in flavor if you take it a step further and make your own masa dough from scratch.
Here’s how you can do it at home without using an industrial-grade corn grinder.
First, you’ll need some dried field corn. This can be surprisingly hard to come by but there are some good online options to buy dried corn — feel free to email me if you’d like to know where I buy it.
So how exactly does this transform into masa dough?
It’s a good question and one that the ancient Meso-American cultures solved a long time ago.
The nixtamalization process, in its simplest form, is treating corn with calcium hydroxide to make it more amenable to grinding. The outer skin of the kernel will partially dissolve and slip off after soaking in the calcium hydroxide. Beyond the reduction in labor, there’s also an interesting health benefit in that the Cal increases not only the calcium content of the final product but also the niacin content.
Not to mention that nixtamalization creates that rich, authentic flavor that we tend to associate with traditional Latin cooking. So when asked in the quiz what the primary benefit of nixtamalization is…if your answer is “taste yum” then you are mostly there.
Okay, enough backstory…
Start by rinsing two cups of the dried corn in some cold water. Take a quick look for any stones or struggling kernels and discard them.
Add 1 tablespoon of the calcium hydroxide to 7-8 cups of water. You can get the calcium hydroxide at most Latin markets, and on Amazon you’ll see it referred to as both Cal Mexicana and Pickling Lime.
Combine well with the water and then add the corn. (Note: it’s best to use a non-reactive pot when using calcium hydroxide.)
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Make sure the corn is always submerged in liquid; you can always add more water if your pan calls for it.
When the outer skin of the kernels slip off easily then it’s had enough cooking time.
You can also take bites into the kernel to test when it’s had enough cooking time. Ideally, the outer portion will be slightly cooked but the inner portion remains dry and uncooked.
Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let it sit overnight at room temperature. This gives the calcium hydroxide time to do its job.
No one knows for sure exactly how long it needs, a minimum would probably be 6-8 hours. So yes, you could start it in the morning and use it for dinner if you wanted to, but I’ve just been letting it rest overnight, anywhere from 12-16 hours. After which it looks like this…
Drain the corn and then give it a good massage under some cold water.
Rub the corn between your hands to force the skins off the kernels. Most of them will slip off easily, but don’t worry about getting rid of every last one. It’s also worth replenishing the standing water a couple times until it starts to run clear.
And now the shortcut.
Instead of buying a fine-grade grinder, you can get by using a simple food processor. I’m using a smaller food processor so I’ll grind it in two batches.
After starting with 2 cups of dried corn, you’ve now got about 4 cups of hydrated corn. So I’m adding 2 cups of the hydrated corn to a food processor along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 cup of water.
Give it a whirl. You might have to stop a few times to wipe down the sides.
And if it’s not combining you can add some additional water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time.
Eventually, it will combine into a thick, dough-like substance. These batches took about 4-5 minutes each in the food processor and eventually turned into this blast from the past…
Look at the potential in that bowl! What do you see first? Tamales? Tortillas? The solution to all of life’s problems?!!
The masa dough might be a little wet and that’s okay, that comes with the territory of using a food processor to grind it.
To make it easier to handle, we’ll add some Masa Harina to it (the same Masa Harina that we used in the Homemade Corn Tortillas recipe).
This is another shortcut but you can get away with it because you don’t need that much to dry out your masa dough — I probably added 1/2 cup or so to this batch.
If you’re making tortillas, you’ll know where you stand when you start rolling the dough into golfball sized rounds.
If the dough is sticking to your hands then you’ll need to dry it out a little; that’s where the Masa Harina comes in handy.
Then it’s just a matter of flattening out the dough balls and cooking them in a hot skillet — the same process that we used in the previous Corn Tortillas recipe.
And yes, after much experimenting (gorging), they can turn the simplest of tacos into something extraordinary.
But first things first…
Keep an eye out for some dried field corn — or feel free to get in touch if you’d like to know where I buy it online.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the last recipe in the Course. Good job on sticking with it!
I’ll put the recipe box below. And since this is the last recipe in the Module, click on ‘Homemade Tortillas — Quiz!’ to take the final Quiz of the Course!
Homemade Masa Dough Using Yellow Field Corn
- 2 cups dried field corn
- 1 tablespoon calcium hydroxide
- 8 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup water (to grind the masa)
- 1/2 cup masa harina (optional)
- Rinse 2 cups of dried field corn in cold water. Remove any stones or struggling kernels.
- Add 1 tablespoon of calcium hydroxide to 8 cups of water in a non-reactive pot (I used stainless steel). Combine well. Add the corn to this mixture.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. When the skins of the kernels slip off easily then it's had enough cooking time.
- Remove from heat, cover, and let sit overnight at room temperature.
- The next day (or at least 6-8 hours later) drain the corn and massage it under running cold water. Use your hands to remove the skins from the kernels. Change the standing water a couple times until it starts to run clear.
- Drain the corn and add to a food processor. You'll need 1 teaspoon of salt and approximately 1/2 cup of water for the whole batch (as photographed above I ground it in two batches in a smaller food processor). Wipe down the sides of the food processor occasionally. It will need approximately 4-5 minutes to thoroughly combine, you can add splashes of water if it's not combining well.
- Use immediately or cover with plastic/foil and store it in the fridge.
- If you want to make tortillas with the masa dough, adding some masa harina to it will make it easier to handle. I added about 1/2 cup to this batch.