When wife Jan recently bought me blue corn meal, she also purchased some blue masa harina. Masa harina is corn that has been soaked in calcium hydroxide (AKA slaked lime) in a process called nixtamalization. This process has many benefits, making it easier to remove the hulls, breaking down toxins that may be present in the raw corn, and altering the corn’s chemistry—allowing for easier absorption of key nutrients like niacin and letting the corn flour to absorb water to make a dough. The freshly ground corn dough—masa—is dried and then reground to make masa harina.
Note: Flour ground from untreated corn will make a batter, but will never come together to form a dough.
In most of my posted recipes I have changed things enough to call them my own. In this case however, I cannot make this claim—this is just how they are made. Tortillas are made by simply adding hot water to masa harina and kneading it into a dough. Salt is frequently added and—in the case of blue corn—culinary ash is added to the water for the color and additional nutrients.
Blue Corn Tortillas
Note: Makes six 5 inch tortillas
1 cup blue corn masa harina
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¾ cup hot water
(Optional) 1 tsp. Hopi culinary ash
(Optional) 1 tsp. corn oil
Nice to have
Waxed paper/plastic wrap
Note: The first time I made the blue corn tortillas I forgot the culinary ash until after I had already added to the water to the masa harina. The only solution was to make a second batch, but this gave me a chance to show the difference that the ash makes side by side.
1. Put the masa harina and salt in a bowl and whisk them together.
Tip: While many people would leave out the salt, it does improve the flavor.
2. Stir in the hot water and knead until all of the dry masa is incorporated to form a dough.
Note: If using culinary ash stir it into 1½ cups of boiling water. Let the water steep for 2-3 minutes—stirring occasionally. Let the ashes settle to the bottom of the cup and pour off ¾ of a cup of the ash water. You may pour it through several layers of cheese cloth to remove as much of the ash solids as possible. Add the hot ash water to the masa and kneed it into a dough.
3. Divide the dough into 2 tablespoon sized balls and form each ball into a thin 5 inch disk.
Tip: The easiest way to do this is to use a tortilla press lined with waxed paper or plastic wrap—which helps you to transfer the dough to the skillet without folding or tearing. If you do not have a tortilla press, you my use a pan/pie plate/or rolling pin to flatten the dough.
Note: The traditional method is to pat the balls into a disk—which leaves you with a thicker, less flexible tortilla.
4. Preheat a wide flat skillet/griddle over medium high heat.
Tip: If you are using a non-stick pan you may leave the surface dry, but if you are using a pan with a non-stick surface use the lightest film of oil.
5. Cook the tortillas for 1-2 minutes on each side, until the surfaces are spotty brown on both sides.
6. Stack the finished tortillas to keep them warm and serve with chili or your favorite taco fillings.