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Tortilla Presses


lperry
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I want a tortilla press, and when I look at the reviews online, they are inevitably two-sided. A few people love them, and a whole lot of people hate them because they get lopsided tortillas. It is my guess that the uneven tortillas are from lack of proper technique rather than a problem with the press, but I could be wrong. Rick Bayless recommends a cast iron one, and I see a few online, but then the reviews indicate that the handles snap easily. That seems scary too. I've got a lot of cast iron, and I think it would take some pretty substantial force to break a handle. Too much pressure too quickly instead of slow and steady? I guess I want someone to tell me the bad reviews of cast iron presses are due to operator error instead of an inferior product. But I'd also like to know if I should just head to Home Depot and make myself a wooden one. Thoughts? Suggestions? Local sources?

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I'll respond regarding sources only: Best Way and other related stores that cater to frugal Latino/a shoppers. I'm not sure I've seen a variety of options when it comes to materials, though online photographs suggest aluminum finish resembles cast iron in that both are shiny and bumpy.

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I've had several, though I have to say I've never used a cast iron one. The cheap metal ones tend to make more "uneven" tortillas, which results only partly from inadequate technique (placement of the ball of masa) but primarily due to the innate design of the press--more pressure is exerted at the point that is closest to the lever, which results in the tortilla being thinner at the side closest to the handle. The press I have liked best and have used the longest is a wooden one--it has square wooden plates and a wooden handle. I've modified the angle at which the handle meets the top plate by tying a rolled-up freezer bag around the handle right at the pressure point. This helps to spread the pressure more evenly across the top plate and results in even thickness. It's important to find the right placement point for the ball of masa, which depends on the press (ie. centered or slightly closer to or farther away from the lever.} Also important is the size of the ball of masa, the amount of water in the masa, the amount of pressure applied. And most important is what Dave said. Never put the masa directly onto the press. Always use a cut-open freezer-strength plastic bag, hinged on one side, inside the press, and sandwich the ball of masa between the two sheets of plastic before pressing. If you have the right amount of water in the masa, you'll be able to peel the tortilla off of the plastic after it is pressed, and then slap it onto the griddle. It takes a fair amount of practice to get all of the elements right.

Hint: roll a bunch of masa balls in advance and keep them covered with a damp towel, rather than roll one at a time. If you are working alone, you'll be pressing and griddling simultaneously and it's a lot easier to get into the rhythm of it if you have the masa portioned out and rolled into balls at the ready.

Another hint: you can make perfectly good tortillas by putting a ball of masa inside the thick cut-open plastic bag and rolling it out with a rolling pin.

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I want the gadget. :angry:

I first saw the wooden kind that I have in use at Cocina Picante, a cantina that has traditional Mexican food in Berkeley, CA. I had never seen one before, but I was impressed by the speed and the evenness of the tortillas that were being made with it. I found one some time later in a Latin grocery store in Hayward, CA. At the time, I was struggling with metal presses, and after seeing the one in Pat's post, and thinking back, I did have a cast iron one--it was in aluminum disguise though. I remember that it was heavy.

<a few moments later>

I just went to one of my upper cupboards and found that I still have it!--the painted cast iron tortilla press, that is!

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Epic fail in trying to make tortillas. 

Help me out .. 

1 cup masa harina, 3/4 cup hot water, pinch of salt. Mixed into a ball. Let it rest. Maybe not enough (15 min). Cut up into 8 balls. Could not roll them out - they just kept falling apart. Any time it got a little thin, it would break apart, on the outer circumference, and in the middle. I had a passable looking few that through on the griddle. Too thick really to get cooked properly.

Any ideas? Need a press?

 

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2 hours ago, Simul Parikh said:

Epic fail in trying to make tortillas. 

Help me out .. 

1 cup masa harina, 3/4 cup hot water, pinch of salt. Mixed into a ball. Let it rest. Maybe not enough (15 min). Cut up into 8 balls. Could not roll them out - they just kept falling apart. Any time it got a little thin, it would break apart, on the outer circumference, and in the middle. I had a passable looking few that through on the griddle. Too thick really to get cooked properly.

Any ideas? Need a press?

 

It might not help much with your situation, but I find flour tortillas much easier to make than corn. I bought a press for making corn tortillas but have not been able to make them successfully.  They are too thick and fell apart.

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23 hours ago, Simul Parikh said:

Epic fail in trying to make tortillas. 

Help me out .. 

1 cup masa harina, 3/4 cup hot water, pinch of salt. Mixed into a ball. Let it rest. Maybe not enough (15 min). Cut up into 8 balls. Could not roll them out - they just kept falling apart. Any time it got a little thin, it would break apart, on the outer circumference, and in the middle. I had a passable looking few that through on the griddle. Too thick really to get cooked properly.

Any ideas? Need a press?

 

If it is crumbling- I would try a little more water to be honest.  I don't know how much- dough is normally a feeling sort of thing.  

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