The surprising health benefits of blue corn tortillas {+ recipe}

Like most blue food, blue corn (maize) tortillas are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. This step-by-step recipe shows how easy it is to make blue corn tortillas at home.


What do blueberries and blue corn have in common? So much more than you might first think. Like blueberries, blue corn contains the naturally occurring anthocyanin: the same class of polyphenol which makes blue food blue and, as you might already know, blue food is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.


Like all corn, blue corn is gluten-free but unlike its white and yellow counterparts, according to WebMD, it also has less starch which places it lower on the glycemic index. Why is this important? The higher the GI number in food, the faster its sugar hits the bloodstream causing spikes in blood sugar which also means spikes in energy which is then followed rather quickly with a drastic dip in energy, giving you what many refer to as a sugar crash (ever want a nap after consuming a high carb meal?). Conversely, a low GI number means that the sugar hits the blood stream more slowly keeping blood sugars even. This makes foods with a lower GI number a better choice for diabetics and people on a lower carb diet who still want to occasionally enjoy some healthier carb choices. Blue corn is also believed to help protect against obesity, cardiovascular disease and even help fight against cancer.


Blue corn tortillas are as easy to make at home as regular yellow or white corn tortillas are. You just have to be able to get your hands on the blue corn instant masa flour or "harina" in Spanish.

So what is masa harina? 

It is made from hominy (maize that has been through the nixtamalization process) that has been cooked, dried and then ground into a fine, soft flour. It's referred to as "instant" because you just have to add water to rehydrate the hominy flour to form a soft dough which can then be made into tortillas, sopes, tamales, tlacoyos, huaraches, papusas, gorditas and the list goes on. Keep in mind, because this flour has been made from corn that has been nixtamalized, you cannot substitute cornmeal in recipes calling for masa harina.

My favorite brand to work with is Maseca but Masa Brosa is another popular brand. Both are available at Walmart and online. I bought a 2.2 pound bag of Maseca blue corn instant masa flour for $1.98 at my local Neighborhood Walmart. Their 2 pound bag of Masa Brosa sells for $1.78.


The basic ingredients to make 9 (6-inch, or 2 ounce) tortillas are 2 cups of flour, ½ teaspoon of coarse sea salt (or kosher salt), 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional), and 1 ¼ cups of very warm water.


I like to dissolve the salt in the water to ensure that the salt is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Start by adding 1 cup of the water, reserving the ¼ cup. Add the oil, if using (I think it helps with the texture of the tortillas but it's not usual to add oil to corn tortillas so feel free to leave out) then using your hands, mix the dough until the flour is fully incorporated. Add the remaining ¼ cup water if the dough feels a little dry. The dough should feel very moist but not be overly sticky, it should form a smooth ball and your fingers should be able to leave an indentation on the dough when lightly pressed. At this point, the dough needs to rest for at least 30 minutes to fully hydrate. Cover it with a clean damp cloth then seal the bowl with some plastic wrap.


After the dough has rested, use a kitchen scale to measure out 2 ounce portions and then roll those into smooth evenly shaped balls. Keep the damp cloth on the bowl to keep the dough from drying out while you work.


Put a griddle on medium-high heat.

Cut the seams off of a quart-sized zip top baggie so you have two sheets of plastic. Lay one sheet of plastic on the bottom of a tortilla press. Slightly flatten a ball of dough and place it in the center. Cover with the other sheet of plastic, close the press and gently bring the lever across the top of the press, pressing down gently. Lift the lever and the top of the press, you might notice that the tortilla is slightly thinner on the hinge-side. Spin the tortilla around so the fatter side is now on the hinge side and press again, gently.


Your tortilla should be about ⅛ -inch thick. Peel away the top sheet of plastic. Set yourself up for success by placing the tortilla in your hand correctly. The number one mistake people make is putting the tortilla squarely in the middle of their palm then flipping the tortilla onto the hot griddle, winding up with a tortilla that is wrinkled or folding over on itself in awkward positions. Instead, lift the tortilla and place it, wet side onto your dominant hand so that at least half of the tortilla is hanging off the side of your palm. Carefully peel away the second piece of plastic.


Position the tortilla that is hanging off your hand over the griddle and gently lay the tortilla onto the griddle or heated skillet moving your hand away from you in one fluid movement


As you can see, the freshly placed tortilla is a muted color while the tortillas in back are a bluish-purple color. As it cooks, the color will change to a deeper hue as the water evaporates out of the masa. Cook the tortilla for one minute on the first side. The tortilla should release from the griddle as you start to pull up from one edge. If it doesn't, allow it too cook 30 seconds longer. Carefully flip the tortilla over. Allow it to cook for 45 seconds to one minute, or until it releases from the griddle. Flip again, immediately using a wadded up paper towel or your fingers to tap down firmly in the center. This can cause the tortilla to billow up into a little balloon which makes for a lighter textured tortilla. (Don't worry if it doesn't. It will still taste delicious.) Cook for no more than 30 seconds on this side regardless of whether or not the tortilla inflates. Now, this next part is crucial to a soft tortilla result: remove the tortilla to a tortilla warmer (or bowl) that is lined with a clean kitchen towel. Cover the tortilla with the towel and then cover the warmer with its lid (or a bowl with a plate). This allows for steam to finish cooking the tortillas, creating a more pliable finished tortilla. Serve immediately or allow to cool completely, then place in a zip top baggie, seal firmly and refrigerate. To reheat, place a skillet or griddle on high heat. Once hot, add the tortilla, cooking on each side for 45-seconds to 1 minute on each side or until heated through and pliable. Use leftover tortillas within 3 days.

What to do if you don't have a tortilla press?


  1. Trim away the seams of a quart-sized zip top baggie so that you have two pieces of plastic. 
  2. Place one sheet of the plastic on a clean work flat work surface. 
  3. Place a ball of dough in the center and slightly flatten. Cover with the second sheet of plastic. 
  4. Now you have options: place either a dinner-sized plate, a quarter-sized sheet pan, or a small cutting board centered on top of the ball of dough, place your hand on the center of whatever you're using and gently, but firmly push straight down. 
  5. Check your tortilla and repeat until the tortilla is about 1/8-inch thick. The proceed with cooking instructions above.


I hope you seek out blue corn masa harina and try making these great tasting, healthier corn tortillas at home.

Until next time, friends … 
¡Buen Provecho!
xo, ani


Blue Corn Tortillas

You will need two 7 to 8-inch squares of plastic (I use a quart-sized zip top bag), a tortilla press or other flat smooth object such as a dinner plate or small cutting board to evenly flatten the dough into a tortilla shape.

Makes 9 (6-inch, or 2 ounce) tortillas

Ingredients

2 cups blue corn instant masa flour (harina)
½ teaspoon of coarse sea salt (or kosher salt)
1 cup plus ¼ cups of very warm water, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)

Directions

Add the flour to a bowl. Dissolve the salt in 1 cup of very warm water. Pour into the bowl. Add the oil, if using, then use your hands to mix the dough until the flour is fully incorporated and a soft dough (masa) forms. If the masa is still a little dry or crumbly, knead in the additional ¼ cup water. The dough should feel very moist but not be overly sticky. It should form a smooth ball and your fingers should leave an indentation on the dough when lightly pressed. Cover dough with a clean damp cloth then seal the bowl with some plastic wrap. Set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes to fully hydrate.

Put a griddle on medium-high heat.

Lay one sheet of roughly 8-inch square plastic on the bottom of a tortilla press. Slightly flatten a ball of dough and place it in the center. Cover with a second sheet of 8-inch square plastic, close the press bring the arm across, pressing down gently. Open the press, spin the tortilla around so the fatter side is now on the hinge side and press again, gently, to evenly flatten the tortilla to a ⅛ -inch thickness.

Peel away the top sheet of plastic. Lift the tortilla and place it, wet side, onto your dominant hand so that at least half of the tortilla is hanging off the side of your palm. Carefully peel away the second piece of plastic. Position the tortilla that is hanging off your hand over the griddle and gently lay the tortilla onto the griddle or heated skillet moving your hand away from you in one fluid movement.

Cook the tortilla for one minute. The tortilla should release from the griddle as you start to pull up from one edge. If it doesn't, allow it too cook 30 seconds longer. Carefully flip the tortilla over; cook for 45 seconds to one minute, or until it releases from the griddle. Flip again, immediately using a wadded up paper towel or your fingers to tap down firmly in the center. Cook for another 30 seconds. Remove the tortilla to a tortilla warmer (or bowl) lined with a clean kitchen towel. Cover the tortilla with the towel and then cover the warmer with its lid (or a bowl with a plate). Repeat with remaining balls of dough.

Serve immediately or allow to cool completely, then place in a zip top baggie, seal firmly and refrigerate. Use leftover tortillas within 3 days.

To reheat, place a skillet or griddle on high heat. Once hot, add the tortilla, cooking on each side for 45-seconds to 1 minute on each side or until heated through and pliable.


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