Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Recipe Time!

The closest commonly known food to this are arepas....Columbian corn cakes. In Ecuador we call them Tortitas de Maiz. While arepas are made with white corn, tortitas de maiz are made with yellow corn. They are typically served as a breakfast food but my family enjoys them at any time of the day.

For your ingredients you will need some things that are not typically in your pantry (unless you are Latin):

Harina de maiz amarillo precocinada (Fine yellow cornmeal precooked)
These are two that I have seen often but there are others. As long as it is a fine precooked cornmeal it should work just fine.
Cheese- the closest I have found to what we need is a Mexican queso fresco. This is just one example.
Sugar - I use Turbinado or Demerara sugar. I suppose regular white sugar will work too. I am not sure how honey or agave would work. if you try those, I'd love to hear about it.
Salt - I use sea salt...any salt will work.
Final ingredient.....WATER....lukewarm water.
Start with a medium sized bowl.
Add about 1 cup of harina de maiz
and about two tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. This is really relative to taste. If you have a sweet tooth add a little more. If not such a sweet tooth, add a little less. If you want something more savory, you could leave out the sugar all together. Before the final step you can taste the masa to see if it is balanced correctly.
Mix the dry ingredients together.
Then slowly add about a cup of warm water. I use water as hot as I can stand it without burning myself. It is not necessary but with the cold here it is one way to warm up my hands. Luke warm is perfectly fine.
Mix in the water.
Add a little at a time (1/2 cup at a time) until the masa is completely wet.
It should look like this when it is fully wet. There should be nothing left in the bowl and it should not be sticking to your hands either. Remember little water at a time.
Push it down in the center and add about 1-2 tablespoons more of water. This masa is very forgiving. If you add too much water just add more masa and it will be absorbed easily. If your masa is too dry add a little more water and problem fixed. The reason I add a little more water once the masa is ready is to knead it some more. The turbinado sugar will dissolve once worked a little more.
Now it looks smoother!
If you are like me, you will always forget to prepare the cheese ahead of time. So rinse off your hands and get the cheese out. How much cheese you need will depend on how much harina you use. Start off with a little and cut more as you need. Cut it into smallish cubes like this.
Pinch off a bit of the masa. The size will depend on how big you want them. I like mine about the size of my palm. I have small hands so you play around with what size works for you.
Push in the middle to form a bowl out of your ball.
Fill it with about 3 or 4 pieces of cheese.
Start folding over the sides so that it covers up the cheese cubes.
Use both hands to shape them like small roundish discs.
If you find that you did not pinch off enough masa to cover your cheese.....
Just pinch off a bit more and just cover the hole and then shape the same way as before.
About a cup of harina de maiz will make about 10-12 tortillas. 
And if like me you end up with left over cheese, make more masa!
Or you might be lucky enough to have some little mouths ready to help with your problem!
On to the cooking!
I use a cast iron pan. I use enough oil to cover the bottom and a little more.
Place them all in the pan once the oil is plenty hot over medium heat.
Cover and wait about 4-5 minutes.
If the cheese is coming out of some of them, this is good. That cheese will get crunchy and the kids fight over who gets those.
Flip them over once they are browned on the bottom side.
Watch them because they can burn quickly. (Ask me how I know!)
These were to go, so I put them in a plastic container and gave them to a dear friend. I know he enjoyed them.
And now he and his mom can make their own!
If you have a hard time finding the harina, let me know and I will help you find some.


  1. We still makes those, and the cassava balls too. They just might be the warm treat we need to chase this cold weather away.

  2. These look gorgeous, they are completely new to me. The children will love them. Thank you for all the wonderful pictures! The children are an essential part of the recipe...

  3. Looks delicious! I think we'll have to give these a try.