Masa, a dough made from maize, or dried corn, is the building block for many Mexican dishes.
Homemade masa has a sweetness and richness that can only come from the from-scratch preparation.
Making masa is a labor of love, but it’s leagues better than the store-bought kind. Read on for the secret to the most fragrant, delicate tortillas and tender tamales.
6 cups dried corn
12 cups water
3 tablespoons calcium hydroxide (also called “cal” or pickling lime)
Combine dried corn, water, and calcium hydroxide in a large pot. Bring water to a boil and stir occasionally. After boiling for 5 minutes, turn off the heat and let the corn sit at room temperature, for at least 8 hours up and up to 16 hours.
This process, called nixtamalization, makes the kernels easier to grind and consume. Nixtamalization will double the size of the corn, so make sure to select a mixing bowl with ample space.
The next day, transfer the nixtamalized corn to a colander and wash under cold running water until all of the skins have come off and the kernels look shiny.
Using a molino de mano (hand-powered corn grinder), grind the corn, pouring water as needed to get the mixture moving, starting at the widest setting.
As you continue, tighten the setting as much as you can, and repeat the grinding if necessary for a finer consistency. If making tortillas, you can use a stone grinder (metate) to get an even more finely ground, smooth masa.
For best results, use your masa within the first 24 hours of grinding. Masa can also be stored in a roomy container in the refrigerator, and removed 15 to 30 minutes before cooking.
Adapted from Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen, by Gonzalo Guzmán