2 Treats In 1
If you’ve never eaten a puffy taco, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest culinary creations! Picture the usual taco shell but it’s filled with air (kinda like a blow fish) and about ¼” thick. The shell is not crunchy but when made properly arrives in-between a soft and crunchy taco and it’s made of corn flour. The taste is 100% authentic and delicious!
Growing up in San Antonio I thought puffy tacos were as common as burgers, hotdogs or soda pop. Almost since the very beginning in 1937 my family has scored our favorite Tex-Mex delights from Teka Molino which is still in operation. Whenever I visit my hometown of San Antonio I make sure and load-up on an a la carte plate filled with my favorite edibles: bean and cheese cups, guacamole cups, and of course puffy tacos.
It wasn’t until about 30 years later in life I found myself living in Round Rock (a mere 90 minutes away) and was surprised that our Tex-Mex waitress had never heard of a puffy taco. And no, they didn’t carry them.
Behold The Puffy
We accidentally fell into making the puffy tacos. We were making empanadas with masa and decided to give it a whirl. After watching the Hilah video below we realized after a couple of fails we could make the puffy tacos! They were way easier to make than holiday tamales of 2019, when I was sore for two days later from the 5-6 hours of labor. I will never see a tamale the same way again!
What’s even better my Cousin Jennifer told me that the usual beef mixture inside the puffy taco wasn’t just mere old taco meat but picadillo, so that recipe is here as well! My favorite part of the picadillo are the small potatoes that are married-up with green bell peppers and the seasoned meat. Give this dish a whirl and I think you’ll love it!
❤ No tortilla press? I found some tips for how you can press your own without a formal press. Here’s one approach that makes use of plastic cutting boards and in this YouTube video you can see what you’re doing while you press, thanks to a glass pie plate! Since our tortilla press was on extra backorder we used the pie plate method with Ziploc bags (vs. plastic wrap) and it worked like a charm.
❤ Don’t be discouraged if your first few tacos shells crack or don’t fold properly! You can use the imperfect tacos for masa chalupas, make an impromptu taco salad, dip them into queso, serve with fresh pico de gallo, etc.
❤ For the best taco filling this recipe goes hand-in-hand with this picadillo recipe. You can trust me on this one! #PinkySwear
❤ I’ve never seen a yellow (orange) Mexican cheese but that’s how Teka Molino serves theirs. So a mild cheddar would work or possibly grated Velveeta. If you want to try a white cheese, go Oaxaca or Monterey Jack.
❤ For the best creamy jalapeño dressing recipe (shown above) click here.
❤ Want to learn more about the history of the puffy taco? This video is my favorite!
❤ Using a small wire whisk we dipped the masa tortillas into the fryer and formed puffy cups! These are similar to the cups Teka Molino serves and super easy to make. AND EAT! Just load ’em up with beans n’ cheese, guacamole, picadillo… and you’re off to outer space!
Total prep: About 30 minutes (excluding the makin’ of the picadillo). This dish is best consumed fresh. We enjoy ours progressive style, meaning we set up our taco bar and eat as we make.
for the puffy:
2 cups | maseca brand corn flour
1 ½ cups | warm water
1 teaspoon | salt
to form | tortilla press (or see alternate pressing tips above)
to press | PAM Spray, plastic wrap, or a Ziploc bag with the sides trimmed away with scissors
to fill pot 2 inches deep | canola, peanut or vegetable oil (we found canola didn’t stink up the kitchen as much)
1 | deep pot or pan for frying
1 | thermometer (for testing the oil temperature)
1 | large metal spider strainer or strainer spoon ladle
1 | metal spatula
to dress your puffy:
lettuce, thinly sliced
mild yellow or white cheese, shredded
tomato (diced or sliced)
fresh pico de gallo (chopped tomato, onion, salt, lime juice, and cilantro)
iii. What To Do
A word of caution: Remember you’re frying in hot oil! Please keep kids and pets safely away from the range top in case of any wayward oil splatters.
1. Prepare the masa!
- I have a feeling for best results make your masa fresh; don’t make the masa tortillas in advance and refrigerate them.
- In a medium-sized bowl combine 2 cups of the corn flour and the water.
- Mix by hand until the dough is nice and soft. The dough should be moist but not stick to your hands. If the dough feels dry you can add a teaspoon or two of water and continue mixing until you’re happy. Don’t put too much water or else the puffy taco will get holes in it as it fries.
- Hand roll the masa into the size of a golf ball.
- Take one ball at a time and press it using your chosen pressing technique. You can press them all at once or press as you fry.
2. Puff those tacos!
- We used a 2 quart cast iron pot filled with our chosen oil and the temperature gauge attached. The oil was heated precisely to 375°F. Make sure your range vent is on!
- Insert one flattened tortilla into the oil and let it fry! Flip it over once after it has fully puffed (about 20 seconds). You’ll cook it no more than 60 seconds. After you flip the taco, form the signature fold by gently press and holding a metal spatula into the middle of the puff – this is where your toppings will eventually go. Be careful not to cut the taco in half! While forming the fold, keep the taco submerged under the oil to keep it cooking.
- Using your strainer, lift the taco from the oil, lightly shake the puffy shell a few seconds and transfer it to a cooling rack that is sitting on top of a baking sheet (to catch any oil drippings). Let the taco rest with the inside of the taco fold facing down.
- Ensure that the oil has returned to 375°F then continue making additional tacos until all the rolled masa balls are complete.
3. Dress those tacos!
- This isn’t Taco Bell! So a properly dressed taco is what tastes Um Um, vs. OH. MY. GAWD! delicious! (we’re going for the latter).
- Fill a taco with about a 1/4 cup of picadillo (or your chosen filling) then add your toppings.
- While I could go crazy with an assortment of toppings, I prefer to enjoy my puffies how Teka Molino makes them – rather simple, so the picadillo doesn’t get lost with an avalanche of other toppings. My suggestion: lettuce, cheese then the tomato slice on top.
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook
Tucked in the very back of Mom’s cookbook is a tiny accordion-folded recipe booklet called “How to use your Treat-Time Toaster.” You can enjoy a scan of it below.
I had thumbed passed this booklet many times before but in late January 2017 I finally took my curiosity online to try and find out what a “Treat-Time Toaster” might actually be.
In just a few clicks I found myself at eBay where I discovered these toasters were in fact vintage grilled sandwich makers. These were the same things I remember being in our kitchen at Trailend Drive – Mom used them to fashion some of the coolest grilled cheese sandwiches ever!
After quickly checking with my older brothers about the whereabouts of our toasters, I sadly realized they were long, long gone.
Gone, too, was the company who made them – NuRod, Inc., based out of Monrovia California. So since I couldn’t score one of my own new Treat-Time Toasters, I found a set of two vintage toasters that I scored on eBay for about $30, including shipping.
A few days later a bountiful box arrived at my home and boy, was I excited! Soon my kitchen would be turning out delicious sandwich snacks. The possibilities were endless, thanks to the recipe booklet that contained 13 ideas for transforming mere bread into a myriad of mouthwatering delights filled with awe-inspiring ingredients like cocktail sausages, bologna, baked beans, raisin bread, marmalade, fried eggs and more.
Are you salivating yet?
The Treat-Time Toaster looked part flying saucer and part clamshell. Placing the toaster over campfire or stove in mere seconds you can create panini, grilled sandwiches, pocket sandwiches … anything your mind and appetite can conjure!
The toaster churns out culinary delights that remind me of those from the raclette tabletop grill, which has been a favorite kitchen accessory of mine for many years.
The adman in me appreciated reading the recipe booklet that appears to have been written by Donna Reade, who was Director of Consumer Service at Nu-Rod. I cracked a few smiles when I read passages like “You’ll find family and friends runnin’ back for more,” “Not only delicious but filling” and “M-M-M-boy!”
The folks at Nu-Rod also knew a little something about target marketing back in the early 1960s. I found evidence of ads for their Treat-Time Sandwich Maker in Popular Science, Boys’ Life, Mobile Home Journal, and V.F.W. Journal.
where did it all go wrong?
So if the Treat-Time Toaster is so awesome, why did it disappear from America’s kitchens almost as fast as it arrived?!
Based on my online research Nu-Rod was in existence from 1960-1970 and then their digital footprint is no more. Perhaps they were intent on connecting the Treat-Time Toaster with men more so than women? Or perhaps the name “Treat-Time Toaster” was too innovative at the time.
Whatever the case all I know is I’m glad I’ve reconnected my appetite with this fond foodie kitchen gizmo.
❤ While supplies last you can likely find vintage Treat-Time Toasters on Ebay or similar machines like these on Amazon or like these. I ordered two so that I didn’t have to share my toaster with anyone else! Hey, twice the fun!
❤ The ingredients list below is for the most basic – and delicious – grilled cheese sandwich. But don’t let your imagination and appetite stop here – try any of the original recipes in the Treat-Time Toaster recipe book (below)… or you let your imagination go wild. My top three favorite sandwiches are grilled cheese, PB&J, and our own creation – a grilled caprese sandwich (shown above), crafted from mozzarella, fresh basil leaves from the garden and a few slices of red tomato.
i. ingredients (per serving)
2 slices | white bread (or artisan bread if you’re feeling très gourmet)
schmears | falfurrias brand butter
assorted | ingredients for your sandwich (melting cheese, crisp bacon, sliced tomato, etc.)
no-stick cooking spray or butter | to grease your toaster
(optional) to serve | your favorite condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, honey, etc.)
ii. what to do
1. Butter the outside of two slices of bread and set aside. Hey, if you’re feeling adventurous you can also butter the inside, if butter complements your chosen ingredients.
2. Top one inside with your chosen ingredients, making sure to keep things mingling toward the center of the bread.
5. Hold/Place the Treat-Time Toaster over campfire or medium-fired kitchen stovetop for 1-2 minutes on each side. I used my toaster inside over a gas range. I experimented a few times to find the right combination of flame and time to deliver the perfect oozy, gooey, buttery treat.
Serve warm with your favorite sides!
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook
A word about bread…
One of my favorite childhood memories happened when our elementary school (go, Northwood Unicorns) made an outing to San Antonio’s ButterKrust Bakery that graciously rested alongside 2251 Broadway Street.
I’m confident my love of carbs was born that day. In fact, every time I drove past the bakery (passenger or driver), the window somehow found itself miraculously resting so I could enjoy the waft of butter and bread while the wind whipped through my hair. Never underestimate the power of bread!
Yup. I scored this vintage spot for you!
After setting my appetite on making this twisted bread, I realized that Mom’s cut-out recipe had a seriously odd shape and some of the article was missing (see the original far below). I flipped the time-worn clipping over and realized that Mom must have really cut out the recipe on the reverse as the shape and article size were spot on. Finger to forehead!
What was on the back, er front, of the recipe? A 1970s story about NIOSA which included a recipe for Quiche Lorraine – a dish that garnered serious street cred at the 1968 World’s Fair held in my hometown of San Antonio. H.R. Pufnstuf debuted at the fair – something I just learned!
A few words about this recipe: I was super-surprised to learn that the recipe’s creator – Mrs. Nan Robb – won $25,000 for the recipe … in 1970!
$25,000 is a lot of money today. So while I joked about eating $25,000 bread, today I found out that after inflation, in 2015, $25,000 of 1970 money is really worth about $155,000! For real!
So now you have a funny story to serve along with this bread!
foodie tips ~
❤ I’ve had a few foodie fails here at Betty’s Cook Nook. My first attempt at making the dough for this recipe is one of them! Turns out the yeast I had on hand was old and after mixing everything together I think the bread actually fell rather than rose. LOL. So make sure and score some fresh yeast from the store to ensure your bread will rise to the rooftops.
❤ Feeling a little insecure about my ability to rise bread, I resorted to some online research to look for tips. Warm ovens and heating pad suggestions aside, I netted out with boiling some water in a glass measuring cup to warm my microwave. I covered my dough-filled bowl with a towel, inserted it into the microwave along with the water and let it do its thing for an hour. The dough more than doubled in size. Magic!
❤ You can easily half this recipe. What I wound up with was about the size of a boogie board. You can also make two “half-sized” loaves by cutting the dough strips in half before braiding – what better way to give a $12,500, er $77,500 gift (post inflation) to a friend?!
❤ I’m not going to point out the obvious but since I obviously pointed something out … you can introduce any of your favorite ingredients into the filling for this twisted bread recipe. I’m thinking of ham and cheese or bacon and maybe a little scallion.
for the dough:
1 package | active dry yeast
¼ cup | warm water
4 cups | flour (separated into two 2 cup piles)
¼ cup | sugar
1 ½ teaspoons | salt
½ cup | hot water
½ cup | whole milk
¼ cup | butter, softened (Mom’s Mom “Nanny” always insisted on Falfurria’s brand butter)
1 | cage free egg
for the filling:
¼ cup | butter (you know what to do)
1 cup | onion, finely chopped (we used yellow)
1 tablespoon | parmesan cheese, grated (we used 2-3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon | sesame seeds or poppy seeds (we used sesame)
1 teaspoon | garlic salt
1 teaspoon | paprika
ii. what to do
1. Grease a large cookie sheet and set aside. That was easy!
2. In a large mixer bowl dissolve the yeast in warm water. There’s no need to sift the flour – add 2 cups of the flour to the yeast mix (reserving the 2 cups of flour for later), and add the sugar, salt, water, milk, butter and egg. Blend at low speed until moistened then crank up the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. By hand, stir in the remaining 2 cups flour to form a soft dough. Mix it well! Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place until light and it has doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes.
3. While the dough is doing it’s thing let’s make the filling. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining filling ingredients above and mix well. Let rest.
4. After the dough has risen, stir it down. Transfer from bowl then toss it around on a floured surface until no longer sticky. Roll the dough out to a 18″ x 12″ rectangle. Cut the dough into three 18″ x 4″ strips.
5. Spread each strip with the filling mixture, making sure to leave about a half inch around all edges filling-less so you’ll be able to pinch and seal the edges together (you’ll want them sticky). Start with the 18″ side and roll each strip up and press/seal the edges together so the filling is safe inside the doughy roll-up.
6. On your prepared cookie sheet, braid the 3 rolls together. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until light and doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes.
7. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.
I loved this bread warm and fresh out of the oven. You could also slice it to make a savory sandwich bread.
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook
Here’s a scan of Mom’s original recipe.
I joked above about the odd shape of this cut out. Here’s another Betty’s Cook Nook recipe with a funky shape!
Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!
It’s not a chicken dinner per se but today is your lucky day – I’m posting the reverse side of the Onion Lover’s Twisted Bread recipe! Go on, click on it for a larger view of what’s coming next to Betty’s Cook Nook!