Saturday, May 15, 2010

This Is How I Roll

For almost seven months I have been tortilla free.  This is not a lifestyle choice, it is a situation of circumstance.  On the odd occasion that I do find a package for purchase, at more-than-meat prices for a small bag of eight, I've been forced to go without (aside from the ones my sister sent at Christmas!) for the duration of my island life.

Last October, when I first learned of my unfortunate lack of wrap, I searched for (and found) a recipe for flour tortillas.  Since then, I have been in a constant conflict with myself over whether or not I should try. "There must be some secret formula for tackling tortillas or everyone would always be making them," I thought to myself while reviewing the way too simple steps and, even though my printed copy omitted any mention of a proper press mechanism, I was stubbornly insistent that one was needed in order to make them right.  Each time I considered giving it a shot, I quickly talked myself out of it, balking at the imminent disappointment for lack of the "real thing".

Now, all these months later, with my travel plans recently confirmed for a return trip to the lovely land of groceries, one would assume that I could hold out for just a few more weeks (wrong!)  In recollection, perhaps it was even because of that; the knowing that an actual burrito was in my foreseeable future was the straw that finally broke this camel's back.   Whatever the case, I was bravely inspired.  Besides, other than a couple hundred grams of flour, I really had nothing to lose.

The following photos were taken from my second batch of tortillas, not because the first ones were a flop, but because they were so terrific that I just had to make them again (along with a spelt-wheat batch for a friend). I will likely never buy tortillas from the grocery store again. Yes, really.

Flour Tortillas

rolling pin

To make six medium sized tortillas, combine 225g (1½ cups) flour, ½ tsp baking powder, a little less than ½ tsp salt and a pinch of sugar in a bowl. Cut in 1½ Tbsp of lard until well blended. Gradually add 125 mL (½ cup) lukewarm water, mixing to form a crumbly dough. I find that my hands are, by far, the best equipment for this.

crumbly dough

Once you have a nice crumbly dough, form it together into one large ball and knead very well until smooth. Form the dough to a cylindrical shape and cut into six equal pieces; roll each piece into a ball and set them aside for about fifteen minutes. This is the perfect time to prepare whatever you will be filling your tortillas with once you finish cooking them.

six equal pieces | resting dough balls

After their rest, place a seriously generous amount of flour on your counter. Working one at a time, flatten each of the dough rounds with your hand, flip it over, then roll it out flat with a rolling pin. Use a good amount of pressure and roll the dough as thin as possible, continuing to flip as necessary and keeping your work area well floured so your tortillas don't stick to the counter or the rolling pin.

dough ball flattened by hand

rolled out thin

Cook each tortilla on an ungreased griddle or cast iron pan over medium heat, flipping when the first side begins to blister and brown. As your tortillas puff up, keep them pressed flat with the back side of a spatula, spoon or flipper. When they become too bubbly to keep flat, they are done. Total cooking time will be roughly 1½-2 minutes each. As you remove your tortillas from the pan, wrap them in a dry towel to keep them warm.

before flipping the blistering tortilla

pressing down bubbles

I could not, in good conscience, pass along this recipe without first ensuring that these tortillas had endured a full range of qualification tests to prove their worth. Having now used this recipe to make tortillas for soft wrapped burritos, fried quesadillas and baked enchilada-ish style wraps, I can confidently encourage you to try these easy, delicious and low cost replacements for any flour tortilla variety that you'd normally buy at the store.  Olé!

warm tortillas

white flour and spelt wheat tortillas

Recipe for Tortillas De Harina (Flour Tortillas) as originally posted at Recipezaar.


pollysplayground said...

I should mention that I used a little less water and kneaded the spelt tortillas longer. I'm totally not familiar with using spelt so I have no idea if this was what I should have done, but it "felt" right when trying to make a comparable dough. The end result seemed the same; however they were wrapped up and sent off to a friend who hasn't had a chance to report back on their final taste/texture outcome. I will update once I've received her review.

Ellen Kinsel said...

When we were first "strangers in a strange land" and hungered for good Mexican food, I started making tortillas because they could not be found in a store in rural British Columbia. Nor could the masa harina (corn flour) required (or so I thought). Every trip to the US meant an opportunity to import a new bag of masa. I required that visiting parents lugged it along. The wood cookstove was the perfect surface to achieve the desired speckled brown result.

On one trip to California I bought a tortilla press. I was never impressed (is that a pun?) with my ability to get the balls to smush down thin enough. I went back to the rolling pin and the press is somewhere hidden on a high kitchen cupboard shelf.

Eventually masa became available locally (must have been the influence of all the ex-pats). Then actual packages of tortillas were everywhere. I stopped making my own, but you have inspired me to give it a whirl. Might even have to dust off the press.

Unknown said...

Those look pretty easy! Yesterday I made cornmeal tortillas that you make like crepes, but these dough ones would be more authentic. Thanks for sharing, I'll definitely give them a try.

Rebecca said...

They look beautiful! I can't wait to try them.

Once I started making my own pizza dough, I can't go back to anything pre-made and store-bought ... so I am guessing the same may happen with the tortillas!

pollysplayground said...

ekinsel: i thought i remembered you having a press! in fact, in some follow up research i learned that flour tortillas are all about the gluten, so kneading and rolling is key - pressing the ball down would just result in them trying to spring back into shape. and yes, masa (corn) are next on my list to try!

Megan: they ARE easy - super quick to make. throw the dough together and let them rest while you make whatever you will be putting in them.

RnR: saša is a pizza dough god. i can't imagine anything other than his now either!

Rebecca said...

We just had a nice walk to the store to buy romaine and dressing to make ceasar salad to accompany the lasagna for dinner. NO ceasar dressing at the little store we walk to ... so, in the spirit of couldn't-get-it-at-the-store-so-let's-try-a-homemade-version, I just made my first ever homemade creamy ceasar salad dressing. When I suggested I try on the way home, we thought it would be a good tasting dressing but likely not very ceasar-ish. The true verdict is still out(side playing), but I think we have a winner! I've even made some homemade croutons as well, but I am not sure they are as yummy as the dressing.

pollysplayground said...

Nice on RnR! I need to bring seeds for romaine lettuce next time I come to the island... no caesar salad here. It's on my list of things to eat as soon as I am back on the other side (along with peanut butter and, of course, avocados).

Post a Comment