Homemade Flour Tortillas

Friday, September 17, 2010

My grandmother came to visit me.  She has spent her whole life in south Texas, and has the culinary repertoire to show for it.  The lady can cook.  All by scratch and all by feel.  No recipes.  So its only when we visit each other that I'm able to reach over her shoulder, attempt to measure something, and then quickly scribble down the recipe.  While "pinch" and "dash" are great cooking terms, they do very little to help me actually recreate them when she's gone back home. 

So, over the last 2 days we commenced to tortilla making.  The first night she made them, and I took notes, and measured.  The second night I made two batches.  One was just ok, and the second was spot on.  They were delicious!!  These are nothing like store bought tortilla's.  If you have a really good mexican place near you, you JUST MIGHT try tortilla's like this...but only if you're lucky.  These are amazing.  And so is my grandmother.  Love you, Mia!

Homemade Flour Tortillas (about 12 tortillas)

Here's what I used:

4 cups AP Flour
4 tbsp vegetable shortening (Crisco, etc), room temperature
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1-2 cups hot water

Here's what I did:

Even with a recipe, making tortilla's is still much by "feel".  Start out with a large mixing bowl, and place a fine metal strainer overtop.  Add flour, baking powder and salt, and sift it through.  This removes any lumps that may be in the flour, and also adds a lightness to the mix.  You can use a spoon or the back of your measuring cup to encourage the dry ingredients through the strainer.

Next, add the shortening.  Using a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the flour.  This is important because it allows the shortening to incorporate while still allowing the lumps of fat to remain whole.  You're looking for a "cornmeal" consistency, as my grandmother would say.  You can also try to do this with a fork.

Once the shortening is fully incorporated, start adding the hottest water, in increments.  I start with 1/3 of a cup, and then add, little by little, until the dough begins to come together.  With one hand, begin to mix the water as it is added.  With the other hand, continue to drizzle water into the bowl. 

The dough should be pretty well formed after a cup or so of water.  But it depends.  So once the dough is making a definite ball, and adhering to itself, work it with your hands a bit.  Fold it over several times, and knead it with your hands.  If it still seems too thick, add a little more water.  You want the dough to be slightly tacky but not sticking to your hands.

Now let it rest.  Leave it on the counter, and cover with a dishtowel, or wrap in wax paper and leave it for 20-45 minutes. 

Next, its time to form the dough balls.  Pinch off dough into balls that are about 2x the size of a golf ball.  They should fit in your palm, but not be as large.

Once the dough balls are done, start to roll them out on a large flat surface, using a rolling pin.  I find that a wooden rolling pin works best, as you don't experience much sticking.

Roll out each dough ball so that they are very thin.  About the thickness of a penny.  Each tortilla should be about the size of your hand, with fingers outstretched.  If you want them bigger than that, simply make your dough balls larger...and you'll have more dough for each tortilla.

Now you have your raw tortillas.  Heat up a large flat griddle if you have one.  These work really well for tortilla cooking.  If you don't have one, you can use a skillet, cast iron works well for this.  Get it as hot as possible.  I set my griddle to 400 degrees, the highest setting possible.  You want to hear the tortilla sizzle just slightly when you add it to the griddle. 

I can fit 3 tortilla's on my griddle, but with a skillet you may have to make them one at a time.  You should allow several minutes per side.  If you see air bubbles forming, and puffing up your tortilla, AWESOME!  These are the best ones.  Check to see for a medium browning to occur, and then flip.  Flip as little as possible here - its sort of like a burger, the less flipping, the better.  After several minutes per side, or as quickly as they puff up and brown, you can remove and put them in a tortilla holder, or between several folds of a clean dishtowel. 

Enjoy.  These are awesome with just about anything.  Breakfast burritos, fajitas, a touch of butter...even a sprinkle of cinnamon!  These keep well in the refrigerator - or you can also make a large batch and freeze them, they'll last several months if properly sealed. 

I have to say I have waited years to learn this recipe from my grandmother, and I'm beyond thrilled to be able to share it.  I hope you enjoy, I know I will.


Miss67C said...

you just made me super hungry! lol. I need to make some soon.

I'm Lori...and maybe I'm you, too. said...

Yum. Have to try those next week.

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