I make flat bread all the time. I’ve shared with you my Pita Bread, but for some reason, I have never posted my tortilla recipe. This is pretty hard for me to believe, since I never buy flour tortillas, and I apologize for letting you all down.
Why don’t I buy flour tortillas? When I was in sixth grade, a woman, who was watching us over the summer, made some flour tortillas for her family, and her daughter and I snuck one out of the kitchen. I have been haunted by that disk of perfection ever sense. It was warm, fluffy, butter, and amazing. Once I had a house of my own, I looked for a tortilla recipe, but found only corn tortillas. I ask various Mexican friends for a recipe, but none of them came through. Then, my luck change. My mother sent my a book entirely about native flat breads, titled Flatbreads and Flavors. Towards the back of the book was a recipe for Wheat Flour Tortillas. I tried it as soon as I could. The recipe used corn oil, flour, and salt. After the first taste, I knew it wasn’t quite right. The tortillas were tough, and bland. Since it was the only recipe I had seen for flour tortillas, I tried to work with it. I doubled the salt, and that helped a lot, but they still weren’t quite right. A minor breakthrough happened about two years ago.
My step-brother was getting married to a delightful, and thankfully understanding, Mexican woman. With her as translator, I spoke with her grandmother about my flour tortilla dilemma. Her grandmother shook her head when I mentioned the recipe called for corn oil, and said, “No!” Then she describe what was either lard, or Crisco. My new sister-inlaw wasn’t quite sure. So I switched to lard, since to me, that seemed more authentic. It helped dramatically, and I used the substitution happily. But something was still missing. My tortillas weren’t as buttery as I remember my stolen treat from sixth grade. I decided to try something on my own.
I switched the lard out with actual butter. The first attempt wasn’t exactly a success, but it wasn’t a failure either. With an exact substitution, the tortillas came out crispy. They tasted just like I wanted, but you couldn’t fold them in have, which I would say is a must for flour tortillas. Then I decided to whip up a batch of tortillas for lunch one day, and didn’t get out my recipe. I thought I’d wing it. I added butter until I thought the flour looked right. Perfection!
So here’s my own, personal recipe, developed the only way one can…. through trial and error.
You start with 2 cups flour…
Add 1 tsp of salt…
Then add 4 TBS of butter.
Work the butter into the flour with a fork, until it resembles coarse meal.
Once the butter has mixed in thoroughly, add 1/2-3/4 cup of warm water, and when I say warm, I mean colder than your shower, but hotter than room temperature. It is also important that you add the water a bit at a time because it is very easy to add too much water.
Once a sticky dough has come together, begin mixing, and kneading, with your hands, while adding the rest of the needed water. What you are aiming for is a dough that is sticky enough to stick to your fingers, and to a surface, but not so sticky that it pulls apart when it does stick. You want the dough to stick to itself more than it sticks to other stuff. I know this isn’t a great explanation, but it’s a feel thing, and Al Gore didn’t add feel-o-vision when he invented the internet.
Once you have your dough, separate it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and then flatten with your hands. Cover these, and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Once the dough has finished its nap, heat a cast iron skillet, or griddle, on the stove to medium high heat. Flour your surface, and your rolling pin, and roll each ball out to form a disk. It is important in tortilla making that you don’t get the dough too thin. This will make the tortillas crispy, like a cracker. It is also important that you not make them too thick. This also seems to mess up the texture, although I have no explanation as to why. You want them to look something like this…
And no, they will not be perfect little circles like the store bought ones. They will, however taste soo much better. I will aslo warn against a tortilla press. I have one, and it does not work on flour tortillas. They are meant for corn tortillas. Son uses mine for play dough, now.
After the tortilla is rolled, gently place it onto your hot, dry griddle.
While it cooks, you should have just enough time to roll out another tortilla. The tortilla on the heat should begin to bubble a bit, and this is when you should flip. However, if you check, and see the tortilla still hasn’t browned in spots, then don’t flip it yet. Also, tortillas can be like pancakes and crepes; the first one may need to be tossed. And if you happen to have your heat too high, take too long rolling out another tortilla, or become engrossed in a cat fight on one of those housewives show, and your tortilla burns in spots on one side, don’t worry. In most cases, you can simply remove the burn spots, and everything is fine. Just flip the ugly side down, and no one will know.
And one last tip. You will need to keep your tortillas warm. Sure, you can wrap the stack in a couple of towels, but a tortilla box really does work wonders.
They are ugly as sin, but they really do work. Maybe I should design a line of attractive tortilla boxes. I bet Target would buy ’em. Of course, that will have to wait, because now I want tortillas.
- 2 Cups Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- 1/2 – 3/4 Cups warm water