Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Flour Tortillas (6-in and 10-in)

I found the how-to online, and I really enjoyed making these, even though it was a bit time consuming. There are a few reasons why, but mainly because you can only do one at a time. If you're making a lot of them, then you can expect to be doing it for awhile. I'd say for a beginner, like myself, it takes anywhere from 3-5 minutes for each tortilla AFTER you've made the dough. Also it takes awhile to make the dough as you will see.

The cost is a good reason to at least try it. In my local grocery store a typical package of 6-in tortillas runs about 2-3 dollars a package. A package!

It is important to first say a few things about the cookware required. You can use just about anything you probably have on hand. You just have to be creative. Below are my suggestions.

The Pan

Select a pan that is, obviously, flat and 8 inches or larger. The best type is a cast iron and what's even better is a cast iron flat griddle. Don't use those fat reducing griddles with all the ridges. Don't even waste your time on that.

Rolling Equipment

How you roll out your tortillas depends on what you have on hand. Some people use a tortilla press, but I find that a complete waste of money. Some people pat them out by hand, some do it between two pieces of plastic wrap, some with the bottom of another cast iron skillet and so forth. I found that my way was infinitely easy (for me). I use two flexible cutting mats and put a tortilla ball in between them, then roll it with an evenly rounded wooden rolling pin. It makes them paper thin and even in flatness.

The Holding Container

A lot of people use tortilla warmers as not only a holding container during cooking but also for storage and for reheating. That's great if you have one, but I've yet to find a real need to get one. I suppose if I were making them daily that would be handy, but I don't and I won't, so that's that. I use an 8x8 glass baking dish as a holding container, a pie plate would probably work too - I would imagine - but the 8x8 is deeper than a pie dish. NOTE: Whatever you do just remember that if there is no lid, that is if the container has an open top, then cover the top with a damp paper towel. You must not allow the tortillas to dry out, ever.

  • 3 tbs shortening
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Heat shortening and water together in a pot on the stove, or in a bowl in the microwave. Heat until the shortening melts, but you don't want it so hot you can't touch it.

While that's heating, stir flour and salt together in a mixing bowl.

When shortening is melted, stir liquid into the flour mix slowly. Knead a few times to combine it well. It should be warm, but workable dough. Also, don't overwork the dough. The dough should be damp, but not wet and soft but not dry. Adjust by adding flour or water as needed. I've never had to make an adjustment yet though.

Directly cover the dough with a damp paper towel and cover the bowl with a towel. Allow it to "rest" for one hour.

Once rested, divide the dough into two balls, then divide those balls into three balls each, then divide those balls into two balls each. This will make 12 balls. I say to do it this way so they are uniform in size. Without divisions like this, trying to gauge how much - for each ball - when you're making twelve is difficult to do. This is an easy way.

Once you've made your dough balls, let them rest again but for a much shorter period. It should be at least 10 minutes but no longer than an hour. Replace the paper towel and towel.

Once it's rested again, it's time to start cooking!

Preheat your selected pan (see above) to between medium and medium-high heat. Temperature (and timing) is everything with this recipe. A pan too hot will scorch the tortillas and one too cool will dry them out because they will dry before they're properly cooked. You want the pan warm enough to cook, but not smoking either. Practice makes perfect.

While the pan is preheating, use your selected rolling method (see above) to roll out a tortilla.

NOTE: As you remove each dough ball, remember to recover those remaining with the damp paper towel and towel; the idea is to keep them damp.

The rolling is a tricky because you want a tortilla to be as round as possible, most of the time. None of mine have ever been perfectly round, but I kind of like that because it's proof that these are homemade and not store-bought. The closest I could get was by rolling the dough out like I draw a star. It worked very well, actually.

Once a tortilla is rolled out, carefully peel it off whatever surface you've selected. It is not uncommon for some of the edges to be a bit warped but it's okay as it will usually cook out.

Still being careful, lay it out on the pan. I've read a lot of so-called "authentic" methods which say you don't need to flip it over, but this is NOT true. You do. A chef from Mexico said that flipping is essential and I will take his word over those who only claim authenticity.

Cook until there are a few light brown spots, then turn it over and do the same thing. Turn it over once more and it will begin to puff. It's fine and don't worry. That means it's working right!

Once there are a few light brown spots on both sides, move them to your selected holding container (see above).

For me, as I work I see a pattern. I lay my rolled out tortilla on the griddle, I turn to roll out a new one. As I pat it down and get it about half way rolled, it's time to flip the tortilla. Once I get finished, it's time to flip the tortilla again. When it's done, I start the whole process again.

-- Makes a dozen 6-inch tortillas

Problems & Possible Fixes
  • If the tortillas are scorching, turn the heat down.
  • If there are a lot of clear looking spots, turn the heat up a bit.
  • If they are not heating evenly, check to make sure that your pan isn't warped or rounded. A flat pan is a must.
  • If your dough is tearing, try rolling them out a bit thicker OR be sure that the dough isn't dry. It should be damp, but not wet.

Tortilla Storage

You can use your holding container, zippered storage bags or whatever tickles your fancy. The trick though is to make sure they won't tear AND are air-tight. You don't want dry air circulating over them. Store them in the refrigerator.

For 10-in Tortillas

Divide the dough into 7 balls, but don't forget that your pan needs to be large enough.

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