Friday, March 6, 2009

I've Got the Knead for Tortillas

In my post last week about cooking beans, I briefly mentioned my amoeba shaped tortillas. Well, that was the first time I had ever made on my own and in addition to being a funny shape, they were a bit on the crunchy side too. Since then I took another stab at making them. While I wouldn't say they are round, they are nearly-round and I like the organic shape. I learned not to leave them in the skillet for too long or they get dried out and crunchy. When done right they are soft, warm and utterly delicious!

Flour Tortillas (from the cookbook The Feast of Santa Fe) - makes 6 tortillas
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 to 3 Tbsp vegetable shortening (or you can use lard or bacon fat; if bacon fat is used, omit salt)
4 to 6 Tbsp water
Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the fat or shortening by cutting it into 1/4" cubes, adding them to the bowl and rubbing them quickly between thumb and forefinger until fat and flour form a coarse meal. Stir in water all at once and use a fork to toss quickly.
Knead dough and press it with your hands, adding extra water a teaspoonful at a time to catch the stray dry bits. When the dough can be gathered into a soft mass, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and continue to knead for 5 minutes.
It's important to allow the dough to rest for by forming the dough into 6 even balls and dredging them in flour. Then store in a plastic bag to prevent drying. When ready to cook a tortilla, flatten the ball of dough into a disk with the palm of your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough 7 inches or larger (mine came out to be more like 6 inches!) and work with rapid, even strokes that do not reach to the edge.
To cook the tortillas, the traditional tool is called a Mexican comal, I don't have one so I use a cast iron skillet. Heat the skillet to just under medium heat. Gently lower the rolled tortilla into the skillet and let it cook for about 30 to 40 seconds. The upper surface will show little bubbles and a slight change of color, while the bottom will remain pale and sprinkled with brown spots. The idea is to have soft and pliable tortillas, so you really have to watch them as they bake. When done cooking, stack the finished tortillas on a plate and cover with another plate to allow additional steaming.
If it seems like a lot of work to make just 6 tortillas ... well, it is to be honest. But there is something about kneading the dough by hand that I love. I have yet to get my tortillas good enough to the point where they can be used to make burritos, but it will take some more practice. I actually love to eat homemade tortillas plain and I like them best when they are thick and soft.

4 comments: said...

I will tell you, I have made a bunch of tortillas and froze them. They thawed nicely!

Zil said...

Mmmmm, those look so good! You can substitute equal amount of olive oil for shortening .

Anna said...

I think those are, perhaps, the most beautiful tortillas I've ever seen!

heather said...

Oh yum! And they can be frozen...nice,thank you for that tip! This motivates me to make tortillas-I tried them several years ago, but haven't made them in ages. Homemade really are delicious.