kitchen firsts: homemade flour tortillas

1 March, 2010 at 12:45 am 2 comments

Fresh flour tortillas are so many leagues apart from store-bought tortillas, it’s like eating a different food.  If you can get them at a restaurant, hallelujah, but we often resort to buying those uncooked tortillas from Tortillaland at Costco and then cooking them up ourselves at home (not as much homemade cred as making them from scratch, but still pretty damn delicious and miles above anything you can buy in a shelf-stable package at the grocery store).  Given my love for fresh tortillas and my interest learning to make things myself, I realized the other day that it’s weird that I’ve never tried making tortillas! I quite frequently hear people talking about making homemade corn tortillas, and while I do love a fresh corn tortilla as well, I must admit that warm soft flour tortillas have a special place in my heart belly.

I found quite a few variations when looking into the idea of making homemade flour tortillas, so I used my usual method of reading through comments on recipes and researching online to try to get a sense of the best recipe and method to use.  I ended up settling on the recipe from Homesick Texan, because 1) the blogger seemed to have done her research, 2) the comments were good, and 3) I saw people mentioning it in the comments of other recipes using different methods.

So we embarked on a tortilla mission, and I was pleasantly surprised by a few things about this recipe.  First of all, it only requires staples.  Flour, baking powder, salt, oil, milk! That’s it. No lard (although that would arguably make them tastier), no grocery runs, no waiting (well, not much!). Come on, you can scratch that up rather than going to the store to buy tortillas! And, once you get those things together, you really only have to mix, knead, wait, split into as many chunks as you’ll have tortillas, wait, and roll out and cook! The process took me about an hour, start to finish, with quite a bit of waiting time to prepare all the other fixins for burrito night.

All of that said, I have to admit that the final effect was not quite 100% what I had hoped. The taste was yummy, but they were a little bit less tender than I’d expected. They could still wrap around a burrito without splintering to pieces, and they made delicious toasty quesadillas, but still they were a touch less soft and flexible and fresh baked tasting than I was hoping. This could be due to overworking the dough; I need to make them again to test it out a bit, but I do know that much like a pie crust you have to be careful not to mess with it too much, and it’s possible that in my quest for really thin tortillas I rolled them out too much. On the positive side, resting the dough adequately makes this dough really elastic and forgiving, and rolling and stretching them out was a tear-free snap.

In any case, this kitchen first definitely whetted my appetite for fresh flour tortillas. Despite the non-wow experience with this particular recipe, I would still make these over the prospect of eating store bought ones, and my results only encouraged my to keep looking for another recipe/experimenting with this one to see if I can get it to that wow stage. In the meantime, if you’ve never made them before this is a really easy way to start with guaranteed tasty if not perfect results. Give it a try! Or try another recipe, and tell me how it turns out! Either way, fresh tortillas are worth the effort (shockingly little) and definitely the way to go.

Flour Tortillas

Adapted from Homesick Texan

Makes 16 tortillas (if you’re going to the trouble of making these from scratch, don’t just make 8–you can save whatever you don’t eat right away for the next day or two)

4 cups all-purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

2 tsp salt

1.5 T vegetable oil

1.5 cups warm milk

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Slowly add warm milk and oil and stir until it comes together. Turn out onto the counter and knead for a minute or two until it’s smooth, shiny and soft. Place in a bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

After resting, turn the dough out again and divide it into sixteen equal pieces, rolling them into balls and then setting them onto a plate of cookie sheet to rest. Cover with a damp towel again and let rest another 10 minutes.

Flour your work surface, then take one dough ball at a time and flatten it with your hands into a circle. Then, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a thin disc, picking it up and rotating and flipping it every 5 or so rolls so that it stays even like you would a pie crust. Here is where you are supposed to avoid overworking the dough, and I will have to do some kitchen seconds to figure out if I messed up at this point, but I rolled them out to a diameter of about 6-8 inches.  While you’re rolling out the rest, cover the finished ones with the towel (you can stack them up without worrying about them sticking, at least in my experience).

Preheat a dry cast iron or griddle to medium high heat.  Cook tortillas for about 30 seconds per side or until they’re getting lightly browned, and cover the finished ones with a towel while you finish the rest. Enjoy!

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