Saturday 18 February 2012

Wheat and White Flour Tortillas

Please don’t dislike me for saying this, but I’ve always felt that tortillas were a waste of good flour.  I didn’t eat them as a child and, when introduced to them as an adult, didn’t like them at all.  They seemed to me to be extremely bland, with an unpleasant texture reminiscent of cardboard.  I thought them to be more a utensil than a food; a useful means of conveying tasty Mexican dishes from my plate to my mouth, while not adding any flavour to the equation themselves.

I’ve tried several different brands of tortillas from our local grocery stores.  No one brand seemed more appealing than any other and, when I read the lists of ingredients on the packages, I found that most contained a daunting list of preservatives. 

I guess the preservatives are there because most tortillas are made in distant factories and then trucked for days before they find their way to our grocery store shelves.  (This may go some way toward explaining the cardboard-like texture too.)

The cost of a bag of tortillas is dismaying to me.  It can cost well over $3.00 for eight flour tortillas and even more for corn tortillas.  I guess all those preservatives, all that packaging, and all that long distance trucking come at a price!

When I looked at recipes on line, I found that tortillas are made with just a few, relatively inexpensive ingredients.  The steps to make them seemed simple and straightforward to me so I was quite sure I could make them myself.  I suspected, too, that homemade tortillas would be tastier than store-bought.

I finally got motivated to make tortillas one day this week:  I'd let the day slip by me without making plans for dinner and didn't have the time or the money to run to the grocery store.  I had some all purpose flour in the pantry and a little bit of whole wheat flour too.  I had some lard. Pastry came to mind, but we'd recently had a chicken pie and I wanted to do something different. There was some chili in the freezer that could be heated in the microwave, and some cheese in the fridge.

Quesadillas anyone?  I'd just throw a few things together and make the tortillas.

It turns out that tortillas are as easy to make as the ingredients list suggests them to be but, lacking a tortilla press, the process of making them was unexpectedly labour intensive.  

It took longer than I thought it would to make them, but the end results were surprisingly good:  My homemade tortillas had much more flavour than tortillas from the grocery store, and a more pleasing texture too.  I liked them enough that I’ll make them again.

Given my previous take on tortillas, that’s saying a lot!

If you'd like to try making Wheat and White Flour Tortillas, you’ll need:

  • 6 ounces—by weight, not volume—all purpose flour
  • 6 ounces—by weight, not volume—whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup lard
  • 3/4 cup very warm water

Put the flours and the salt in the bowl of your food processor and give them a few pulses so that they are well mixed.  Add the lard to the flour mixture and process until it’s been incorporated completely.  The appearance of the flour will become sort of granular and it will want to stick to itself.  If you press it lightly in your fingers, it’ll clump together.

With the processor running, add the warm water to the flour, in a stream through the feed tube.  Process until the dough starts to hold together in a ball.  This won’t take long.

Turn the dough out of the processor and knead it a few times so that it forms into a ball.

Divide the ball into 8 equal pieces and form the pieces into balls.  (Some of my pieces were “more equal than others” but I’m okay with that.)

Place the balls of dough on a plate and cover them with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest for at least half an hour.

Once the dough has rested, form the tortillas.  If you have a tortilla press, form the dough balls into disks, place the discs between sheets of plastic wrap, put them in the press, and press them into shape.  If you don’t have a tortilla press, form the dough balls into disks, place each disk between two sheets of waxed paper and roll them out as thin as you can. 

Roll outward from the center of the dough, always away from you, not back and forth.  Rotate the dough as you work, pausing occasionally to loosen the paper and smooth it out.  Hand rolled tortillas will be slightly irregular in shape but try to form them into something roughly circular.

Stack the rolled-out tortillas on a plate with sheets of waxed paper between each one.  (I stacked them between the sheets I’d used for rolling them out.)

Pre-heat a non-stick griddle or seasoned cast-iron pan to medium high heat.  Without adding any fat to the pan, cook the tortillas one at a time.  The pan should be hot enough that the tortillas make a sizzling sound as soon as they make contact with the surface, and start to bubble up almost immediately.

Cook the tortillas until they’re blistered and slightly browned.  This will only take about half a minute on each side.  Try not to overcook them.  Overcooking makes them brittle.

If you're planning to serve the tortillas as soon as the batch is cooked, cover the finished tortillas with a towel.  This will help to keep them warm and pliable. 

If you’re not going to use the tortillas immediately, let them cool to room temperature, then wrap them in plastic or store them in an airtight container.  They can be stored at room temperature for a few days, or they can be frozen.

You can reheat tortillas in the microwave, wrapped in a damp dish towel or dampened paper towels.
This post is linked to the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop hosted by Zesty South Indian Kitchen, Penniless Parenting, The 21st Century Housewife, and Premeditated Leftovers.

 Hearth and Soul blog hop at Zesty South Indian Kitchen


Renonda said...

These look really good.

Aunt B said...

Thanks Renonda. We sure enjoyed them!

Alea Milham said...

I like that you made these healthier by adding whole wheat flour. Since I live in the southwest, I can easily and very inexpensively acquire fresh made tortillas without the chemicals, but I still think homemade tastes better.

Aunt B said...

Thanks Alea. You're lucky to have them where you are. Now that I've tried homemade tortillas and know what they should really taste like, I'm hooked.