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Monday, September 7, 2009

Flour Tortillas

A bit of caution as these can be very addictive. These honestly made me detest the store bought varieties. They aren't exactly "easy" to make, but it gets easier every time you make them. Besides, all that rolling, slapping, and patting, is very therapeutic! I use these in any Mexican recipe that calls for flour tortillas and also in those that call for corn tortillas, as I just prefer the flour kind. These turn out study enough for filling yet melt in your mouth and are never tough.

I actually own a tortilla press but do not use it. Mainly because I like my tortillas to be a bit larger and also find it just an annoyance to use. I use a marble rolling pin. One of these can be quite expensive new, but Renni purchased mine at a thrift shop for only $8.00. But really, any rolling pin should work.

Flour Tortillas

4 cups plain white flour (Plus extra for rolling)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup shortening
1 and 1/4 cups hot (not boiling) water
( Not sure why, but the hot water really makes a difference.)

I use a fairly large bowl for mixing these, as it gives me plenty of room to work my hands in the dough. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder to the bowl and mix well with a fork or your hands. Now add the shortening and blend into the flour mixture until your mixture gets to the consistency of little peas. Next, use your fist to make a little "nest" in the center of your flour mixture and pour the hot water into the nest. Carefully work in a circular motion, turning the bowl as you go, and gently toss the flour into the hot water.(I know this sounds odd but really, just hug the bowl with one arm and mix the flour into the water with the hand of the other arm. I always feel so "pioneer" when I do this step! lol).

Once you have married the water and flour, you can begin to knead it inside the bowl, as you do this, kinda roll the dough around the sides of the bowl, collecting any stray pieces. Knead about 20 times or so. If it is too sticky, add another tablespoon or so of flour. If it is too dry, add a tad more water. We're going for a sort of elastic, smooth ball of dough. You'll just know when it gets to that point.

Now, it's time to pinch off the dough and roll it into balls with the palms of your hands. I make mine about the size of a golf ball and this usually yields me about 18 tortillas. Place these on a cookie sheet or other flat surface, cover with a towel, and let rest for around 20 minutes. While I wait, I take out a large bowl and a lid or plate to cover it with. I make sure I have a small bowl of flour near my rolling area. I start heating up my cooking surface about 5 minutes before the resting period is over. If you can have someone help you with the next steps, it would be a great help. Otherwise, just try to set things up so you can get move the tortilla quickly from one step to the next.

Roll the dough ball around in the flour and place on your flat surface and get to rolling!. The goal is to keep a circular shape, so turn 1/4 turn clockwise, after each swipe with the rolling pin. I also like to flip mine over now and then. I add flour as needed to prevent sticking and tearing. Get it really thin. Now toss it onto a hot griddle, electric skillet, frying pan, whatever. I usually toss the tortilla lightly from hand to hand, on it's way to the griddle, this probably isn't necessary but I have convinced myself that it removes excess flour. I do not grease the surface of the pan. I just make sure it is hot enough that water drops will dance across the surface. Cook for 20-30 seconds on each side. It will puff in places and get little "toasty" spots. Immediately place in the large bowl and cover with the plate. Once you get the hang of this, you should be able to work on rolling one tortilla, while keeping an eye on the one that is cooking. You could also roll them all out first and then cook but I have found this to be a true pain as they like to stick together and tear, when stacked in raw dough form. With any luck, you can convince someone to roll while you cook. Also, there can be quite a bit of smoke.