Making your own tortillas may seem a daunting task, but once you get the hang of flattening them, you will find that they take very little effort to make. Here are some tips that you may find helpful if you are a beginner tortilla artist:
- It is nice to have a pastry blender for blending the lard or butter with the flour. If you don't have a pastry cutter, use either a fork, or two butter knives.
- I have found the best tools for mixing are my hands!
- The flour and water amounts in the recipe are adjustable. If your dough seems too sticky, then add more flour. Once you have finished kneading your tortilla dough, it should only be slightly sticky. If it is sticking to your hand in big globs (see picture below) it needs more flour.
- Do not skip the "rest time" for the dough. Allowing the dough to rest after kneading gives it time to relax its gluten bonds--what this means is, the longer you let it rest, the easier it will be to flatten the dough into a tortilla shape. So, be sure to give it at least a half hour. In addition, the resting time will allow the flour to absorb the water more fully, leaving your dough less sticky.
- A damp towel is the best thing to use for covering the dough while it is resting. You can then re-dampen the towel and use it to keep the dough balls from drying out while you work.
- You do not need a tortilla press to make tortillas (though it is nice to have). You can use a rolling pin, and roll them out into a circle, or you can place the dough between two greased sheets of wax paper and press flat with a large plate. If you are using a rolling pin, be sure you have extra flour on hand to prevent sticking; if you are using the wax paper method, don't skimp on the greasing. My favorite oil to use for greasing is coconut oil, but butter or olive oil will work as well.
- Cast iron is hands down the best pan to cook tortillas in. If you do not have cast iron, any non-stick pan will do. You do not need to grease your pan; tortillas cook well with dry heat.
- Don't sweat it if your tortillas are not perfectly round or if they're thicker than the store-bought kind. They're homemade--made by your own hands, not some machine. When you are first learning to make tortillas, yours may turn out oval, lopsided, or any other funky shape. Don't worry, they'll still taste far more delicious than a commercially made tortilla, and most of the time, you can still manage to somehow get your filling wrapped up no matter how odd your tortilla looks. Like anything else, the more you make tortillas, the better you get at it.
My favorite recipe for flour tortillas comes from a little pamphlet that my son brought home from Spanish camp one year. I have made some slight adjustments to it, but the ingredients are all the same.
Makes eight 6" tortillas
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon lard or butter
3/4 cups water
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Cut in lard or butter until lumps are gone.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
Add the water, a quarter cup at a time, and work the mixture into a dough. Knead until smooth. The dough should be slightly sticky and not hard. You can add slightly more flour or water if needed.
Cover the bowl and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 8 balls. Keep them covered with a damp towel while you are working to prevent them from drying out.
Heat a skillet on medium heat; do not grease the skillet.
Roll or flatten a dough ball into a 6 inch tortilla.
Place the tortilla into the heated skillet and cook about a minute on each side. It will be slightly browned and starting to bubble.
Continue in this manner until all your dough is cooked.