RECIPE: Homemade Flour Tortillas

When I was about 6 years old I had a babysitter named Ms. Ramirez. She was my favorite babysitter EVER! She was an adult, she was a cool adult, she was happy and bubbly all the time… and her mama made homemade tortillas!!! One day Ms. Ramirez sent us home with some fresh tortillas tightly bundled in foil… and the rest is history.

A few years later we moved out of town. But when we would go back for a summer camping trip we got to stop by and pick up some more homemade tortillas to rewarm over the campfire! Oh … those camping memories… full of great food, laughter, good people… more than anything, our family camping trips built into me a sense of adventure (that now scares some people… mainly my Mom and my Husband). But let’s get back to the kitchen…

For the tortillas this is all you need… flour, kosher salt, vegetable shortening, vegetable oil and warm water.

But first let’s take a step back and see what my workspace looks like today: flat board, ingredients and trusty cell phone. Most of the time I work off of the recipes in my email…. is that funny or just down right weird?

Mix together flour and salt… cut in the shortening (or lard) and mix well until the mix is like a coarse sandy texture.

Then add the vegetable oil… and slowly drizzle in the water, stirring with a fork until it all forms a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and begin to knead…

Knead it about 30-40 times. With the palm of your hand press the dough into the board and push it away from you. Fold the dough over on top of itself… and repeat.

Continue to knead until the dough comes together and turns into a smooth ball of dough.

Set the dough aside and cover with plastic wrap, for about an hour.

Next, let’s talk about the griddle for a hot minute…

You can use a large flat skillet (no oil or butter or anything) or an electric griddle or a cast iron skillet/griddle. Here? I have a cast iron griddle that my hero-of-a-hubby bought me several years ago (our first Christmas together).

My life wouldn’t be the same without it (or him). ::: grin :::

Let’s turn our attention back to the dough… when you’re ready to cook them cut it into 12 equal size pieces and work the dough a bit more by squeezing it into your palm a few times and rolling it into a ball. Then they need some time to rest again… another 10 minutes or so. (While you’re waiting you can set the griddle to just a tad over low heat.)

And for the rolling…

Just barely sprinkle flour on the flat surface and prepare to roll…

I have found that by flattening the dough ball with heel of my hand it helps to keep the circular shape once you start rolling.

And then once the dough starts sticking to the rolling pin then I add just a light layer of flour to the rolling pin itself (not to the dough – because you don’t want too much flour ont he outside of these tortillas).

Continue to roll until the dough is very, very thin… thinner than you think it should be. Aim for a 7 inch round… it will be slightly mishapen. If you’re ok with imperfect tortillas then great… if not, roll it out a bit more and then cut off the rough edges.

Transfer the dough to the hot griddle… and watch the first one closely. Within about 30 seconds it will start to bubble and rise – this is when it will start to brown. Cook time for the first side will be about 55-75 seconds. When it’s done to your likeness flip it over. It will cook for slightly less time on the second side.

Remove from heat and start a pile on a dish towel… and repeat…

And repeat by transferring to the pile… oh wait… what happened to the “pile”? Well, anyway…

(ahem) again, what happened to that “pile”? the previous tortilla keeps disappearing somehow!

repeat the above steps… what can i say?

continue to repeat… the cooking part, that is… afterall, you will eventually want to share these with the ones you love tonight.

But grant me one more minute for another glance back to the campfire memories… my favorite way to enjoy these is with some butter and salt. Thank you Ms. Ramirez… you left quite an impression on my life. While my tortillas don’t taste QUITE like your mom’s … they’ll have to do…

Homemade Flour Tortillas
Recipe courtesy Lori Tisdale

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup vegetable shortening (or lard)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or butter)
½ cup warm water

OPTIONAL: 2 teaspoons baking powder
(Note – if you prefer thicker/plumper tortillas then add baking powder to the dry mixture.)

In a large bowl, stir together flour and salt. Cut in shortening (or lard) with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture resembles meal. Drizzle vegetable oil over flour and slowly stir in warm water with a fork until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto very lightly floured surface. Knead dough 30-40 times until dough becomes smooth. If dough is sticky, lightly dust hands with flour while kneading.

Form dough into a ball, return to bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest for at least 1 hour. Heat a dry well-seasoned cast-iron griddle, or skillet, over medium-low heat until hot. Turn dough onto flat surface and cut into 12 equal pieces. Knead each piece a few times and roll into a ball. Allow balls to rest for about 10 minutes.

Very lightly sprinkle flour on a flat surface and roll out the first ball. Use a standard rolling pin or wooden dowel (tip: use a 1 1/4 inch diameter wooden dowel cut to a 14 inch length. Use just enough flour to prevent dough from sticking. (Too much dough will make tortillas taste more dry.) Roll out each ball into a very thin round. (Thinner than you think you want it.) While rolling the tortilla turn it in quarter turns until you have rolled the tortilla flat, near to 6-7 inch rounds. Attempt to keep the thickness the same as you roll. Cook 1 tortilla on the griddle while you roll the next one. Within 25-30 seconds the tortilla will start to bubble and puff. The bottom will start to brown in spots in 45 seconds. Cook time on each side will be between 55 – 75 seconds. Using tongs or a flat spatula, turn tortilla once browned to your liking. Cook second side in same way. Remove to dish towel to cool. Stack and cover tortillas while cooking the rest.

Homemade tortillas are best enjoyed fresh. If you will be using them later that day wrap them in aluminum foil. But they can also be frozen (after cooling thoroughly). Warm thawed tortillas on griddle before using.

enjoy your time in the kitchen…


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