Unleavened flat breads have been around for centuries and are still a food staple in many countries today. While the corn tortilla may be the traditional flat bread in Mexico, along it's Northern border with Texas and throughout the Southwestern part of the United States the flour tortilla is becoming ever more popular. Flour tortillas were introduced to Northern Mexico (which later became Texas) by Jewish settlers who were fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. These flat (unleavened) bread eating Jewish settlers (many who were converts to Catholicism) generally ate a flat bread known as pita bread. Because corn was not kosker, then began to make their own version of the traditional corn tortilla with flour.
In some way I guess you could say the flour tortilla has biblical roots. Had Jewish settlers not been force to migrate to the new world, we might not have the flour tortilla. Being Caucasian and growing up in South Central Texas (San Antonio), when I think of tortillas, the first thing that comes to my mind is the flour tortilla. Yes, I like soft corn tortillas to make enchiladas with, but when it comes to tacos, burritos, or just eating them fresh from the skillet with dinner, to me the flour tortilla is king.
The great thing about flour tortillas is that they are easy to make and require very few ingredients. Because the do not require any yeast, they can be made quickly (less than 30 minutes from start to finish). Now, I do not use lard or vegetable shoetening when I make my flour tortillas, rather I use vegetable or corn oil depending on what I have in the pantry at the time. I have tried many recipes of the years, but the following is my go to recipe. This recipe makes, soft delicious flour tortillas that I use to make my bean and cheese and breakfast burritos.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅓ cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup warm water
Combine flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the dough hook attached mix dry ingredients until well combined. Add oil and water with mixer running at a medium speed. Mix for 1 to 2 minutes, stopping several times to scrape the sides of the bowl. After 2 minutes, or when the flour mixture comes together and begins to form a ball, decrease mixing speed to low and continue to mix for dough for 1 more minute or until dough is smooth.
For Taco / Fajita Size Tortillas
Transfer from mixing bowl to your well-floured counter top or work space. Divide dough in half, then in half again continuing to do so until you have 12 approximately equal sized portions. Then form each portion into a small ball with your hands and flatten with the palm of your hand as much as possible. If the dough is sticky, then add a bit more flour to your counter or work space. Cover flattened balls of dough with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes before proceeding. During the last 5 minutes that the tortiallas are resting, heat a large pan or comal over medium-high heat. Then using a rolling pin, roll each tortilla into a 6 to 7 inch diameter circle. Keeping your rolling pin and countertop lightly floured will keep the tortillas from sticking when rolling them out. Once you have your tortillas to the desired size, do not stack the uncooked tortillas on top of each other or they will get soggy and stick together.
For Burrito Size Tortillas
Transfer from mixing bowl to your well-floured counter top or work space. Divide dough in half, then in half again continuing to do so until you have 8 fairly equal sized portions. Then form each portion into a small ball with your hands and flatten with the palm of your hand as much as possible. If the dough is sticky, then add a bit more flour to your counter or work space. Cover flattened balls of dough with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes before proceeding. During the last 5 minutes that the tortiallas are resting, heat a large pan or comal over medium-high heat. Then using a rolling pin, roll each tortilla into a 10 to 12 inch diameter circle. Keeping your rolling pin and countertop lightly floured will keep the tortillas from sticking when rolling them out. Once you have your tortillas to the desired size, do not stack the uncooked tortillas on top of each other or they will get soggy and stick together.
Chef's Note: I roll out the first two tortillas and then place one in my hot saute pan. While the first is cooking I start rolling out the third. That way I am always rolling out a tortilla while I have one cooking in my hot saute pan at the same time.
When your pan or comal is very hot, place one dough circle into pan and allow to cook about 1 minute or until bottom surface has a few pale brown spots. The uncooked surface will begin to show a few little bubbles. If tortilla is browning too fast, reduced heat a bit. If it’s taking longer than a minute to see a few pale golden brown spots on underside of tortillas, increase heat a bit. Flip to other side and cook for about 30 seconds. You want the tortilla to be soft but have a few small pale golden brown spots on surface. Remove from pan with tongs and stack in a covered container or zippered bag till all tortillas are cooked. This will keep them soft and pliable. Wipe out any loose flour that accumulates in the pan between cooking tortillas as the flour may burn.
Chef's Note: Making sure your saute pan or comal is hot is the key to get nice soft pliable tortillas. If your pan is not hot enough, then the tortilla will cook to slowly and will become stiff like cardboard. Every stove is different, on my stove, there are no numbers just a 'Low' and 'High' setting. I have found that putting the dial to about ¾ of the way towards the 'High' setting and letting the pan heat for 5 minutes before cooking the tortiallas is just about perfect.
Serve your freshly made tortillas warm. Few things taste better than warm bread or flour tortillas served with butter, I guarantee you they go fast. However if you want to save them for later (such as when making breakfast or bean burritos), then allow to cool for later use. When ready to use, place a slightly damp paper towel in the bottom of a container (with a cover) that will hold the stacked tortillas. Microwave, uncovered for 15-25 seconds (start with 15) or until warm, then cover to hold heat while serving.
The tortillas will keep well stored in an airtight container or zip lock bag at at room temperature for about 24 to 48 hours as they have no preservatives, or can be frozen indefinitely if they make it that long. To freeze, separate tortillas with parchment paper or waxed paper and place in a plastic zip lock bag before placing in freezer.
All commercially prepared tortillas contain a few preservatives, but overall the ingredients between making tortiallas at home and commerically prepared tortillas are pretty similar. As evidenced by the following brand of tortillas which I occasionally use. Overall the nutritional value of commercially prepared tortillas is about the same as those made at homemade, but the flavor and texture of homemade tortillas IMHO is far superior.
Mi Casa Flour Tortillas Ingredients: Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid (a B Vitamin)], Water, Vegetable Shortening (Interesterified Soybean Shortening, Fully Hydrogenated Soybean Oil or Palm Oil), Calcium Propionate (to Retard Spoilage), Salt, Wheat Starch, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, and Yeast.
Homemade Flour Tortillas: All-purpose flour (Bleached Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), salt, baking powder (sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminum phosphate), water, and vegetable oil.
Making your own tortillas at home can save you a consider amount of money, and most of you have the necessary ingredients in you pantry. In fact, if all the items you have in your pantry are the ssame as those we recommended in our minimalist pantry series, you will be bale to make your own tortillas at home. A 5lb bag of all-purpose flour at my local Walmart costs $1.72 ($0.02 per ounce), and one cup of all-purpose flour weights 4.25oz. A 48oz bottle of Great Value Vegetable oil is $2.28 ($0.05 pr ounce)
3 cups (12.75oz by weight) all-purpose flour costs $0.28
1/3 cup vegenable oil costs $0.14
Salt and baking powder together less than $0.03
Homemade Tortillas $0.45 a batch (Taco size $0.04 each, Burrito size $0.06 each)
Ortega Flour Tortillas 8” 10ct $2.00 at Walmart ($0.20 each)
Mission Flour Tortillas Taco size 10ct $2.68 at Walmart ($0.27 each)
Nuevo Leon Flour Tortillas 8” 10ct $1.00 at Dollar Tree ($0.10 each)
As you can see, making you own tortillas is quite a bit cheaper than buying them at the grocery store. In fact it is 40% cheaper to make your own than it is to purchase the cheapest burritos of comperable size for $1.00 at the Dollar Tree. And if you buy the Mission brand it is 78% cheaper.
I love freshly made tortillas slatered with butter or served with scrambled eggs and potatoes and topped with salsa for a quick breakfast taco. Unfortunately, when I grew up, we never had fresh tortiallas on the dinner table, rather store bought were the norm. I enjoy making this recipe, it is quick and delicious, and as we live about 10 miles out of town a round trip to our local Brookshires or Walmart takes at a minimum 30 minutes. I can easily make tortillas in that time so unless we are already heading to town, it is just as easy to make my own tortillas at home, and the taste of fresh flour tortillas just cannot be beat
Now the cavet, I did not have a Mexican grandmother to teach me how to roll out tortillas so when I first started I made a lot of amoeba and rectangular shaped tortillas. Sometimes it still happens, but my tortillas got more round over time and so will yours. Do not let this factor discourage you, the great thing about artisan foods and homemade foods is that they are not, well perfect. Given the choice I would eat homemade tortiallas everytime over store bought ones. Now do not think me a hypocrit, I still buy store bought tortiallas, especially when I need them in greater quantaties such as when making a couple pans of enchiladas or when 10 family memebers show up for beef and or pulled pork tacos.
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