Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tortilla, tortilla

I am a Texas girl. I am a sucker for a good tortilla. I can tell you where to buy them, but I have never tried to make them. It's just always seemed like this mysterious magical process that would be difficult to try at home, and even more difficult to make them taste right. So, after lots of research over many years, I finally sucked up the courage and tried it. At home. And, as a bonus, I'm guaranteed that they're vegan because I made them.

My recipe is the White Flour Tortilla one from Jane Butel's Southwestern Kitchen. I used the Whole-Wheat Flour variation in which I subbed 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour for that amount of the unbleached AP flour.

In a large bowl (I just went straight to the food processor), combine 4 cups unbleached flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

Cut in 1/4 cup margarine or butter (I used Earth Balance margarine). You could also use a pastry blender or your fingers for this step. The processor is just quicker. Then remove to a mixing bowl.

Add and mix in a little warm water at a time, up to 1-1/2 cups, until a soft dough is formed, working the dough with your hands until it is manageable. Knead 15-20 times, then let it rest for 10 minutes, covered with a clean towel.

I deviated a bit from her instructions on this next part. She instructs to form 2 inch balls by pulling a bit off at a time, while keeping the remainder under plastic wrap. I am a little OCD. I weighed the dough, halved it, then cut it into approximately even pieces. The yield is listed as 8-12 (6-inch) tortillas. I would love to say I experimented with measurements on purpose, but alas, I calculated oddly in my head. The first half I divided into 4 pieces (pictured above). The second half I divided into 6 pieces. In the end it is a happy mistake because it allowed me to compare outcomes. The larger ones were larger than I prefer. In the future I will divide by into 12-14 pieces for smaller final product.

Another experiment (intentional this time) was rolling pin versus tortilla press. In our town, there is a restaurant that has a tortilla production line that you can watch while you await a table. They have the neat-o commercial hot press that presses and cooks simultaneously, and the tortillas are delish. I bought a nifty looking hand press (above) a couple years ago thinking it looked interesting and would be authentic. I compared the two methods and noted the results below.

I rolled the first half of the dough with the wooden pin on a silicone mat that has diameter calibrations. (I just happened to have the mat.) Didn't stick. No problems. Easy peasy. Didn't really need the mat for it's measuring ability, although, it was a handy reference. (Ms. Butal instructs you to roll them into 6-inch circles at 1/8-inch thick.)

I intended to press the second half of the dough, but about 3 tortillas in, I changed my mind. It caused the dough to be uneven, and it squooshed out the sides. I still had to turn and press each piece a few times. Not a time saver. Didn't seem particularly authentic, but then, I've not had the opportunity to witness an authentic homemade tortilla process.

From the same size dough balls, here is the result, rolled on the left, pressed on the right. Just a note, I do like tortillas to be a little thick, I don't want crackers after all, but I don't like them too thick either. The rolled one shrank a tad prior to hitting the pan.

Andrew helped with the project. This was his design. :)

The recipe instructs to heat cast iron comal or griddle over medium heat, lightly oiled and wiped with a clean paper towel. Since glass-topped stove (sadly) does not accommodate cast-iron, I used a stainless skillet wiped with oil. Heat first side of tortilla for 45 seconds until brown spots appear, flip, and heat second side for just a few seconds.

The final product: A stack of warm, homemade tortillas. This picture actually doesn't represent ALL of them because about 4 disappeared *poof* before I could make the picture.
After they cool, place uneaten tortillas - if there are any because it's amazing the riff-raff these attract to the kitchen for a snack - in an air-tight container. I keep mine in the fridge to extend their life. No preservatives, remember. To reheat, place on hot skillet for a few seconds each side. I don't nuke them because they tend to get chewy and tough. If heating several, you can stack them, wrap in foil and pop in the oven to reheat for several minutes. Just be sure to check to ensure they don't get too crispy.

A couple of notes:
  1. I diligently rolled the dough balls and stacked them to be cooked. BAD IDEA. They didn't seem sticky when I rolled them, but they stuck together while awaiting the pan. Had to re-roll several. I tried putting wax paper between, and they stuck to that too. So, now having done it all, I can attest that the recipe instructions to roll and cook at the same time works. It takes a bit for the first side to cook, allowing plenty of time to roll the next one.
  2. Overcooking the thin ones results in crispy tortillas. However, not all is lost (assuming that is not your intended result). I placed the cooked tortillas in a stack on a plate under a clean tea towel. Several of the tortillas were crispy going in. A bit later when I took them out, the crispy ones were now soft and tasty. Steam. Who knew.
  3. The whole wheat was OK. I usually like whole wheat. But I think next time - and there will be a next - I will only use one cup instead of 1-1/2 cups.
  4. Be sure to keep the unused dough under plastic while rolling and cooking. Don't want it to dry out.

Andrew and David loved them. Andrew even declared, "Mommy, we don't have to go buy tortillas anymore because yours taste really yummy!" *sigh* Now that's an endorsement I cherish.

1 comment:

  1. I had a neighbor in when we lived in Whidbey that made homemade tortillas and I loved em. Always wanted her to show me, but they got transfered before we could do it. Now I know how! Yours look delish!