Shortly after we started the blog, I posted my recipe for homemade flour tortillas. I continue to make them whenever we’d like to have tortillas at a meal. They simply taste so, so much yummier than typical grocery store brands. Having made them many more times since originally posting, I thought I could refresh my recipe with tips and notes I’ve picked up along the way. I’ve definitely found ways to make them turn out more regularly shaped and to roll out nice and thin, but also stay soft enough to wrap and fill. The more I make them, the less work they seem too! For your first time making them, however, plan for them to take an hour or more.
The single most important ingredient for tortillas (in my experience at least) is the flour. Anytime I have made this recipe using this flour, they roll out easily and thinly without sticking to the counter as much or shrinking back. I am not knowledgeable enough to know why this is. The other flours I have used have roughly the same protein %. This particular flour does contain more parts of the wheat berry, but is not a full-out whole grain flour. Perhaps that extra ash is the difference. Regardless, it works amazingly for tortillas, and I also like the deeper depth of flavor it brings. But you can still make tortillas with a different type of flour! They just require a bit more coaxing.
When rolling tortillas out, it helps to dip them in a small container of flour. Getting the right amount of flour is something you learn as you make them more frequently. You need enough flour so that the tortillas don’t stick to the counter, but not so much that there is nothing for them to grip and keep their shape. Usually, especially when I use the better flour, I need just one dip in flour but may have to flip the tortilla I am rolling out once during the process. Even if your tortilla does stick, usually calm, patient edging and gently pulling it up will free it without significant tearing.
Using lard or another animal fat also makes a significant difference in the taste department. It brings a lot more flavor. When I’ve used that type of fat, I notice it also helps with the rolling and shaping of the tortillas, but not nearly as much as the difference in flour makes. Most frequently I use olive oil, because we always have that on hand.
The other key part to making tortillas is not to over cook them. The pan should be preheated to medium high and lowered to medium and sometimes even medium low over the course of cooking the tortillas. The skillet should be very hot to allow for quick cooking time without drying out, but not so much as to over char the tortillas. The goal is to put a tortilla on and let it cook until bubbles form and the underside has a speckling of nicely colored spots. This takes about a minute. At that point, the tortilla is flipped and cooked on the other side for no longer than 30 seconds — often much less — just until the bubbles take on a nice color (slight char is okay). Cooking the tortillas longer than the sweet spot makes them dry and brittle, much less able to wrap and fill nicely. Plus, their pleasant chewiness is lost.
Once cooked, a tortilla should sport lovely dark spots and be almost translucently thin in between bubbles which promises a tasty chew. Yum!
Homemade Flour Tortillas
Makes 16 medium sized tortillas
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup oil or other fat
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until a shaggy dough forms. Pour out onto the counter and briefly knead until it comes together (don’t expect it to be like a yeasted bread — just look for cohesion and uniformity). Divide into 16 pieces (I always eyeball it) and shape into balls. (Getting proper surface tension helps with more uniform shapes, but tortillas are the one time I find it is okay to simply roll the dough pieces between the palms of your hands until rough ball shapes form.) Let the balls rest on a lightly floured surface for about 15 min. While resting, cover with a towel.
The last 5-10 minutes that the balls are resting, heat a skillet on medium high heat. (My preference is to use cast iron.) When dough balls have rested, take one from under the towel (keep the others covered) and dip into a small container or bowl of flour. Roll the ball out as thin and as evenly in a circle as possible. (I love using my French rolling pin for this!) Once you have rolled it out, place it on the skillet and cook until bubbles form, roughly a minute. (When you get the hang of it, this is usually enough time to roll out the next dough ball.) Once bubbles form, flip the tortilla and cook briefly (30 sec or much less) on the other side until it colors nicely. (I like a charred spot or two, but it is important to avoid overcooking.)
Once the tortilla is cooked, move it to a dish or platter and finish cooking the remaining dough balls. Continue to stack the tortillas one on top of the other as soon as they are done cooking. Serve right away, or store tightly wrapped in tin foil or in a sealed bag for a couple days at room temp, for about a week in the fridge, or several months in the freezer. Warm the tortillas in the oven or one by one on a low heated skillet before serving to regain their peak malleability. Enjoy!