Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Flour Tortillas

I love burritos - especially homemade ones. Everything in a burrito should be homemade - the beans, the guacamole, the salsa (ok, you can buy cheese) and especially the tortilla shells. Now, I know, I know - it is just SO convenient to buy them from the store. It is, I'm not arguing. But they taste fake - like a combination of playdoh and some week old bread product. Anyway - you get the point, I'm not a fan.

And here's the truth - homemade tortillas are incredibly easy to make. Rolling them into a perfect circle is a different story, unless you have one of those nifty tortilla presses (which I'm putting on my list for Christmas) but even with the use of a rolling pin (or a beer bottle or wine bottle) you'll eventually perfect your circles. In the meantime, no one needs a perfectly round tortilla to make a delicious burrito. And if they are terribly shaped, eat them plain or make them into tortilla chips.

Homemade tortillas made into quesadillas - great leftover use for remaining burrito ingredients! Also featured - homemade salsa.
So - here you go, the decades old flour tortilla recipe from my Indiana-grown/African-lived mother's kitchen (so obviously authentic):

Flour Tortillas
yields approx 8 9" tortillas

2c flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 c shortening (don't try and substitute this for oil - they turn out  greasy. Sorry)
1/2 c warm water

In large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Using a pastry blender (or two knives) - cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until the shortening is pea-sized or smaller.

Add 1/2 c warm water - usually about 2Tbs more depending on how accurately you measured your 2c flour.  Mix, using your hands, until all the dry ingredients are absorbed - you may need to add more water than directed, but do so slowly - you don't want to over water your dough! You want your dough to be soft, not rubbery, and smooth. Rubbery dough is a result of over-kneading, so resist the urge to knead this recipe. This isn't bread. Just add the water and mix until all of your ingredients are smoothly combined.

Cover the dough with a damp towel and let sit for 2 hours. (If you're working ahead, you can cover tightly - in a sealed container, for example - and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. If you do this, pull out the dough an hour or so prior to use to allow the dough to come to room temperature - it will make it much easier to roll out).

Divide your dough into eight equal pieces - they should should be the size of golf balls, or a bit bigger. Flour your rolling surface and roll each ball out individually, being sure to rotate and flip the tortilla to make sure it doesn't stick to the counter (and because this will greatly improve your chances of achieving a round tortilla). Roll until you've reached your desired thickness - I like very thin tortilla shells, some people like them a bit thicker. I'm sure you've had a tortilla at some point in your life if you're considering home making them...make it as thin or as thick as you like.

Warm a non-stick skillet (cast iron is awesome - but not necessary) over med-low heat. Place your tortillas in the skillet (one at a time) and let cook until air bubbles begin to form, flip and allow the air pockets to re-form. Remove from skillet and put on a plate. Cover with a dry towel. This towel will help keep your tortillas hot, and very soft. I actually put the towel directly on the plate, the tortillas on the towel, and fold half of the towel over the tortilla. This prevents the bottom tortilla from getting wet with any condensation that forms as the tortillas cool.

Serve with homemade salsa, and all of your other favorite burrito fixings! (I recommend refried beans, seasoned ground beef, guacamole, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and red onions).


Storage note:: homemade tortillas freeze exceptionally well. Whenever I make them - I quadruple the recipe (or more). For freezing purposes: when cooking them, I highly recommend flash cooking your tortillas - in other words, prepare the tortillas exactly as directed above but when you get to the cooking phase only cook each side of the tortilla for 5-10 seconds. Just long enough to dry the outside so when your frozen tortillas are thawing, they don't stick together. If you freeze them just as rolled out dough, or even as balls of dough, they will stick together. Not fun.

You could cook them all the way and freeze them, but then they don't re-warm as well and are often quite dry or even brittle. Flash cooking allows you to thaw them without fear of them sticking together, and then you can finish the cooking process (as mentioned in the original recipe) just before your meal. Your tortillas will taste as if they had just been made, even if they were frozen for up to 2 months.

When you freeze them, I recommend wrapping your stack (I usually freeze them in sets of a dozen) in foil and then sealing in a ziploc.

Last side note - ground beef and refried beans can also be frozen - you can have homemade tacos on the table in 20 min if you double your quantities on your next taco night and freeze half of it!!! 

1 comment:

  1. We're on the same wavelength - i just made tortillas yesterday and doubled the recipe so we had beef tacos last night (homemade salsa too) and fish tacos with mango salsa tonight (just added the mango to the leftover salsa). But good to know that tortillas freeze well!