For the first 16 years of my life I never had a good tortilla. Living in rural Missouri, the only tortillas we could get were the bagged pieces of cardboard at the local grocery store. I took my first trip to Mexico when I was 16. In Mexico I discovered the true joys of Mexican food. The tortillas were amazing there. I could eat them plain fresh from the comal. I returned to Missouri with a love for Mexican food. I moved to Texas in my twenties and discovered that many of the grocery stores produced a wonderful, fluffy flour tortilla in the store. I often went to the HEB and bought the fresh steaming tortillas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I had to move back to Missouri and to the packaged cardboard that we call tortillas here. One thing was certain, I could no longer be satisfied with the tortillas in Missouri. I needed to figure out how to make my own. I went on a quest to figure out the best method for making delicious, hot tortillas. My quest ended (and began) with this recipe. I say began because I discovered the joys of making many different types of flat bread as a result of this journey.
The ingredients that go into a tortilla are simple. However, what you choose to put into your tortillas will make a big difference in their taste and texture. I like to use unbleached all purpose flour when I make them. Unbleached flour seems to make a big difference when it comes to flavor as compared to bleached AP flour. I also like to use lard. Now don’t close your browser tab. You can substitute shortening or oil for lard if you want to. I will tell you that lard is one of the major ingredients that makes a tortilla delicious. Whatever you choose to use, your tortillas will be infinitely better than the store-bought variety.
I discovered that the method for making tortillas is just as important as the ingredients that go into them. For instance, the way the dough feels when you are kneading it, the heat of your skillet, and the feel of the tortilla edges all play into how your tortillas turn out. Pay close attention to the methods as you make the tortillas.
Start your own exploration into the wonderful world of flat breads today with my flour tortilla recipe:
- 3 cups Unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons Baking powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 6 tablespoons Lard or shortening
- 1¼ cups Warm water
- Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together using a sifter or fork.
- Add 6 tablespoons of lard. Cut the lard into the dry ingredients using a fork, pastry cutter, or your fingers. The mixture should be slightly crumbly but not as crumbly as you make biscuit dough.
- Add the warm water a little bit at a time and mix it into the dry ingredients using your hands. If the mixture is too dry, add more water. If the mixture is too wet, add more flour. Mix the water and dry ingredients until you have a single cohesive mass of dough.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for two minutes. The dough should have a very slightly tacky and velvety texture. If the dough is too sticky, add flour until you achieve the desired texture. You may have to add flour a few times while kneading. If the dough has no tackiness and is too dry, you will need to add some water. It is better for the dough to be a little too wet than too dry.
- Pull off 8-14 pieces of dough and roll each into a ball. Place the dough balls on a plate and cover with a slightly dampened cloth. Just sprinkle some water on the cloth after you cover the dough. Let rest for 10 minutes or more. Don’t let them rest longer than 30 minutes because they will start drying out.
- Prepare a plate that that has two towels where you can place the tortillas when they are cooked.
- Heat up a cast iron skillet, griddle, or comal to 350-400°F or between medium and medium-high. I use an infrared thermometer to determine the temperature of the skillet.
- Using a floured rolling pin, roll out a ball of dough as thin as it will go or to around 8-12 inches in diameter. Roll in more than one direction and try to make the tortillas round. It takes practice to make them round.
- Place the tortilla onto the pre-heated skillet for 30 seconds on one side.
- Flip the tortilla and cook for 25 seconds on the other side. While it is cooking, roll out your next tortilla and have it ready.
- Flip the tortilla once again and cook for 5 seconds. The tortillas should have light brown speckles on both sides when they are finished. Sometimes the first tortillas you cook will have very few brown speckles. That is okay. Don’t crank up the heat. The skillet will continue to heat up as you cook and it’s better to have soft, pliable tortillas than overcooked tortillas.
- Remove the tortilla from the heat and place in between the towels on the plate you prepared earlier. This will keep the tortillas warm while you cook the rest of them.
- Feel the edges of the tortilla. The edge should be soft and pliable. If the edge is sharp and hard, then the tortilla is overcooked. Reduce the amount of cooking time to 25 seconds, 25 seconds, 5 seconds or reduce your heat slightly if your tortillas are overcooked. Feel each tortilla and adjust cooking time as needed. Making tortillas takes practice and understanding how your cooking equipment behaves so keep trying until you perfect your technique!