Of the 212 posts I’ve written to date, I will tell you now that this flour tortilla post, right here, is… hands down, the BEST contribution I’ve ever made to this blog. Ever.
And I’ll tell you why.
For years, I’ve been experimenting with how to make flour tortillas. And for years, I couldn’t figure it out. I tried them all, the Homesick Texan recipe, the Kitchn recipe, the Pioneer Woman recipe, and countless others. (Likely the first five or six pages of Google returns.) Note that there’s nothing wrong with these recipes; they just didn’t provide that genius factor I’d been looking for.
So what’s the genius factor? Not unlike my favorite thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies recipe, I’d been looking for something soft. Chewy. Maybe even a little undercooked on the inside. No aftertaste of chemicals. No preservatives. Hint of salt. Warm. Always, warm.
Handmade flour tortillas, a little rustic. The RGB way.
Let’s backtrack about six months. It was a dark, cool winter night. (Because in Southern CA, it never gets cold.) We had just been granted custody of our two Mexican foster kids. In an effort to provide them with a comforting meal, I set out to try a flour tortilla recipe from Mely. It was the twenty-eighth or twenty-ninth recipe on my list to try. The goal was to serve that with a batch of homemade carnitas.
The house was a mess. I was a mess. In a desperate attempt to navigate bath time, I stepped away from making dinner.
So my tortilla balls sat for an hour before I returned to roll them out.
And that, that neglect, the one (of many) actions that took my kids away from their biological parents, was the same action that led me to the best. tortillas. I. had. ever. made. in. my. life. And this neglect, my friends, is something you will not find in 99% of all the “how to make flour tortilla” recipes that are out there.
In my humble opinion, this action, or lack of action, is what sets my tortillas apart from the pack.
There are other things, too.
If I’m simultaneously making a batch of carnitas, I scoop off the lard floating at the top and use that instead of butter.
I mix the dough with my hands. In a bowl. With warm water. (Not milk.) Always, warm.
I err on making my dough a little extra pliable. Soft. Very soft. But not sticky.
I roll them out into itty bitty balls, because I like my tortillas small.
And then they sit under plastic. A damp towel, I’ve discovered, just doesn’t work as well.
An hour or more later, I use a small French rolling pin to roll out the dough.
I need to make an interjection here. Earlier this year, a friend of mine posted a Facebook question about the use of the tortilla press. Can a tortilla press be used to make flour tortillas? One of the responses she was received was yes. Not just yes, but an enthusiastic, “Of course! I do it all the time, and it’s authentic, and it works, and it’s great!”
No no no no NO NO NO!!!!!!!!! One million times, no. When I saw that response, I wanted to shout through the computer and say “It’s a lie!!!! Responses like yours are the reason why people like me had to spend so much time and energy figuring out what NOT to do before getting it right!!!!!!!” But I refrained. It’s not polite to get into an argument on Facebook.
So I simply said this. Tortilla presses are meant for making corn tortillas. The gluten in flour tortillas need to be flatted into submission by the use of a rolling pin.
This is not up for debate.
Those who say it can be done have no idea what they’re talking about. Or, their definition of what makes a perfect flour tortilla are very, very different than mine. And that’s fine. Believe them if you want. Even try it their way. Then try mine. You’ll see the light.
Okay, moving on.
I roll them out thin. Very thin. Like paper. Also, the dough should not “retract” once it’s rolled out. If it retracts at all, the rest time wasn’t long enough. (I’ve found that the dough still retracts a little after resting for 30 minutes.)
And I let the kid help. She’s a very good helper.
And then it goes into a hot non-stick skillet. Dry. See how thin it is? You can see through it.
When it comes to cooking the tortilla, I look for it to puff. No puff, no bueno.
Another shot of that elusive puff.
See how thin it is? You can see through it once it’s cooked.
Pardon the overexposed picture. But I hope you see the inside layer of the tortilla. It’s like the inside of a good cookie. Soft. Also, you may notice here that this looks a little green. It’s because I got fancy and infused some pulverized kale into this batch of the dough. It’s a lot of work for just a tinge of color. And it made it a little “thick.” There’s no kale taste. I don’t recommend it unless you have plenty of kale (and time) to burn.
Most of the time, I’m happy eating my tortillas straight from the skillet, folded with a pat of salted butter. But on days I have time to play in the kitchen, I make something beautiful with them. Like this carnitas taco you see here, which isn’t published yet, but will be soon. Very soon.
On occasion, we make so much that we have leftover tortillas. They don’t go to waste. We throw them into a fryer and make tortilla chips out of them.
These days, I make tortillas by feel. A scoop of this, a splash of that. No measuring cup or spoon needed. If you make them enough, you’ll get there too.
I’ll conclude by saying that today marks the six month milestone of when the kids came to us. Six months. (!!!) They’re still alive. We’re still alive.
And we all love tortillas.