There are some things that never occurred to me to make from scratch - that is, until a global pandemic changed so much about how I shop for groceries! I'm creating more homemade items than I ever have before - which, if you knew me even a few years ago, is nothing short of miraculous.
Up until pretty recently, the list of foods I could confidently prepare looked something like this:
+ Boxed macaroni and cheese
+ Spaghetti with store-bought marinara
I wish I was kidding. Sure, I could prepare tasty cold sandwiches, and I've always been able to make one hell of a salad. But actually cooking? Like - with heat?? It felt foreign and daunting, and whenever I did try, the process took so long that it just wasn't practical.
Fortunately, I've come a long way in my culinary journey, and I now have a wide repertoire of delicious meals I can whip up in less than an hour - but it certainly hasn't always been this way.
I share this story to illustrate how truly extraordinary it is that I am now making my own flour tortillas from scratch. If I can do it...so can you!
My partner Paul was the one who decided to try this out, and when I realized it was a lot simpler than I'd assumed it would be, I got on board. After many attempts and lots of tweaks, this is one of the recipes we've settled on that produces a beautifully soft, pillowy tortilla.
The cast-iron skillet is ideal for maintaining an even heat, but if you don't have one, you can use a standard steel pan.
Temperature-wise, you might have to keep adjusting throughout the process to find the sweet spot. I find that the temperature is about right when the tortilla begins forming medium to large bubbles at around 30-60 seconds. When flipped at this point, the surface should be medium brown in places. The second half will generally cook faster than the first.
I prefer an oiled surface to separate and roll the dough, simply because these don't tend to cook long enough to cook off the raw flour taste on the dough. That said, this can be left to preference. If you choose to oil the surface, use a drizzle of canola oil on both the surface and the rolling pin, then rub in to coat.
If you don't have shortening, you can substitute an equivalent amount of softened butter in a pinch. The texture will turn out a bit more dense and not quite as light and fluffy, but it will still work.
This is easier with two people so that one can roll and the other can cook. However, it can be done on your own. Just make sure to roll the next tortilla out as soon as the first one hits the skillet, taking care not to forget about flipping it.
To store, wrap in waxed or parchment paper inside a sealed container (we re-use a plastic bread bag from a store-bought loaf). The paper will help absorb any excess moisture. When stored this way, the tortillas will keep about 5 days at room temperature.
Homemade-From-Scratch Flour Tortillas
Yield: 16 medium-sized tortillas
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp salt
1 packet yeast (about 2 tsp)
1 cup hot water (plus an extra 2-3 tbsp to add in as needed)
1. Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and add shortening. Use a hand mixer to combine while slowly adding the hot water. Blend until smooth and form into a large ball with your hands. If dough is still too dry to form a ball, add the remaining 2-3 tbsp of hot water, little by little, until the mixture comes together. Cover with a towel and let sit for 30 - 60 minutes.
2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. While skillet is heating, remove dough from the bowl and knead with your hands, working it for several minutes until it is smooth. Using a dough scraper, divide the dough into 16 equal portions on an oiled or floured surface and roll into small balls. Set the balls of dough on a plate.
3. When the skillet is hot, use a rolling pin to roll the first tortilla to desired thickness, then place in the skillet. The tortilla will begin to bubble as it cooks. When the bubbles become larger, flip it with a spatula to cook the other side. Remove from skillet and place on a plate when done.
4. Continue with remaining tortillas, adjusting the heat as you work - you want the skillet hot enough so each side browns nicely in less than 2 minutes, but it can overheat quickly and char them if you’re not careful.