Cast Iron

Simple, Customizable FlourĀ Tortillas

January 12, 2014
Author Notes

Have you ever had a homemade tortilla? It's an experience similar to the first time you take a bite of homemade bread, still piping hot out of the oven. There are plenty of high-quality and tasty tortillas available at supermarkets, and I won't lie to you; I keep a stock of them on hand. However for truly special occasions, I break out the lard (yes, LARD), flour, maybe a little Masa, and the elbow grease, as well as any number of other ingredients. Making your own tortillas is remarkably simple, but the bottom line is when you are craving a tuna wrap on your way home from the bar at 3 AM, no one looks forward to kneading dough. It is simple, but not quick.
If you make a regular habit of baking, and are a fan of wraps and tortillas, then add this to your baking day regimen, make a batch and refrigerate. However, just like homemade bread these wraps are devoid of preservatives and won't keep for very long unless frozen. I don't care for them frozen anymore than I care for frozen bread.

Note: When measuring out ingredients, don't adhere religiously to the recipe. Practice makes perfect here, and after a few times (and maybe a few failures) you will know when the dough is just right.

  • Makes 10-12 tortillas
  • 1 pound AP Flour
  • 1/4 pound Lard At Room Temperature
  • 1-2 pinches Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Gray Salt, Finely Ground
  • 1 teaspoon Freshly Ground White Peppercorn
  • 1 cup Warm Water, Plus Extra. (See note in instructions)
  • 1 tablespoon Oregano (Optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Dried Tomatoes (Optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Dried Basil (Optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Cayenne Pepper (Optional)
In This Recipe
  1. Put filtered water to boil and let it rip for about twenty minutes or it reduces to about 1 1/2 cups. I always boil -vigorously- all water I use for baking to eliminate impurities. Lots of people say this is pointless, but I've killed enough yeast in my day to know that water straight out of the tap or even a bottle needs a good vigorous boil. I don't know the science behind it, and I don't care. At the very least, you'll have plenty of warm water for your recipes.
  2. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and Masa or any other optional ingredients (if you like) into a sifter and combine well into a large mixing bowl on top of the lard.
  3. Using two forks, combine the lard and dry ingredients until a meal is formed. It should be chunky like pastry dough, with that coarse mealy look. Use your hands to finish it off if the forks aren't doing it for you. (And, it's just lard... it's only going to moisturize your hands. Chill out.)
  4. Slowly -and I mean really slowly- add water until a dough forms. Use your hands to gently combine everything in the bowl. If you over-water it, add more flour.
  5. Flour a work surface and turn out what will hopefully be a slightly sticky, but still springy ball of dough. Knead very gently. Love on the dough until is is no longer sticky, but quite springy and resilient when you push a finger into it.
  6. Cover the ball lightly in plastic wrap or a clean towel and walk away for 20 minutes to let the dough proof and texture to develop.
  7. Roll out the dough into a uniform circle with a floured pin, about an inch or inch and a half thick. Portion the dough evenly and roll into equal size balls. Knead the dough balls gently again for about a minute each. Roll in flour and place in the mixing bowl. Cover and walk away for another fifteen to twenty minutes. This gives each individual tortilla (or the testales, I believe they're called) a chance to proof up individually. Most recipes only proof the dough once, after it has been rolled out into balls. The double proof method here makes for some remarkably tender, melt in your mouth tortillas, and very crisp tortilla chips in my experience.
  8. Heat your largest skillet (I like cast-iron for this, or should you have a large comal, use that, and high-five!) to medium-high heat. There's enough fat in the tortillas, so use a dry skillet.
  9. Roll each of the balls out until to one eighth of an inch thick and roughly ten to twelve inches in diameter. To help in the cooking, I like to prick them with a fork several times like you would a pastry dough.
  10. Let's cook these bad boys!!! Like pancakes, your first tortilla is probably going to be over-cooked, under-cooked, fall apart, catch fire, be implicated in an international incident... Watever. Don't be discouraged. Move on.
  11. The tortillas will tell you when they're ready to be turned because you will see gas-pockets form on the top. When they're done they will be flexible, and stretchy, but not fall apart when you pull on them a bit. Taste the first one that looks edible to make sure you have the cooking times right and keep moving. The tortilla should be bendy and tender, but not mealy or floury-tasting.
  12. Keep the process moving. Store the cooked tortillas on a paper towel lined, plates warmed in the oven. Cover with a paper towel and another warmed plate; put the finished product in a tortilla keeper, or serve immediately.

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