Thursday, May 6, 2010

Making Flour Tortillas - Segunda Tentativa

I've changed.  It may even be fair to say I've become slightly obsessed.  I turned down fun dinner plans last night and worked in my kitchen instead.  Then, this morning I was overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment.  The sun seemed to shine more brightly and the birds seemed to sing more sweetly.

Why?  I'm getting better at making flour tortillas.  Yesterday marked my second attempt, and my husband and I agree that this batch was better than last week's.  Not perfect, but certainly an improvement.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we decided to have tacos for dinner.  I really wanted beef fajitas, but I couldn't find a skirt steak to save my life around here, so I went with chicken.  Sigh.

So, do you know what Cinco de Mayo is?  I mean, besides the 5th of May?  The holiday is not just an excuse to sell more Dos Equis beer.  It is the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla when the underdog Mexican army defeated a French army twice its size.  This should not be confused with Mexican Independence Day which is September 16.  Alright, enough of the history lesson.

Back to the tortillas...filled with the spirit of the underdog and the taste memory of fresh flour tortillas from South Texas, I entered the kitchen and tried again.

Here is what I did in this round...

Flour Tortillas
Made about 9

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (aka Crisco)
3/4 cup, plus 1 Tbsp warm water

Put flour, salt, and baking powder in a mixing bowl.  Then add 1/4 cup shortening and cut it in with two knives.  You take a table knife in each hand and cross them in the bowl and pull them away from each other to break the solid shortening into little pieces and mix it with the flour.  It is a concept used to make pastry.  You can also use your hands or a pastry cutter/mixer.  You want the mixture to be a little crumbly-looking, some say the texture should resemble peas.

Add the warm water a little bit at a time and use your hands to mix while doing that.  I needed to add just a bit more than 3/4 cup of water.  You might need to add a little more or less, so that is why you shouldn't just pour in the water all at once.  You want the dough to come together and be pliable, but not be too sticky or it won't roll out well.

Knead it into a ball and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rest for about 15 minutes.

Heat a cast iron skillet/griddle over medium low heat.  Then, make balls of dough for each tortilla that is to be rolled.  I managed 9 this time.  Using a rolling pin, roll them out on a lightly floured surface, until they are about 1/8 inch thick.  You can push down a little harder than with piecrust, but don't over-handle or you can make the dough to tough.  I was a little closer to round tortillas this time.  I rolled from the center each time, and turned the roll of dough to keep myself even.  I also corrected the edges a bit with my fingers to try to make them more even.

Cook each tortilla on the hot cast iron skillet/griddle.  It take about a minute on each side, and when the surface looks a little bubbly you know it is time to turn them.  Place the cooked tortillas in a towel-lined basket or wrap them in aluminum foil.

This batch was not as dry as my first one and more pliable.  I think using the shortening was an improvement and I didn't roll them as thinly this time.  I believe I will still tinker with the recipe and I need the practice in rolling them into circles.

The tortillas are so much better fresh off the heat.  However,  merely for the sake of experimentation and accuracy in my writing, dear reader,  I did re-heat the last two this morning for my bacon, egg, and guacamole breakfast tacos.  I mean, I want you to have the absolute truth about tortillas.

I put them in the hot skillet for a few seconds on each side and it made them pliable again.  They were not as tasty as the night before, but definitely better than the ones in the plastic bag in the grocery store.

Keep an eye out for the report on my next attempt, and let me know if you have any hints.

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