Flour Tortillas

At first I did not believe that it is impossible to make a great pizza in a conventional oven on a baking sheet. After all, I have made pizzas this way many times. Our instructor mentioned today that if your oven is hot enough to produce an excellent crust, the toppings will be burnt long before the crust is done. Therefore, you must use a baking stone, which is itself hot since it is kept in the oven, to properly cook your pizza.

I scoffed. My pizzas were just fine, thank you very much.

Then I tasted the pizza we assembled in class.

I do not, unfortunately, own a baking stone, so it looks like I’ll be holding off on pizza for a while….

Sure, it had homemade sauce and ultra-fresh mozzarella, but the crust made the pizza. Mine was very thin and wonderfully, wonderfully crisp. Of course, I was only able to eat half of mine. I left to get a second helping of the roasted asparagus and was slightly dismayed to discover that the muncher seemed to have absconded with my leftovers while her pizza was still in the oven – Her significantly less than perfect looking pizza, as she refused to wait until the ovens were free before loading her dough onto the peel. Since no one could get their pizza out of the very hot oven without the peel, her pizza (toppings and all) had to be unloaded and reloaded. Ah well. There were other things to eat.

We also made sage focaccia (mmm!) and authentic flour tortillas. I use the word authentic because we made them with lard. Before you gasp in shock and, possibly, disgust, let me say a few things about lard. First of all, it has roughly the same fat and calorie count as butter and oil – slightly less than oil, actually – and falls in between the two with the amount of saturated fat it contains. It produces flavorful baked goods due to its every so slight salty/meaty taste and contributes to a very tender product, as well. Tortillas are not exactly tender, but their fillings are well complimented by using lard. The lard is a soft solid at room temperature and makes the dough incredibly easy to work with and roll out. I didn’t need to add any extra flour because the rolled dough didn’t stick to my work surface at all.

Use shortening if you can’t find lard.

You can find the focaccia recipe here.

Flour Tortillas

3 1/3 cups flour (bread flour is slightly preferable to all purpose)

1/2 cup lard

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup warm water

Dissolve salt in warm water.

Pile flour onto a flat work surface. Rub in lard with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, like pie dough. Make a well in the flour and add 1/2 cup of the water. Knead dough together. Add remaining water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough comes together into a smooth, clay-like ball. It should not be wet.

Divide dough into 10 balls. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes.

Roll out each ball into a circle. Get them as thin as you can – about 1mm thick.

In a nonstick frying pan over medium heat, dry fry each tortilla. It should take about 2 minutes on the first side, until the surface has many bubbles. Flip it over and cook an additional minute. Cooking may take slightly longer depending on the temperature of your stove, but do not increase the heat or you may burn the tortillas.

Tortillas can be frozen for up to 1 month, layered with sheets of wax paper.

Our instructor likes to fill the fresh tortillas with cheese and fry them in peanut oil.

16 comments

  1. You can just throw everything in the Cuisinart and whirl away. I use warm, warm water and as soon as the dough comes together and forms a nice ball, it is done. No fuss, no mess.

  2. Hey Nic,
    I’m on my way now for some lard! My son made Mexican for me on Moms Day, last Sunday. Thought I could keep up his good work by making our own tortillas this weekend. Looks like rain, anyway!!
    I’m enjoying your recipes!
    Melissa

  3. Wondering if you will be taught puri at some point. Puri, an Indian fried flatbread, is my very favourite.

    Thanks for mentioning that about lard. It is so much easier to work with even for pie pastry. I guess I buy me some!

  4. celia kusinera

    Thanks for that info on lard. At least now I probably won’t avoid it as much.

  5. Where can you buy lard? I have some recipes that I really want to try that requires lard in the dough, but I have been unsuccessful in finding it at the supermarkets.

    -Angela

  6. Anonymous – Good suggestion. We often have to do things by hand (a.k.a. the “hard” way) in class.

    Melissa – Nothing beats cooking indoors on a rainy day. I recommend pork to compliment the tortillas.

    Ana – I don’t think that we’re covering Indian flatbreads, but I think that once my class is over I will continue experimenting with differnet types of breads. I’ll definately give it a shot.

    Celia – If you happen to get some, it makes a great pie crust.

    Angela – I have been able to find it in the regular supermarket near the butters. You might try asking in the meat department if it isn’t on display. You’ll definately be able to find it at an ethnic food/specialty market.

  7. Hi,

    During a few years of my life I lived with a Mexican family and their extended families. I was thrilled at the making of dozens of flour tortillas every morning. They kept them in Tupperware pie keepers, just the right size. I also liked that, with practice, they can be rolled very, very thin … until they are almost translucent.

    I, too, live here in Los Angeles. I love throwing a tortilla on the gas burner til warm, fill it with salad greens and a handful of chopped beef or chicken and a dash of creamy dressing. I fold it into a burrito shape and it makes a nice lunch.

    It’s a shame lard has had such a bad rap. Preparing Mexican food without it is folly.

    I love your site, Nic. I’ve been reading it regularly.

    Teri

  8. Thank you, Teri. You’re so lucky to have been exposed to authentic mexican cooking. I’ll have to practice my rolling; my tortillas were definately not as thin as yours!

  9. Yay for lard! The pie crust it enables is delightful and happy. Try a Canadian Pork Pie!

    Try to stay away from that nasty packaged lard in local supermarkets, from Armor I think. Rendering your own is really easy and is usually far better than what you can buy. Visit a real butcher and ask for some decent pork fat for lard making. Here’s what I did (quite a while ago):

    http://www.cyberbilly.com/meathenge/archives/000120.html

  10. Can someone please help me find a Mexican cooking course in Los Angeles for my father’s Christmas Present? Muchas Gracias. You can e-mail me any suggestions to rachel.kolar@gmail.com

  11. I tried these last night, using lard as shortening. They came out great! The only thing I might change is to add a bit more salt, but otherwise very tasty and pretty easy, too.

  12. My family and I love tortilla’s, however, we don’t love the sat and trans fat that comes with it, does anyone know of a healthier alternative to the lard? Thanks! classicbest65@yahoo.com

  13. Actually, lard has no trans fats at all. It’s far healthier than people like to imagine.

  14. Hi there. I have a great tip for you. Instead of buying an expensive pizza stone, you can just go to your local hardware store and buy a flat un-glazed quarry stone. They work just as well and are much cheaper.

  15. Could you substitute whole wheat flour in this recipe?

  16. If you don’t have lard, you can use bacon fat. Pretty much the same thing with a little more flavor, but not so much that it makes a big difference…

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