February 27, 2011

Tex-Mex flour tortillas

I promised a series on flat bread. Up next: flour tortillas.

In my lived-in-Texas-for-9-years opinion, commercially-made flour tortillas are kind of terrible. The warm handmade flour tortillas that you find at good Tex-Mex restaurants and certain breakfast taco joints in Houston have probably spoiled me forever. Luckily, it isn't too much work to make awesome, soft, tender Tex-Mex style flour tortillas at home. Although they don't keep as long as commercial flour tortillas, too many tortillas has never been a problem in this house. This is how we do it.

Texas-style flour tortillas

freshly made flour tortillas

These aren't strictly authentic Mexican flour tortillas, since they contain leavening. If you like Texas style tortillas (puffy, chewy, and tender), though, you are in the right place. Our friend Drew shared his basic tortilla recipe with us last year, and we've been playing around with it ever since. Our main tweaks: making the dough in the stand mixer and swapping freshly rendered lard for vegetable shortening. These are awesome tortillas.

If you like white whole wheat flour, we've also had some success swapping 1/4 of the AP flour for white whole wheat. You need to add a few extra tablespoons of water to prevent the tortillas from drying out, but both the texture and flavor are great. 

One last thing: we make these on a fairly regular basis, even on weeknights. It takes some time, yes, but the final product is so worth it. Eat 'em while they're hot.

2 cups (290 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup (56 g) freshly rendered lard or vegetable shortening
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons slightly warm water (190 grams)

Stand mixer: Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in the mixing bowl. Add the fat and use the mixing attachment to work it in until you have a coarse meal. Add warm water and mix until the dough comes together in a ball, 5 minutes or so. If you touch the dough with your finger, you want the dough to dimple lightly under the pressure. It should be smooth, moist and slightly sticky. If your dough is at all dry, add warm water a tablespoon at a time and mix in. Dump out the dough onto a floured surface, form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest 10-20 minutes.

By hand: Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Work in the fat with your fingers until you have a coarse meal. Add warm water and stir it until the dough comes together. If your dough seems dry, you can add a little more warm water, a tablespoon at a time. (Adding more water will help them stay softer for longer, but will also make them a bit trickier to roll out.) Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth, 2-5 minutes. If you touch the dough with your finger, you want the dough to dimple lightly under the pressure; it should be smooth and just a little sticky.  Form the dough into a ball, cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap, and let the dough rest 10-20 minutes.

[The dough looks like this while mixing. As you can see, it hasn't yet come together in a ball.]
mixing flour tortillas

Now, on a well-floured surface, divide your dough into 12-18 equal-sized balls. We roll out 16 balls of dough. Now, if you like, coat the balls of dough in a scant amount of extra lard/shortening. This step  prevents them from drying out but it's not necessary if you work quickly.

Heat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or griddle to medium heat. Now, begin rolling out the tortillas. Place one ball of dough on a floured surface and pat it out into a 4-inch circle. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is thin, approximately 8-inches in diameter. (It takes practice to roll them out in perfect circles, so don't sweat this. Oblong tortillas taste just as good.)

rolling out tortillas

Now you are ready to cook your first tortilla. Prepare a couple of clean dish towels in which to nestle your cooked tortillas. Now, set the first tortilla in your hot, dry skillet. The tortillas will start to puff and develop light flecks of brown when they are ready to be flipped. Aim for ~30 seconds per side; you want them to cook quickly and retain moisture. When they come off the skillet, immediately nestle/stack them in the dish towels to keep them warm. The tortillas will continue to steam a bit in the dish towels, which helps keep them warm and soft.

tortilla making

Repeat this process with the remaining balls of dough.

(By the way, it is nice, but not mandatory, to have two people for this job: one to roll out the tortillas, and the other to manage the cooking.) Cooked tortillas will keep for a day or two in a plastic bag. Reheat in a skillet or microwave.

What to eat with your tortillas? Eggs scrambled with grated cheese; eggs with fried chorizo; spicy potatoes; black beans. This is how Kim makes them: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large, oven-safe, lidded pot, combine one pound of dry black beans, half a chopped onion, a heaping spoonful of lard, 1/2 tablespoon salt, and a sprig of epazote if you can find it. Add enough water to cover it by an inch and a half and bring it to a boil on the top of the stove. When boiling, cover with a tight fitting lid and bake in the oven for at least 75 minutes, or until tender and creamy.

breakfast taco time


Amy said...

Aaagh! I spent a weekend in Austin last month and DIED over the potato and egg breakfast tacos in flour tortillas. I am definitely making these.

Also please forgive me, but I just can't believe that beans can cook in 1 1/2 hours? I have simmered beans for, no lie, 6 hours and sometimes they still aren't tender. Are you using dried run-of-the-mill grocery store beans? You're not adding baking soda? And you aren't soaking them? And they are creamy? (I'm cocking an eyebrow here. No offense! I'm just incredulous.)

Kim said...

About the beans, I know! It goes against everything I thought about beans: that they MUST be soaked, that you should never pre-salt beans, and that they must be cooked for hours. None of those things are true. (And you definitely don't need baking soda.) I read about it here: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/99104-no-soak-beans-in-the-oven-in-90-minutes/

Lauren said...

Oh yum.

Laura J. said...

I've heard about that bean cooking method too. It is intriguing. I will try the beans and perhaps these tortillas someday. Confession - I usually use canned beans and storebought tortillas for convenience but this post was kind of inspiring for me. I never thought about making tortillas before.

Btw, I made your arugula/orange/avocado salad again for a dinner party. So great!

robin said...

Ilan made these Wednesday night and they were DELICIOUS. :D :D

Kim said...

Awesome! I love the happy comments :)

Anonymous said...

Those potatoes look good. How are those made?

Kim said...

Hi. So, start by boiling peeled chunks of potato. Separately, make a sauce of onion/garlic/jalapenos/chipotle en adobo peppers plus a little water to make it saucy. Combine potatoes and sauce.

This recipe is very similar to what I do, though I leave out the crema/capers/cheese:


Anonymous said...

great recipe. thank you from the bottom of my born and raised in texas, flour tortilla missing, pea-pickin heart!

I used about 1/3 as much water, didn't weigh my flour, oops!, did these by hand, and they came out awesome.