Comfort Food: Homemade Tortillas

Tea is a given at any meal in our home, but what we serve with it varies on the season. Now that we are entering cold season, I have made sure the pantry is stocked with a 10 pound bag of flour and a fresh jar of baking powder. Of course you can use those ingredients in tea time classics like scones, but we native Texans often take our tea bread in a different direction. Enter today’s recipe, my version of homemade tortillas. I hope you enjoy, and please share your favorite comfort food in the comments!

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Homemade tortillas are a very kid-friendly recipe. Here's my daughter making tortillas with her Aunty back in the spring.
Homemade tortillas are a very kid-friendly recipe. Here’s my daughter making tortillas with her Aunty back in the spring.

When my twins were born, my sister came to stay with my older children while I was in hospital. My youngest son needed a major abdominal surgery when he was only two days old. I fretted over leaving the older children without either parent for two days, until my sister texted me a photo of a plate piled high with homemade tortillas. In my family, homemade tortillas are Lembas bread and heart cakes, burrito wrappers and quesadilla bases, but most of all, they are stability. If my preschool children won’t eat anything else due to stress or illness, they will still gobble down tortillas.

{Recipe heavily modified from Flour Tortilla recipe in Joy of Cooking}

Flour Tortillas

4 cups white flour (or 3 white, 1 whole wheat)

1.5 cups slightly hot water (about 115 degrees F)

1 stick (half cup) softened butter

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons [aluminum-free] baking powder.
Mix together flour, salt, and baking powder. Heat water and butter together till just a little hot (I microwave cold water and cold butter on high in a big glass measuring cup for one minute). Add the water & butter to the flour and stir to combine.
Knead, squeezing the dough together well with your hands. Divide it in two and throw the large dough balls several times between your hands. They should start to become more elastic quickly.
Return the dough balls to the mixing bowl between divisions. Divide them again and smush/roll between palms a few times. Continue dividing until you have 16 dough balls. (When you have 8 larger dough balls, you may divide some of them into 3 instead of 2. I often make 20-something smaller tortillas since I am feeding children. But for fajitas or burritos, you would want 16 ~8 inch tortillas.)
Roll them between your palms while pressing down. Leave all of the dough balls in the mixing bowl and cover with a piece of plastic wrap so that the wrap touches the dough (or use a very slightly damp cloth to cover the bowl and don’t touch it to the dough balls; the goal is for them not to dry out).
Slowly heat a large heavy skillet such as an enameled or well seasoned cast iron skillet on medium or medium low heat (depending on how hot your burners run). After at least five minutes of rest, place a dough ball on a clean, flat surface (I use a nonstick Silpat mat). Press it flat with your fingers, gently pressing out and down until a circle is formed and the dough is tortilla thin. You may also use a tortilla press if you have one or a rolling pin if you like being frustrated.
When the pan is hot, place dough circle in the center. Watch carefully. If the pan is hot enough, the tortilla should cook and have brown spots after 45 seconds-1 minute. Flip with a spatula and let cook another 45 seconds or so on other side. Remove to plate. I usually pat out the next tortilla while the previous one is browning. It usually takes me about an hour to make a double batch of these, but of course they take longer with child helpers. Tortillas are very child-helper-friendly. The little ones sometimes like to pat out their own tortillas or to roll them with a rolling pin.
Note: May also be made with good lard, coconut oil or with non-hydrogenated palm shortening if you have food restrictions. I don’t recommend “vegetable” shortening, because what is that, anyway?

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