Make it Yourself: Tortillas

Rich and I call ourselves “food snobs.” Not in a truffles and expensive wine way. But in that we judge the bread restaurants serve and the hot fudge sauce at ice cream shops. In a way I have ruined our taste buds with homemade bread and chocolate sauce. Not that we are complaining, but we do really like our own creations an awful lot.

I can’t count the times we have tried a new product and decided that we could make it better. Our other favorite thing is to take something we buy and try to duplicate it, with adaptations to suit it to our tastes.

I don’t know what made me decide to try making tortillas. I guess just to see if I could do it. And to make something that we like, and use only 5 ingredients instead of all the unpronounceable stuff on the ingredient label of some tortillas from the store. Try them yourself and add a whole new dimension to taco night.

Whole Wheat Tortillas
8-12 tortillas

I started with the Wheat Tortilla recipe out of “Flatbreads and Flavors” by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford. Over several years I have changed the recipe and ended up with our favorite recipe. If whole wheat isn’t your thing, you can make these with all-purpose flour. But if you are feeling adventurous, buy a bag of white whole wheat flour and try ½ cup white whole wheat flour and 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour. If you like the flavor, you can try more whole wheat the next time. But trust me, you will like these as written, even if you don’t normally like whole wheat.

2 cups white whole wheat flour *
¼  tsp. salt (or slightly less)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I like canola)
¾ cup water, approximately
All-purpose flour for kneading and rolling out

Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl. Sprinkle on the oil and blend it in thoroughly. Gradually add ¾ cup water. If dough is too dry to gather into a ball, add about a tablespoon of water. Form the dough into a ball and knead briefly, just until dough is smooth, adding flour as necessary. The dough should be easily kneaded, but don’t add much flour, if possible.

Let dough rest 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap. Then divide dough into 12 pieces for small tortillas, or 8 pieces for large tortillas. Roll the pieces into smooth balls.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat until very hot. Or use a griddle. No greasing necessary. A regular pan will work too, if you don’t have cast iron, but the cast iron makes a great tortilla, if you have it.

On a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin and generous sprinkles of flour, roll out a ball of dough until it is as thin as you can make it. You are aiming for between 7 and 10 inches across, approximately. Rolling from the middle to the outside instead of all the way across the dough will help you keep the tortillas closer to round. Mine are often weird shapes, but they are tasty anyway. Keep a light dusting of flour on top and under the dough and turn it over frequently so it doesn’t stick. Don’t be afraid to use lots of flour. You can always brush it off later, before or after you cook the tortillas.

Place the tortilla in the hot pan and cook for 45 seconds. The bottom surface should be speckled with brown spots. Turn the tortilla over with tongs and cook the second side for 45 seconds. Adjust the heat if it takes longer or the tortillas start to burn.

Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to roll out a tortilla while another one is cooking.

Stack the warm tortillas on a plate and cover with a cloth towel as you cook them. Serve warm. Or cool in a single layer on racks and place in a zip-top bag as soon as they are cool. These freeze beautifully.

*White whole wheat flour is available in most major grocery stores. King Arthur Flour and Hodgson Mill are two name brands.

Download the recipe here.