Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Homemade Flour Tortillas

I had purchased a package of sirloin steak tips with the intent of slicing the beef against the grain and then marinating it in some sort of Korean kalbi seasoning but after watching a salsa commercial on television, I was immediately hit with a craving for Mexican food and decided I needed to make fajitas with the beef. I rifled through the shelves of the pantry to see if we had any tortillas and when I came up empty, I naturally decided to make my own.

This recipe is loosely based on one that my coworker gave me when I was working in Baltimore a few years ago. G always brought in homemade lunches, made by his wife, which we all looked on with envy. When he found out that I loved food, especially Mexican, he would occasionally bring in a second portion for me to enjoy; one time he included a slice of tres leches cake (I know, I'm so lucky). One day, he handed me a foil packet to accompany my little pile of carnitas. I opened it up to reveal steaming flour tortillas. They were amazing and made me want to burn down every Mission tortilla factory, as they are a crime against genuine tortillas. Anyway, I asked for the recipe but because his wife would always just throw in a little of this, a little of that, what I ended up with was a list of five ingredients but no proportions. I had to work that out myself and this is the end result.
Ingredients [yields 2 dozen tortillas]:
2 to 2½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup shortening
¾ cup hot water

Grab a large bowl; combine flour, salt, and baking powder and mix together. Add in the shortening and use a pastry cutter to mix it in until the mixture resembles sand. Basically, the goal is to yield small pieces of fat mixed into the dough that will eventually melt when the hot water is stirred in and easily soaked up by the flour.
Carefully pour in the hot water (I basically boil water and then let it cool for about 5 minutes) and stir to combine. Then, furiously knead the dough until it's smooth and lump-free.
The dough should be nice and soft and not at all sticky.
Portion the dough into 12 equal pieces (for standard taco/fajita sized tortillas) and then cover with cling film and leave to rest for about 20 minutes. Letting the tortillas rest will make it easier to roll them out. If you try to roll them out immediately, they'll be too springy (from working the gluten) and they will shrink up quickly when they hit the hot pan.
This process will happen one tortilla at a time. Basically, grab a dough ball and roll it out to your desired thinness. I like them the "standard" thinness but you can always go thinner if you like a crispier tortilla.
Heat up a griddle over medium heat and when it's hot, toss on the tortilla. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes on the first side, or until you start to see some browning. Flip and cook on the second side, trying to achieve the same amount of browning. Put the finished tortilla in an airtight container and proceed with the next dough ball. Repeat until all of the tortillas have been cooked.
The tortillas should be served immediately to have them at their best. However, if you're making them ahead of time, they can be rewarmed in the oven in foil packets. I like to put 3 or 4 in each foil packet so that they all warm through quickly without losing too much moisture. The tortillas can also be steamed, if you like a "limp" tortilla.

These tortillas are so good. I find that store bought tortillas have a slight acidic and overly salty taste (probably from the preservatives added to extend shelf-life) but these just taste perfect. They're tender and light and slightly chewy and stretchy and are perfect for fajitas and tacos and quesadillas.
Here's the recipe page:

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