The flour tortilla is a perfect example of simple things that work well together. Its ingredients are flour, fat, salt, and water, and sometimes baking powder. By changing the type of flour or fat, varying the thickness of the tortilla, or adjusting the amount of fat or salt, you can make almost endless variations. When these simple ingredients are combined, the whole becomes so much more than its parts.
My goal was to make a completely whole grain tortilla. I searched my cookbooks and the internet, and ended up adapting suggestions for ingredients and techniques from three different sources: Huntley Dent’s Feast of Santa Fe, allrecipes.com, and Jim Peyton’s Lo Mexicano website. I tried white whole wheat, regular whole wheat, and whole wheat pastry flour. I varied the fats using olive oil, butter, and non-hydrogenated shortening. I experimented with adjusting the amount of fat I used, melting the solid fat or not melting it before adding it, and making the tortillas by hand or using a food processor. Any of the combinations, except for whole wheat pastry flour, made a really good tortilla. Some recipes add baking powder, but I liked the tortillas better without it. If you want to experiment with adding baking powder, which will give you a little thicker tortilla, the typical ratio is 1/2 teaspoon per cup of flour.
The recipe below is meant as a solid starting point for whole wheat tortillas, but feel free to adjust and experiment. I’d still like to try using multi-grain and spelt flours too. I’ve wondered about using untypical oils (coconut, sesame) for a different twist of flavor. But overall, I think the key to a good tortilla is adding the right amount of moisture, giving the dough a little resting period before rolling it out, and making sure your cooking surface isn’t too scorching hot. With a little imagination, you might discover something new, or at least your perfect version of a fresh, homemade tortilla.
Whole Wheat Tortillas
(recipe adapted from Feast of Santa Fe, allrecipes.com, and lomexicano.com)
1 cup white whole wheat or regular whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons fat (extra-virgin olive oil, butter, or non-hydrogenated shortening)
6 Tablespoons water, boiling
extra flour for dredging
10″ cast-iron round griddle or or other large flat cooking surface
Measure flour and mix with salt in a large bowl. Measure fat and add to flour mix. If using a solid fat, melt it on the stove or in the microwave first, then measure and add to the flour mix. Stir fat into flour until mostly mixed in. Using your hands, work the fat throughout the flour until it looks like coarse meal. Create a well in the center of the flour mix and add the hot water. Stir until mixture comes together. Sprinkle a little flour on work surface, scrape dough from bowl onto flour, and knead several times until smooth. If flour mixture is too wet, sprinkle with a little more flour and work it into dough. Dough should be very soft and pliable but shouldn’t stick to your hands.
Divide dough into 2 oz. pieces, or divide evenly into 4 pieces. Adjust size of pieces depending on thickness and size you want in the tortilla when rolled out. Roll each piece into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit for an hour.
Heat griddle over medium-high heat. Unwrap balls of dough and dredge in flour. Begin to flatten out on a flat surface, then use a rolling pin, and roll dough out from center, lifting and turning a little each time you roll it, also flipping it over occasionally and turning, until you reach desired thickness and size, anywhere from a 6 to a 9 inch round. Set each tortilla aside, watching the heat on the griddle and adjusting it so it doesn’t overheat.
Gently pick up one tortilla at a time, and lower tortilla onto the griddle in a slow rolling motion to prevent wrinkles. The tortilla should begin to form lots of raised bubbles that will grow larger. When light brown spots appear on underside, after approximately 30 to 45 seconds, flip tortilla and cook until brown spots appear on second side, another 30 to 45 seconds. Be careful not to overcook. Have a clean towel ready and stack cooked tortillas inside towel, covering to keep from drying out. Once tortillas have slightly cooled, store in plastic bag.
Makes about four thin 9-inch tortillas, or can be adjusted to any size and thickness you like