Homemade Tortillas

One night on our way home from house-hunting in Kentucky, we stayed at a Knight’s Inn, and across the parking lot, there was a Mexican restaurant. Being the most convenient place to get dinner, that’s where we went. They made their own tortillas, I was happy to note, and we ordered fajitas and beverages and settled in to wait. At long last, our meals arrived and the tortillas were… just like mine! I was so happy! I felt justified in my home tortilla making.

Homemade tortillas come out quite a bit thicker than their store bought counterparts. They are more “bready”, but I think they enhance a dish greatly. A homemade tortilla is a full participant in the meal, and very satisfying, rather than a mere carrier for whatever is stuffed inside.

Here is the recipe I use. It makes about 22 tortillas.

4 cups of flour
2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 1/2 cups water

I use my mixer to make the dough, but you can make it by hand easily enough. Just mix the dry ingredients together, stir in the wet, and knead for five minutes till the dough is nice and smooth. It should still be fairly soft, but not sticky.

Pinch off balls of dough about the size of golf balls for taco sized tortillas and roll them into smooth balls. Let them sit, covered, for at least half an hour, otherwise they will be too hard to roll out, and no longer than an hour, else they dry out too much.

Now for the cooking. Heat a nice cast iron skillet till it’s quite hot, but not smoking. The tortillas are supposed to cook for just a minute on each side, so you’ll have to adjust the temperature accordingly. Roll the dough balls into roundish tortillas on the counter. It goes pretty quickly, so you can roll and cook at the same time, which is preferable to rolling them all out first as the uncooked tortillas tend to stick together. When it’s flattish and roundish, peel it up carefully and flop it onto the hot pan. Cook it for about a minute. When the bottom side is done, the top side will look dry and you will be able to see large air bubbles from underneath. When you flip it, there should be little flecks of brown, but no burned spots. Cook it for another minute on the other side and then remove it to a warm, towel-lined plate or bowl for safe keeping till serving time.

If you have a lot of willing helpers, you might find that your one rolling pin is no longer adequate and you might buy a few more the following week just so everybody can have one. And you might find that they keep the rolled-out dough coming fast enough that you don’t get to do any of the rolling anymore. If you are like me, you might not tell them that you are cooking the tortillas right away so that you will get to do some of the fun stuff. Don’t worry. Their noses will catch on quick enough and you’ll be out of a job.