The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My Take On Wheat Flour Tortillas

baltochef's picture
baltochef

My Take On Wheat Flour Tortillas

I have owned the book, Flatbreads and Flavors for some time now..I have been meaning to start making my own flatbreads at home, but for various reasons have put off doing so..


Last week I took the plunge and started with wheat flour tortillas..Because I am seldom happy with a recipe straight out of a cookbook, I naturally modified it to suit my mood and the ingredients I had on hand..


Bruce's Wheat Flour Tortillas ---- Yield = 12,  approximately 10" diameter tortillas


100g King Arthur white whole wheat flour


50g Lindley Mills organic whole rye flour


395g Gold Medal bread flour


5g table salt


75g I Can't Believe It's Not Butter stick margarine


25g Crisco vegetable shortening


250g water, 80F (approximately)


The flours and salt were added to a 7-cup food processor and pulsed several times to evenly combine the ingredients..The fats were added and pulsed for 20-30 seconds to cut them evenly into the flour mixture..With the food processor running, the warm water was added until a ball formed and moved around the bowl in one homogeneous mass..The dough should be slightly sticky..This amount of flour is really taxing a 7-cup food processor, not so much because of the weight of dough, but because the dough ball is too tall for the bowl..It should really be made in an 11-cup food processor, or by hand in a bowl..I recommend reducing the recipe by one fourth if using a 7-cup food processor..


Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and hand knead for 1-2 minutes..Divide into 75g portions, which should yield an approximately 10" tortilla..Round each portion into a ball, then flatten the balls into approximately 3" rounds of dough..Cover with a non-scented plastic bathroom or tall kitchen garbage bag that has been scissored open to allow unfolding..Allow to rest for 30 minutes..Pre-heat a 12"-14" heavy cast iron or stainless steel skillet so that it is just below smoking hot..On a floured surface flatten the first dough circle as far as possible with the palm of a hand..Using a rolling pin and as much flour as needed to prevent sticking, roll out the tortilla as evenly as possible until it is approximately 1/16"-1/8" thick..These tortillas need to be thinner than one might think if you have never made tortillas before (these were my first!!!)..Too thick, and they will not cook properly in the skillet..


When the tortilla is thin enough, carefully transfer it using two hands to the skillet, taking care not to have any wrinkles, or overlapping dough..I rolled out the first couple of tortillas to fit my 10" cast iron skillet, which made them too thick..As a result, there were a dozen, or so, spots in the first two tortillas that were translucent where the dough had not fully cooked..I then set aside the 10" cast iron skillet for my 14" SS-aluminum-SS clad skillet..I rolled out the subsequent tortillas thinner, and larger than the first two..Voilla!!!..Problem solved!!!..


I gave up after the first two tortillas in trying to make perfect circles of rolled out dough..Too much angst in trying to make a perfect circle..The remaining tortillas were more, or less, about 10" in diameter..Most resembled Rorsach blobs in shape, but tasted divine..When the tortillas are rolled out to the proper thinness for quick cooking in the skillet, they will immediately bubble up as moisture (fat) pockets in the dough flash into steam..I found that an Ateco 10" offset icing spatula was the ideal tool to flatten out the air pockets in the tortillas so that they browned more evenly, as well as to lift the edges of the tortills to check for doneness..When the skillet was hot enough, the tortillas took about 30-45 seconds per side to cook through and brown properly..


I used a dinner plate covered with a folded over cotton tea towel to stack the tortillas as I cooked them..If I had been trying to keep them as hot as possible for immediate consumption I would have placed them inside a folded over clean cotton bath towel laid on a 1/2 sheet pan placed in the gas oven pre-heated to the WARM setting for 10 minutes, and then turned off..I cooled them on a wire rack, and then stored them in a 2-gallon zippered plastic food storage bag, which was ideal for this purpose..


I encourage anyone that has been wanting to make their own flour tortillas to do so..It is dead simple..You only need a bowl, a surface to knead and roll the tortillas on, and a skillet to bake the tortillas in that is large enough to cook the size tortillas that you want to make..All other tools are a luxury, although an 11-cup food processor is a real time saver for this size recipe..


I should have done this a LONG time ago..I cannot for the life of me think how I ever thought I would be harder than it turned out to be, but I did..Silly me!!!..


Bruce

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Your recipe sounds great, Bruce, except for the Crisco. Perhaps lard would be a better substitute. At least it isn't partially hydrogenated.


--Pamela

Nim's picture
Nim

Have you ever tried corn tortillas? I have tried them with limited success. 


I make thin phulkas (rotis) almost everyday, with 100% whole wheat flour. For us in India, that is our daily bread. They are divine. There is very little fat in the dough for roti (may be about a tsp of ghee or oil), a dab of butter/ghee is applied after it is cooked. 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Yes, I have tried to make corn tortillas before, but, like you, I have had limited success. I haven't given up though! I just saw an episode of Good Eats featuring tamales that used lard. That's what gave me the idea to try lard instead of Crisco. Other possibilities include goose or duck fat. It isn't that I object to the amount of fat so much--I handle high fat items in my diet by only ingesting one (like croissants)--, but the type. Crisco is a great product but I just can't stomach the partially hydrogenated fat.


I don't believe I've made thin phulkas yet. I'll have to give them a try. Thanks for the suggestion!


--Pamela

baltochef's picture
baltochef

Nim


I an going to try corn tortillas later this week after I purchase some masa harina from the grocery store..When inspecting it through the plastic Goya package, the masa appears to be a finer grind than the Arrowhead Mills organic yellow and white corn meals that I have on hand..I want to try making corn tortillas with a product specifically designed for the job first before I attempt to use other ground corn products..


Just out of curiosity, what did you (and Pamela) use to make your corn tortillas (recipe perhaps??), what were the problems, and in retrospect why do you think you failed??..


Bruce

Nim's picture
Nim

Well, I have made it two ways: One is native to India, you mix whole wheat and corn flour, make a dough and then make rotis on the skillet. Those come out just fine.


When I tried to make it exclusively with Masa Harina flour, my tortillas came out rather thick, I could not roll them out thin coz the dough did not hold. You had to stop after a certain circumference or it would break. They were still very delicious but were not like the ones you get at a Mexican restaurant, paper thin and soft.


Make sure you roll it out between two sheets of plastic wrap or you will be tearing your hair out!

baltochef's picture
baltochef

Pamela


The recipe in Flatbreads & Flavors called for corn oil..I elected to try the combo of margarine and vegetable shortening because that is what was in my larder..IMO, any fat would moke these tortillas, including rendered bacon fat..Just use what tastes good, is on hand, or what your body is capable of digesting without stress..


I also increased the percentage of fat to flour ratio over the original recipe in the cookbook..Based on making these tortillas three times now, I would think that they could be made with no fat if that was what the baker desired..


Bruce

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Hi Bruce. Yes, I know I can use any type of oil in place of Crisco, but IMO liquid oil isn't always a good replacement for solid shortening. It works, but the final product is effected, e.g., fried chicken, pie crusts, etc. I think there is just something magic about solid shortening.


--Pamela

baltochef's picture
baltochef

Pamela


The reason that I chose to use margarine and shortening instead of the corn oil was for the very reasons that you are stating..For people not adverse to animal fats, I believe that the best fats for baking are either the low-moisture French-style unsalted butters, or a hard, high-quality leaf lard..Lard and low-moisture butter are superior to all other fats when it comes to taste and texture in biscuits, pie dough, Danish dough, croissants, puff pastry, etc..


High-quality lard is hard to find any more..


Bruce

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I've always wanted to make my own lard! I render goose and duck fat whenever I have the opportunity, e.g., eat one of those great tasting birds!


--Pamela

baltochef's picture
baltochef

Pamela


I learned years ago the the best lard comes from around the kidneys of hogs, and is termed leaf lard because it resembles thin sheets as opposed to lumps..


Ordinary lard, which is far more common, is softer and grittier in texture..It is made from the fat surrounding the other organs of the hog, sometimes called caul fat..


The leaf lard is snow white and much harder than the regular lard..It has little taste compared to regular lard that tastes of pork..


I found the following link for leaf lard..


http://www.localharvest.org/leaf-lard-rendered-non-hydrogenated-C8350


Bruce


I found another link to unrendered leaf lard from California that is only 1.66 per pound..


http://www.surfasonline.com/products/41759.cfm

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Thanks, Bruce. I bookmarked the local harvest site. I would be happy to purchase a couple of pounds of the leaf lard and try it. It isn't something that I would use everyday, but occasionally I'd like to make something really special, e.g., a chicken pot pie or a berry pie, and really get a tasty, flakey crust.


--Pamela

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

Pamela,


You mentioned that you like to use lard instead of Crisco because it isn't hydrogenated, but all I can find at the local supermarkets is lard with "lard and hydrogenated lard" written on the package.  Have you managed to find lard that does not also include hydrogenated lard, and if so, where?  Thanks.


Summer

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Crisco contain partially hydrogenated fat, which is man-made. It is the partially hydrogenated stuff that is bad for human consumption. Fully hydrogenated fat is not man-made. While I wouldn't say it is good for human consumption, at least it is a naturally occurring substance. What you want to stay away from is anything that has "partially hydrogenated" on the label.


--Pamela

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

So no factory actually hydrogenated the lard.  Thanks for clearing that up.


Summer

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Now I'm not sure about the how the hydrogenation occurs. I think I would stay away from anything that says hydrogenated. Just use pure pork leaf fat or make your own. It is easy to make.


Perhaps we can get some more information from someone about hydrogenation.


--Pamela

proth5's picture
proth5

for the link. I can buy leaf fat from my friend "Jimmy the Butcher" but haven't seen leaf lard in too many places.

I can render the leaf fat pretty easily, but it is one more darned thing...

Thanks again!

baltochef's picture
baltochef

Check out these links on corn tortillas, especially the information on nixtamal, and on making the fresh nixtamal..


Corn Tortillas


http://www.greensense.com/Features/Green_cuisine/tortillas.htm


Fresh Nixtamal


http://www.greensense.com/Features/Green-cuisine/nixtamal.htm


Also, did either of you use a tortilla press, or did you roll them by hand??..


Alton Brown recommends using a 1-gallon ZipLock bag with the zipper end removed and slit up the sides to press the tortillas flat between the two halves of the press..I purchased a plated cast iron tortilla press several years ago, but never used it until the other day..


It worked poorly when trying to press out the wheat tortillas thin enough..I used the front & back of a plastic loose-leaf binder that I cut down to size to fit between the two halves of the press..The plastic has a very, very slight texture to it which might be compounding any problems I had with sticking due to not flouring the dough or plastic..


The wheat tortillas stuck to the translucent green plastic, and deformed when trying to remove them from the plastic..I did not flour the dough balls, or the plastic, which might have been my problem..


More experimentation is in order as the tortilla press is way faster than rolling them out with a rolling pin..


Bruce


 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

The links are great, Bruce. All I have to find are the dry corn kernels. I've been thinking about these kernels for some time now because I would like to make some corn flour. Any idea why a place like Bob's Red Mill doesn't carry them? Do you know where to buy them?


I saw the Good Eats segment on corn tortillas too. I also have as yet unused (i.e, new) Salton electric tortilla maker.


--Pamela

dausone's picture
dausone

In Santa Rosa... you are almost certain to find Nixtamal and dry kernels at just about any Mexican market. Look near the meats.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

I hadn't thought about going to a Mexican market. Thanks for the great suggestion; I'll check them out.


--Pamela

celestica's picture
celestica

I've had good success with these two brands, they are non hydrogenated vegetarian kosher shortenings.   Trans fat free too. Available at natural food stores.

dausone's picture
dausone

This looks like a great formula adding the rye flour, I can't wait to try it out! I made the tortilla formula from Crust and Crumb last week adding half KA bread flour and half KA whole wheat. They came out very good! I would recommend rolling these out as thin as you can get them for an even cook all the way through. Mine turned out to be a little difficult to cook because they were on the thick side. Also, since there is all this discussion about what type of fat to use, I whole heartedly recommend the 100% grass fed raw butter that I purchased from my local farm, Organic Pastures. Incomparable to any tortillas I have ever had and I was raised eating homemade tortillas almost daily using every type of lard, hydrogenated oils and butter substitutes you can think of. If my parents would have only known.


Side note: a friend of mine was visiting family in Mexico and they would cook their tortillas on the outside of the wood burning adobe oven. Any takers out there?? ;)

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

Definitely go for the lard. It's surprisingly high in good fats and better for humans than we suspect. This is a complex subject, but there's a wonderful book out called Fat: an Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan that breaks down the health issues around lard vs. Crisco. Turns out transfats, which occur naturally in animal fats but in small numbers, are much worse for us than the kinds of fats we get in lard.The transfats in Crisco, which are hydrogenated, are the worse.


I find leaf lard at the farmers' market. It makes a pure white fat that keeps forever. Also, if you have any Mexican grocers in your area, you can probably find rendered lard there. It's leftover from making chicharrones and is golden and flavorful. It is also liquid at room temperature, a requirement for healthy fats, no?


Patricia


 

dausone's picture
dausone

Hey Patricia. Thanks for the book recommendation, I will definitely check it out. Now I have been wondering about that leaf lard and if Jennifer McLagan mentions anything about differences in the fat of hogs raised seasonally on pasture and fed good food vs. industrial hogs raised on grain. I am hesitant to use the good old fashioned red package lard that you can find at most Mexican grocers simply because of this question... and others but we won't get into that here. :)


I never thought to check the farmers market either. Thanks for the tip.

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

Morrel's lard (and I assume the lard in the red package) are hydrogenated, which make them no better than Crisco. It's the hydrogenation that produces the harmful transfats. And of course, pigs raised on pasture will have more omega 3s in their meat, just as beef cattle do. They will taste better, too.


Lard is high in oleic acid, the same good stuff that olive oil has. It also is anti bacterial and used as a preservative in many European countries, poured on top of confit to seal the jar and rubbed on some cheese to prevent deterioration.


To make your own lard, grind the fat (this is easier if it's at least partially frozen), put the fat in a casserole in a 300 degree oven, and let it melt down. Before I found a good source for lard, I saved the fatty trimmings from pork roasts in the freezer. When I melted them down, they produced chicharrones (those crispy pork thingies that are impossible to resist). The leftovers after draining the lard are cracklings, and they're good in cornbread and tamale dough. For a pure white lard, pour the liquid fat through a coffee filter.


The best thing about lard, however, is the flavor! There's nothing like it to fry chicken or make pie crust.


Patricia


 

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Thanks, Patricia, for pointing this out. I'm sure you are correct about hydrogenation. I'm sticking to a product that I make myself.


--Pamela