When I was growing up in South Texas we had this neighbor who would, on Saturday afternoons, make her tortillas for the week. Believe me, I made friends with her children so I could make myself available for tortilla day. I think she enjoyed my enthusiasm and always had a few extra tortillas for me to take home.
They were sublime! My family would fight over them, and no matter how many she sent home with me they were always gone before dinner. My mom asked for the recipe, yet no matter how my mother pleaded, or bartered with her own secret recipes, she refused to give up her recipe.
Eventually we moved to North Texas and that ended my weekly tortilla gorge. It seemed I was destined to eat rubbery store-bought substitutes for the rest of my life. I survived on them until a few years ago when I was reminded, quite by accident at a local Tex-Mex place, of our neighbor and her delicious tortillas. I watched as the woman behind the counter rolled and cooked beautiful tortillas and I thought, why couldn't I do that too?
I had quite a bit of culinary know-how, and I had the internet which would surely hold the key to delicious tortillas, right?
You would be surprised!
I tested a number of recipes for tortillas with all manner of ingredients. Some had vegetable oil, others butter, and some had vegetable shortening. They used a variety of flours from regular all-purpose to bread flour to even cake flour. Some used milk, others water. None of them turned out the way I wanted.
I discovered pretty early that all-purpose was the flour to use. It developed a moderate amount of gluten so the tortillas were chewy but not tough. The liquid I had the most success with was milk. Water works fine, but the cooked tortillas are not as soft as when you use milk. As for fat, that was more tricky. Butter burned too easily and the vegetable oil gave the tortillas an odd texture. Vegetable shortening left the tortillas with an almost fishy smell, which happens when the shortening gets too hot.
I despaired that I would never find what I was looking for when, while looking at the shortening shelf at the grocery store, I remembered one thing from the Saturday's at my neighbors. Manteca!! That is lard to be specific. So, with my tub of lard in hand, I went back to the kitchen and tried one of the more successful recipes with the lard and ... EUREKA! I had it.
Now, this is the point where I am supposed to be sorry that I like lard, that I know it is supposed to be evil, and gross, and made from animals. I'm not. No, I am PROUD to say I cook with lard. Using lard I can make tortillas that make people beg. Some have offered me cash to make them a batch. I'm not kidding. Lard adds a depth of flavor with out any funky aftertaste. It has a high smoke point so it does not scorch, and it lasts for a really long time in the pantry. It is also versatile. I use it combined with butter in my pie crusts. But that is an entry for another day.
Flour Tortillas Makes 12
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup lard, or vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup warm milk, or water
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the lard and mix until it is well combined and the mixture looks grainy.
Add the warm milk and mix until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll the pieces into balls.
Cover and let rest 30 minutes.
Once rested, roll the balls of dough into 6″ to 7″ tortillas.
Cook on a griddle, or in a heavy pan, over medium heat until golden brown and puffy.
Transfer to a plate and cover with a towel while the rest cook.
Enjoy! Or, allow them to cool and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge. They last for five days ... if you can keep from eating them hot off the griddle.
Posted on www.evilshenanigans.com - 2/18/2009
Actually, lard is demonized far more than it should be. Vegetable shortening is plain and simply hydrogenated, saturated fat, which equates to transfats, and as such, is really not good for you. Meanwhile, lard gives far better results across the board (for example, pastry chefs swear by lard and say it produces a far better crust than vegetable shortening).
So, I will stand up with you and say, yay for lard! If you're going to use a fat, anyway, the least you can do is use the best one for the job.
Meanwhile, I'll repost this link from this discussion. Lard. It's really not that bad!
I'm so pleased to see I am not the only lard devotee! ;)
I use lard and butter in my pie and pastry crusts and the result is always tender and delicate with a wonderful, well-rounded floavor.
Thanks for the link!
I realize this is an old thread, but I've been to a few stores today trying to find lard that is not hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Does such a thing exist, outside of rendering my own? I'm willing to give this a try, but not if it is hydrogenated. Also, does lard need to be refrigerated?
Thanks for any help,
Thank you for the lovely story,photos and recipe! My husband loves and eats a lot of tortillas! He spent a lot of time in Mexico as a kid so he loves the food and has the nack to speak spanish like a native! I remember when I was growing up there was always a little red box of lard in the frig! Also I have been reading lately how if compared probably is better for you than butter!! Thank you very much for your recipe..all that I have noticed in a recipe that I use that I didn't like seem to have been solved in your findings! I can't wait to make these...Thanks Again, Sylvia
I'm so glad you like the story and I hope you enjoy the tortillas.
Thanks so much! This post definitely brightened my day! I grew up in San Antonio and I just recently moved to Oklahoma City where, needless to say, the tortillas are lacking. You just don't get that fluffy floury texture in the store bought tortillas. Most of them are waxy and horrible. I've been trying to replicate all of the delicious breakfast tacos i ate while growing up, but without the tortilla, it's just not the same. I'd kill for a good bean and cheese taco right now! Definitely making these this weekend.
I hope you enjoy them!
Gothicgirl, your recipe is going into my file of 'to-do-tortillas'. I've been saving tortilla recipes for a long time but . . . I really want some tricks on making corn tortillas. Anyone have any? I lived in Mexico for a while so I miss the real thing. Anet
P.S. I grew up on either good 'ole lard or the real thing, butter . . . in Wisconsin, the dairy state!
'rcrabtree' - I have bought the masa harina (a bag of the local brand here is called Maseca) and made the tortillas but they're just so-so for taste, texture, etc. I lived in Mexico 25-30 years ago and the tortillas were made from the local grocery store bag of 'masa harina'; I don't remember the brand name.
I asked for "tricks" -- meaning specific recipe methods or ingredients to making the CORN tortillas like 'gothicgirl' has written above for the flour ones. I know it's probably similar and the rolling out is important -- I had a tortilla maker once but it's long gone. I might try your way of using the (pizza) stone in the oven, similar to how it works well for making pitas. And real manteca/lard too. It gets me curious just talking about it so I might try it soon. I miss the real corn tortilla - and the nice memories of Mexico. Anet
Corn tortillas made with masa harina won't have the taste or texture of those made from fresh masa, but they're still pretty good. Traditional corn tortillas are not made with salt or lard and are cooked on the stovetop, not the oven. There aren't any tricks. If you really want lard, make tamales.
'charbono', my brain was mixed up -- I knew corn tortillas didn't use manteca but my brain wasn't following the conversation. Duh, some days . . . but, I still wanted "tricks", meaning little baker ideas, substitutes, and methods from people who have found ways that have worked for them, that make the going go easier. (We're using different definitions maybe?)
I did google corn tortillas and found a bunch of ideas. So, I am going to experiment on my own and get it down pat for my ingredients and peculiarities; you know how different heat and equipment changes the result, for breads or whatever. Anet
My family is very happy with them. They were easy and very yummy as you can tell!
Audra, is that a left over on the plate??? A perfect looking taco!
that big! You should post yours or is the family eating them as fast as you can turn them out! Oh and how is the new tortilla smusher working out? My hats off to gothicgirl, this doesn't roll as easily for me as pie crust. Hers are so perfect. Sigh...
I have a book that has a snippet of info about lard and heart disease, it says that around 1915, a fellow was showing off his specil machine that he had imported from Germany to find blocked arteries, all the rest of the medical practitioners were telling him he was in the wrong branch of medicine, since heart attacks were very rare, well he proved them wrong in that heart attacks suddenly became much more prevalent, and its linked to the use of vegetable shortening and vegtable oil use, the more the populace used them in place of lard, the more they had clogged arteries resulting the the higher incidence of heart attack.
Personally I think my mother was right, margerine is poison, and so is most of the other stuff they keep telling us is good for us, I use only olive oil, and sometimes sunflower, or safflower oils for anything other than deep frying, I use peanut oil for that, and if you have a peanut allergy then don't eat anything in my kitchen. I use lard or butter for anything else and since I quit using Crisco oil (they started putting in canola and I absolutely hate canola) I feel much better.
So the wonders of marketing and science are not all they are cracked up to be, since they are finding now that the low/no fat diet is not as good for you as they thought. I just eat what I've always eaten and don't listen anymore to the dr who tells me low fat/low sodium etc, it hasn't worked in the past 30 years so why will it work now, I have lost more weight in the past 2 years than I managed in the past 30, and its simply eating smaller meals, doing more activities and eating good food, not diet crap!
As an ex-American wannabe, I lived in the States for several years and discovered the flavors of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines (OK, I admit, a lot of it came from my experience with the On the Border chain). I loved eating the freshly made tortillas that came to my table while still warm, fluffy, soft and puffy.
Since my repatriation to my home land (ie Montreal, QC), I have longed to bite into those flour tortillas I once devoured so earnestly. Alas, we French Canadians can do much but flour tortillas aren't it, even when I went to restaurants supposedly offering traditional Mexican food and owned/ran by Mexican people. The tortillas always felt like the store bought ones (they probably were!) and nothing ever came close to the tortillas found at On the Border or at Tex Mex joints.
I found a recipe just last week that was very similar to this one. It called for 2 tbsp of oil instead of the lard. The tortillas were good; better than store bought but still not reminiscent of the soft, fluffy Tex Mex tortillas I had in the States. This recipe, with the lard, is my Holy Grail! I still cannot make is as puffy and soft as I remember them to be but that is more a function of my cooking them than the recipe itself. Hubby and I were in Tex Mex fajita land.
My hubby wants me to add that it saved our marriage....one bite of these tortillas made him forget all the bad recipes I had him try. Thank you for posting this!
Best tortillas I've ever eaten, awesome recipe and thanks for sharing :)
Thanks for the recipe, I lived in Texas for 16 years (from Bama) before I moved to Australia 8 years ago...have been looking for a good Tortilla recipe, will try this soon....and regarding lard...studies and research demonstrate it's better for you than butter....I think it goes something like Olive Oil, Lard (or duck fat ;-)_, Butter......Julia Childs in one of her books (I can find it and tell you the one if anyone wants) documents this as well touting the benefits of Lard. It has more flavour and you can use less of it than butter in cooking and it smokes at a higher tempreature so breaks down less.
I make my own lard for Tamales and my own duck fat for potatoes. It's easier and cheaper than buying and easily done on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The smell isn't always the most pleasant as the fat renders out but if you have an exhaust it's takes care of it. Just buy fatback from your butcher (you may have to order it in from your butcher in the US) cut it up into 1/2 in to 1 in dice put in a soup pot (It will spit a bit as it renders out and good to have high walls to prevent some minor splatering but more importantly to protect your arms/hands and over gently heat cook the fatback stiring occassionally (still you get a good layer at the bottom reneders out to prevent sticking and the every 15 min or so...takes about 45 min to an hour of slow rendering for 1 to 2 kg or pork fat back (2.2 to 4.4 lbs).
You get a beautiful white lovely lard that is free from anything, especially if you request organic and free range pork back fat...and the BEST lard for pies is called leaf fat...you can get this in as well and render it...it's the fat from around the kidneys of the pig and makes the best pastries.......
Thanks for the recipe...
I love this site and all its deliciousness. Now, in addition to getting my tire fixed and a shopping trip to costco, I'm going on the hunt for lard. Hey, it's good for other things, too.
This is a very old (but very happy) happy thread. If its still possible can someoe pease guide me whch kind or which AP flour I should use? AP flours are so different from one another, depending on brand and they come bleached or unbleached. And as for lard I sould get what is labeled 'Manteca' at the supermarket?
Love this recipe. I also make a version without the baking powder. Both turn out great. Sometimes I like to use a teaspoon of honey or sugar.
If you get bored one day try substituting Ghee for lard ;0)