Fresh Paint
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Flour Tortillas
No, this isn't a metaphor for anything Presidential or otherwise. Decided to make from scratch, since I have a whole pot of chili and nothing in the house to sop it up with. Used the excellent recipe I found here, but here are my lazy-person notes.

Basic ingredients are:

2 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached instead)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup lukewarm milk (2% is fine)

Online recipe has you combine flour and baking powder and sift into bowl (which I forgot to do), then combine the salt, oil and lukewarm milk (which I translated into zapped in microwave for about 20 seconds) and add it to flour. Think I'd rather add the flour to the wet ingredients -- think I may have added too much flour, or it's too dry or cold or whatever makes stuff not absorb.

Recipe has you knead the dough for a few minutes then let it rest for 15, then divide into 8 little balls and let it rest for another 20. This sounds like a whole lot of resting, but is probably wise, since it in theory makes it easier to roll it out into 7 or 8 inch rounds. Plus you can check email and find the big frying pan that might be in the basement while you wait.

I think you can maybe squeeze out another dough ball or 2 from this recipe in exchange for slightly smaller tortillas that may possibly be easier to roll.

The biggest problem I had was trying to figure out how hot the pan should be. Once you roll each ball out as thin as you can (I didn't use a Mexican style rolling stick, just the usual rolling pin), you throw it in a good heavy unoiled, ungreased, dry frying pan (or griddle, or other fancy cooking surface) and let it cook for about a half minute (NO MORE, honestly!) till you see blisters and puffs on the surface facing you. Then you peek underneath and see that, yes, it DOES look exactly like a store-bought flour tortilla! You flip it to the other side with your fingers.

This is where I had problems with my pan -- by this point it had got too hot, so even tho it was unoiled, the smoke detector kept wanting to go off.

Solved the problem by turning the gas flame off as soon as the first side was cooked prettily, then letting the other side get brown as pan was cooling down. Good compromise, and kept me from throwing smoke detector out into the snow.

Finally, it would be great to have one of those plastic tortilla cozies like they give you at a restaurant. If you don't keep them moist and warm as they come off the grill, they will be closer to matzohs than tortillas. So you keep them piled up and cover them, then wrap them in foil or plastic when all are done. In theory you can freeze or refrigerate them.

If, instead of chili, you put cucumbers and yogurt and onions and gyros meat on one, there is no way anyone could tell you it's not pita bread.

So is it worth the work? Sure -- why not? I can't imagine doing it everyday, like many families do. The rolling out is the time consuming part and the need to stand there cooking until it's all done instead of sitting down with friends and/or family, assuming you have some available. Pancakes and waffles have this problem as well.

I suggest beer or wine to wash away the solitude. And the only witness who knows that you consumed half an entire batch in one sitting and now you feel a little sick is you.


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