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Flour tortillas are so bloody expensive (and rare!) outside of the U.S. so I'd like to make my own. A friend taught me how to make some ages ago, but I stopped because they were always weird and I could never get them to taste, feel or smell like the ones I got in the store (never-mind from Mexican restaurants in California!), not to mention they were always little tiny baby tortillas only intended for children with very small fingers.

The recipe was basically this (disclaimer: haven't tried in about a year):

  • Add flour, oil, salt and warm water into a bowl and make a dough.
  • Knead until you can't anymore.
  • Break off small pieces and squish/roll out into thin tortillas.
  • Throw into a frying pan with some butter.
  • Occasionally flip and wait until dark spots appear on both sides.

It worked out but the results weren't spectacular, often too crispy, too thin, etc. maybe I just need to practice at it more?

How do you make big, fluffy "Mexican-style" flour tortillas (without using any special machinery) ?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Authentic flour tortillas use lard. For an authentic taste, use that, or consider using shortening or butter since they are solid at room temperature like lard. You also might want to consider increasing the fat in your recipe. Fat will coat the proteins of your flour and keep the gluten network from forming so easily.

I was also taught when making tortillas to let the dough rest for an hour after kneading and before rolling/pressing. This helps everything relax.

After cooking each tortilla, put them in a pile with a clean towel over them. The tortillas will sweat liquid, helping them to soften up. You can also put them all in a heat-safe bag (paper or microwave safe plastic) for sweating. When storing your tortillas, make sure to store them in a bag and not in the open air.

If your tortillas are too small, you should be able to roll out a larger piece of dough.

Part of the texture issues might actually be from you rolling them too thin. If you are used to working with dough your ideas of thin might be different from the overstated ones found in recipes. Try rolling to various thicknesses.

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4  
the 1 hour "rest" can help a lot –  zanlok Dec 23 '10 at 17:32
    
A tortilla press can help with the thickness issue, as it'll give a more uniform thickness. (you can then add sheets of wax paper or parchment if you want them even thinner) –  Joe Dec 23 '10 at 18:18
1  
Mexican-style tortilla in US perhaps use lard. In Mexico they don't. –  Attilio May 17 at 16:08

I was always taught to cook tortillas in a dry skillet (cast iron for the best flavor) on med high-high heat until blisters form, then flip cook only until the blisters brown, then remove to a napkin lined plate and cover with another napkin (this allows their own steam to keep them moist.

It sounds like you're frying your tortillas which may account for the crispiness. Try resting your recipe, rolling out and cooking in a dry pan and see if they're not a bit fluffier.

Also, a tortilla press (which can be found on amazon) is a shockingly useful tool.

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3 1/2 cups flour sifted 1/2 cup vegtable shortening ( I use the butter flavored) 1/4 tsp baking soda 1 tsp of salt About 1 cup of hot water( I place it on the stove and as soon as the first couple of ripples form I turn it off)

Add flour, salt and baking soda first. Mix well then with your fingertips incorporate the shortening thru the flour ( do not melt the shortening) once shortening is well incorporated add water little by little until the dough does not stick to your hands. You want to make sure you knead the dough well for about 3 min-4 minutes. If dough is not elastic and very sticky add a little bit of flour and knead some more but if not place log of flour in a ziplock bag or cover with something and let it rest for 20 min. While the dough is resting heat your griddle - I use a cast iron works really well- heat on medi heat.

Take small golf ball size dough roll it out with a rolling pin or you can use a well floured tortilla press and finish rolling out to your desired siZe I usually do 8 in diameter. Place tortilla on a dry griddle as soon as you see blisters flip once then again and finish a third time and ready to serve. If tortillas are not soft make sure you are not over kneading and make sure not applying to much baking powder.

Last thing the more you practice the better you will get at it the ball of dough should be smooth and soft

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I use 3 cups of all purpose flour, 3t baking powder, a pinch of baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt. Mix together in a food processer. Stop the food processor, add 1/2 cup light mayonnaise, replace cover and mix again. Use 1 cup hot water and with processor running add hot water through the feed tube until you have used about 1/2 cup of the water. At this point watch the dough and add water a little at a time until it pulls away from the sides of the container.

Stop adding water and turn off the processor. At this point pulse it several times until dough is "kneaded", about 8 times. Empty out on a floured board and form into a ball. Place in a bowl sprayed with Pam and cover. Let rest at least 1/2 hour to allow the dough to relax. After this, heat a cast iron griddle or cast iron skillet on medium heat while you form the dough into golf ball size rounds then form into flat rounds about 3" in size and set aside. Cover with a towel.

This will make about a 7" round tortilla. Use a bit larger ball for a larger tortilla. By this time your griddle should be hot. Test with a drop of water. If it dances, it is ready (I like to spray with Pam and wipe with a paper towel before cooking tortillas).

Roll out your rounds of dough on a floured board turning about 1/4 turn until desired size. Add flour to the board as necessary if it is sticking, including a bit on the tortilla top and rolling pin. Put on the griddle and start to roll out another round while watching the griddle. Once you see blisters on the surface lift an edge to check for browning. It should be lightly browned, then flip. Then check bottom periodically for light browning. It is done. Place on a towel tiling them as they are done and cover with another towel. Store in a plastic zip lock bag when completely cool to keep moist and tender, pressing air out before sealing.

They can be successfully frozen this way. I like to freeze only the amount we can use in 2-3 days. That way they always taste fresh. Reheat in the microwave only what you will eat for only 15 seconds or you will have crackers.

NOTE: You will soon know just by looking at the surface when it is time to flip the first time. When processing the dough, the less water you add the stiffer the dough.

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I had to Google what a food processor was, still haven't figured out what they're called in my country. Same with "Pam". Also my question explicitly states in the title: "without using any special machinery", although I suppose I could just mix all that with my hands. Also when I'm laying them out, are you suggesting to put a towel in-between each tortilla? That's a LOT of towels - I usually make about 20-40 tortillas! –  glenneroo May 18 at 15:06

My apologies. Yes, of course, you can make this dough with just your hands. It simply involves adding water a little at a time to the dry ingredient and mayonnaise mixture until you get a dough that is stiff enough to form into golf ball size balls -- about 11-12 from this 3 cup mixture. (Just before you roll them out, flatten them with the palm of your hand.) Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Form into a ball and let it rest in a bowl in the same manner and time to allow the dough to relax. PAM is a vegetable oil spray; you can use a bit of oil spread in the bowl to keep the dough from sticking. Use just 1 towel folded in half or two towels one on top of the other and place each tortilla on top of the other between the towel halves as it is cooked. This keeps the tortillas soft and pliable and keeps them from drying out. I hope this helps.

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