I love Facebook. Whenever I post a status like - I wish I knew how to make the world's best flour tortilla - answers just appear in the comments like magic. It happened just that way one day months ago when my friend Mario commented that he wished we lived in the same town because he would gladly have Dad and I over to teach us his mother's delicious tortilla making ways that she handed down to him. No recipe, mind you.
I said, Mario! There is no possibility of me making anything, no matter how skilled the teacher, if I don't have a recipe! My short term memory's shot! Poor me!
I met Mario in high school. I remember him as a quiet observer, a quick wit, and a good friend, traits that ensured we remain friends today. But since he taught me all about flour tortillas, I'll also tell you that he had the highest GPA, the most girlfriends, the best sports stats, and the coolest car too. All of those things may actually be true. I really don't remember because those traits are not the sorts of things that make you an amazing person in life, ya know?
Now, I guess my moaning and groaning about my short term memory worked - yes! - because I was thrilled and surprised when a few days later I received an email from Mario. It contained the most wonderful gift he could possibly give me. THE flour tortilla recipe. "Worked out a tortilla recipe yesterday for you. Hope it works, but it is small so not too much damage if it doesn't."
I owe him so big!!
Dad and I have fiddled around with Mario's recipe since that day. The first time we made them, the flavor was great, tasted just like they should, on the salty side. But they were just too heavy and they failed Mario's test of excellence. The puff. When you toss these tortillas on the griddle, bubbles should appear in the dough and the best ones puff up like a ball. No bubbles? No puff? Something's off. Mario says his wife and daughters won't even eat them unless they see a puff! Smart ladies!
Since our first attempt, I've had quite a few experiences with various kinds of dough (empanadas, tarts, pie crust, flat bread, etc.) so a few days ago I decided to give these another go. Worked like a charm. Here's what I did.
2 Cups flour
a scant tablespoon salt
a scant tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup of Crisco (I use Crisco sticks because I find it easier to measure with them.)
1.5 cup of warm water (Put water in a saucepan on the stovetop and using a candy thermometer, heat the water to 160 degrees.)
Add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and whisk them together. Cut up the Crisco into small cubes, I slice the Crisco into 1/2-inch slices and then cut each slice into fourths. Add the Crisco cubes to the dry ingredients and use a pastry cutter and combine til the shortening is the size of small peas or even a bit smaller.
Add the warm water, mix all ingredients with a spoon and then dump the contents out onto a floured board. Knead the dough until it is soft but not sticky. If the dough is sticky add a little more flour, if it's too dry add a little more water.
Put the dough back in the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 45 minutes. Roll into balls a little smaller than golf balls and place them on a rimmed baking sheet on a piece of parchment paper. At this point you can either roll the dough into tortillas or you can hold off and let them sit out until you're ready to make them or you can refrigerate them for up to 2 days. I made some right away and I refrigerated the rest and they all came out equally great.
With a rolling pin, roll out each tortilla adjusting the rolling pin 45 degrees after each roll to keep the shape round. Start in the middle and roll out past the edge of the dough to get an even thickness. Do this until the dough is very thin. This is a personal preference as to the thickness of the tortilla and I would encourage you to play around with it.
Heat a large, seasoned cast iron skillet, a comal, or a Lodge cast iron pizza stone over high heat. Cook on the first side for only a moment Flip and cook on other side until you see bubbles form. Flip again and the tortilla should puff up. When puff stops growing or you think it's burning take it off the griddle and serve! The entire cooking process per tortillas is around 1 1/2 minutes. We like these best freshly made but you can cook a whole batch and serve them. They're just amazingly tasty.
Mario says don't despair if they don't puff up. Chances are the recipe did not work. If this is the case, roll out the tortilla dough into tortillas, coat a small pan with oil and fry the dough on both sides. Take a mixture of 3 tablespoons of sugar and enough cinnamon to make it brown throughout and coat one side of the fried tortilla with the mixture for a tasty dessert treat.
Dad and I used the tortillas on this day to have some beef fajitas with onions, green pepper and sour cream. But the next day, I took a ball of dough out of the refrigerator, cooked it in no time flat and added a little avocado and pico de gallo and rolled it up and ate it. Lunch! So delicious!
P.S. If you like really big tortillas, and Dad does, you can just combine 2-3 dough balls and then roll it out. Just make sure your griddle is large enough to handle it.