Mexican at Home; Tortillas

Having a Mexican side to my family has always been interesting. Between the quinceaneras and Christmas get-togethers spent making hundreds of tamales,  I have always been happily exposed to many cultural experiences and foods, but you don’t know cultural family cooking until you try in find the recipes… And by that I mean, what recipes??? Ever ask your grandma, or great aunt to be exact, how to make one of her dishes? You get a wonderful story of how “I don’t have a recipe” and “We just learned by watching in the kitchen.”

This is exactly what I ran into when I tried to learn how to make my own flour tortillas from my great aunt Eva.  With no luck there, I went and searched the glorious interwebs. What I stumbled upon was a recipe from another blog that I have found to work fantastically! The blog is called “Muy Bueno” and is by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack. You can find her site here: http://www.muybuenocookbook.com/ and I do recommend checking it out if you enjoy a wide variety of Latin-American and other dishes!

As for the tortillas, they go a little something like this;

1. Gather your ingredients!

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  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1⁄8 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon lard or shortening
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water

2. Heat up your pan

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A “comal” is the typical pan of choice, but an ungreased cast iron skillet can work, or a nonstick pan. All of which should be ungreased and set to a temperature of about Med-High.

3. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl

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Whenever making something like this, I rarely use utensils. This is a very good thing in a recipe such as this because it depends a lot on feel and texture.

4. Add fat!

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The recipe calls for Lard or Vegetable Shortening. We use the shortening, so even though it is a solid fat, full of saturated fats, they are key to a recipe like this. To combine the fat with you dry ingredients, once again, DIVE IN! I am simply pressing the mix through my hand to incorporate the fat as evenly as possible (may need to scrape it off your hand every once in a while). You know you are done when the mix starts to form small crumbs. If it isn’t getting there, scrape your hand (and possibly the bottom of the bowl), or add a little extra fat and keep trying!

5. Add warm water

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The key here is WARM water. typically the required amount may fall short, so have a little extra on hand. Simply add the water a little at a time and work it in with your hands. Be ready for it to be sticky! Once all the water is in the bowl and incorporated in the mixture, you can dump it onto a lightly floured surface (or keep it in the bowl to kneed the dough until smooth. This should not take long, so be careful not to over-kneed.

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6. Form your Testales

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Roll your dough into about 2-2.5 inch balls. This will be what you roll out into tortillas, so try to keep them from drying out by covering them with a towel, or plastic wrap while you form the rest. You will want to cook them one at a time, so go ahead and roll one, then cook it, then start rolling the next while the first cooks, etc.

7. Roll and cook!

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On a lightly floured surface, roll the testales into about 7-8 inch tortillas. as you can see in the gif’s, I turn the rolling pin 45 degrees after each forward and back roll. If you practice it, a more efficient way to do it is to roll forward and back, then pick up the tortilla and turn it, then roll forward and back, and continue doing this. This helps the tortilla from sticking to your work surface, and seems to have a better result overall. Now as for the cooking…

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It should only take a minute tops for each side to cook. If it takes longer, turn up the heat a bit. You will notice the tortilla bubble up all over. If this does not happen, your dough is too dry (or over-knead). Once you flip the tortilla, the bubbles may lift it off the cooking surface (as you can see above ^), so simply take a dry towel and press it down GENTLY as to not burn your hands or create a tough tortilla by being to hard. Be careful not to set your towel on fire…

When finished, keep under a towel or in a tortilla warmer till served! Otherwise feel free to store them in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator!

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From there, ENJOY! I highly recommend using these to make homemade enchiladas or the obvious taco.

By: Sam Martinez, DTR

Purdue University ’15

Cooking Instructor

SAMSUNG CSC

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