This recipe and photos are courtesy of Cynthia Detterick-Pineda of Andrews, TX. More of Cynthia’s Southwest Recipes.
What’s Cooking America
Recipe Type: Quick Bread, History
Cuisine: Southwest, Mexican
Yields: Approximate 15 tortillas
Prep time: 15 min
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 6 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups warm water (approximate)
In a large bowl, blend the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
With a pastry cutter/blender (unless you are one of those, like my teachers, who always used their hands) cut in the lard or shortening. You want these ingredients to cling together slightly and hold a form when squeezed in your hands.
If the mixture crumbles, you do not have the shortening mixed in well or have too little (if it makes a hard clump them you need more flour and less shortening).
Add the water all at once and mix the dough quickly with a fork or by hand until the dough forms a mass.
Work it in the bowl, moving it around the sides to pick up any flour remaining in the bowl.
Knead the dough by folding it in half, pushing it down, and folding again. It should take about a dozen folds to form soft dough that is no longer sticky.
Cover the dough with a towel or plastic wrap to let it rest for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Allowing the dough to rest lets any of the liquid absorb into the flour, which will give you a softer tortilla after cooking.
Take your ball of dough and begin pinching off 1-inch diameter balls. Knead each of these into a tight ball by folding them over with your fingers, turning and repeating until it is shaped like a fat disk.
Place it to one side of the mixing bowl and continue to do this until you have used all of the dough.
Before rolling out the tortillas, allow the dough balls to rest at least 10 minutes. This will permit the gluten to relax and make them much easier to shape and roll.
inch thick and 8 to 10 inches in diameter.
NOTE: You can roll the thinner or thicker, if you like. Just remember to adjust the cooking time for how thick they are rolled. I roll mine the way they are done in New Mexico – slightly thicker than any store bought ones.
Mexican Comal Heat a Comal, cast-iron griddle, or small skillet to about 450 degrees F. over medium to medium-high heat until water droplets “dance” when dropped on the surface. You might have to increase or decrease the heat after you cook your first tortilla, but you should be able to tell if the tortilla is cooking too fast on the outside and still raw on the inside, or increase it if your tortilla is taking more than 30 seconds to begin to “puff” when placed on the comal.
Comal Definition – Mexican Comal or cast iron plate used to make tortillas. If you do not have a comal, a large cast iron skillet or griddle works well, or even an electric griddle can be used when heated up to 400 to 450 degrees F.
Place the raw tortilla on the preheated Comal and allow it to cook until it begins to puff up with air pockets, turn carefully since not only is the comal hot, the tortilla is hot and the air pockets may release steam that can burn. Each side should cook about 30 seconds, leaving the tortilla puffy. Press on a center part of the tortilla slightly to be certain the inside is cooked. If it looks as though it has compressed down and is a darker color, your dough is not cooked in the center and will need to be returned to the comal.
Notes on cooking tortillas: I, along with others who have been making tortillas for quite some time, will roll the next tortilla while the previous is cooking. Unless you feel very comfortable doing this, I would recommend either having someone else flip the tortillas and pull them off the comal, or wait until the present tortilla is cooked before starting to roll a new one. You will find that tortillas can cook very quickly (approximately 1 minute), and they can burn very quickly! If you are using a cast iron comal, and the tortilla burns, you will need to scrape off the char and use a damp rag to wipe down your comal before continuing to cook. The flavor of one burnt tortilla can ruin the remainder of the batch.
As you pull the tortillas off the comal, place them in a tortilla warmer or on a plate (lined with a dish towel or paper towels to keep them warm).
Storing fresh-made tortillas:
The tortillas can be place in bags or containers and kept for several days in the refrigerator, and they can be frozen (although I do not recommend this as the taste changes some when they are thawed).
The dough can be frozen easily before cooking and thawed later.
Store extra tortillas in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Since they don’t have preservatives, they will spoil after a couple of days on the counter.
Sopapillas: This recipe can be also be used to make savory sopapillas. Simply cut your rolled out rounds into wedge shapes and deep fry in 400 degree F. oil until they are puffy and browned. Remove from the oil and drain on a slotted rack of paper towels. These “sopapillas” are a quick easy way to make “double duty” of your masa (dough), but a good sopapilla should have milk instead of water as the liquid for making the dough. Check out Cynthia’s recipe for making Sopapillas.