Flour Tortillas

by Alonzo Cantu September 20, 2020 7 min read

Flour Tortillas

Homemade flour tortillas are easier to make than you think. With only five ingredients, anyone can make authentic, delicious tortillas in their own home.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Salt
  • Baking powder
  • Unsalted butter
  • Water

Homemade tortillas are so simple to make, but some practice may be needed in the beginning. Remember the key to good tortillas is making sure the dough feels right. If your tortillas do not come out right the first time, do not be discouraged! Keep on trying and check out the troubleshooting tips at the end of this recipe. These tortillas are worth it!

The Process:

Flour tortillas are traditionally made with lard which can be substituted for the butter in this recipe. I chose butter because it is an ingredient that can easily be found in any home kitchen or at any grocery store. 

First, make sure your butter is at room temperature. Next, boil the water. This recipe calls for 1-1¼ cups of water, so I like to boil 1 ½ cups to make sure I have enough. Combine 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tsp salt, and 1 ½ tsp baking powder in a large bowl and whisk together. Add 1/3 cup of room temperature butter to the flour mixture and use your fingers to combine. Make sure the butter has been incorporated into the flour mixture evenly. It should resemble cornmeal.

The next step is to add the water. However, the moisture content of tortillas should be judged by feel and not by an exact amount. The dough needs enough moisture to produce steam later when cooking. This is what makes the tortilla bubble up and produces a soft texture. The dough should be tacky. I prefer it to be on the sticky side because you can always add more flour when kneading and rolling, but you cannot add more water later.

Start by adding 1 cup of the water (that has been boiled) to the flour/butter mixture. The water will be hot so use a spoon to stir in the water enough so you can continue mixing with your hands. Start to knead the dough in the bowl with your hands. If the dough seems too dry, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time. The dough should stick to your fingers, and it should be easy to knead. The dough should feel soft and supple and knead with little effort. If you have to use a lot of force just to knead the dough, there is not enough water. Try to refrain from adding flour unless the dough seems too wet. The more you knead the dough, the less it will stick even without the flour.

Knead the dough in the bowl until the sides of the bowl and hands are mostly clean (this should only take a minute or two). Move it to a clean, flat surface and continue to knead by hand for ten minutes until the dough becomes smooth. If your dough seems too sticky to knead, lightly dust the work surface with some flour, but it should stop sticking the more you knead. Once again, the dough should be soft and easy to knead. If it is tough and hard to knead, there is not enough water in the dough.

Once you are done kneading, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll the pieces into balls. I like to do this by putting my hand in the shape of a “C” and rotate the dough while using the side of my hand to press the dough against the work surface. (If you are using your left hand, rotate clockwise. If you are using your right hand, rotate counterclockwise). This will help form the dough into a tight ball. Place the balls of dough back in the bowl and cover with a damp paper towel or cloth. Let the dough balls rest for 15 minutes.

After the dough has rested, it is time to roll out the tortillas. Lightly dust a clean, flat surface as well as your rolling pin with some flour. I like to flatten the dough ball into a little disk by hand to get the shape started. Next, roll the tortilla out. Always roll from the middle outwards and rotate the tortilla 90° each time for a consistent shape. I usually get 8”-9” tortillas out of each ball of dough. You want to roll these out very thin. One indicator I use is to put my fingers underneath the tortilla and see if they are somewhat visible. If they are, your tortillas are most likely thin enough. Do not stress if your tortillas do not come out like perfect circles. I have made this recipe many times and find the tortillas become more circular the more I do.

*If you are having trouble rolling out the dough, and the dough keeps retracting, this may be an indicator that the dough did not have enough time to rest or does not have enough moisture in the dough.

I like to roll out 3-4 tortillas at a time, cook some, and then continue rolling. However, if this is your first time making tortillas, you can roll them all out first. I prefer to roll them out and hang them on the side of the bowl covered with that damp paper towel.

There are many ways to cook tortillas. You can use a comal, cast iron pan, or a regular non-stick pan. I used a regular non-stick pan for this recipe to show anyone can make these even if you do not have a comal or cast iron.

If you have not started heating your pan, do so now. You want the heat high enough to create bubbles in the tortillas, but not too hot to where they burn. My glass stovetop burners get very hot, so I normally start at medium heat and transition to medium-low the longer my stove is on. If your stove does not typically get hot fast, start at medium to medium-high heat. The first tortilla is usually a test tortilla to see if the temperature is right. If the tortilla does not bubble up after a couple seconds or at all, it might not be hot enough. Once you find the right heat setting, cook the tortillas. This could take 10-30 seconds per side. Hold the tortillas in a tortilla warmer or simply wrap them in foil to keep them warm and soft.

Flour Tortillas

Prep time: 20 minutes  Rest time: 15 minutes

Makes: 12 8-9” Tortillas

Amount

Ingredient

3 cups

All-purpose flour

1 tsp

Salt 

1 ½ tsp

Baking powder

1/3 cup

Unsalted butter, room temperature

1-1 ¼ cups

Water, boiled

  1. Boil water (Boil more than the required amount of water just in case). Put in measuring cup and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Whisk the ingredients together.
  3. Add the room temperature butter to the flour mixture. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour. Incorporate the butter evenly into the flour until it resembles cornmeal.
  4. Add 1 cup of the hot water to the flour/butter mixture. Use a spoon to combine the ingredients if it is still too hot for your hands. Once most of the water has been incorporated, use your hands to start to knead the dough together. The dough should be tacky, almost sticky. If it is too dry, add more hot water a teaspoon at a time. Knead in the bowl until the sides of the bowl and your hands become somewhat clean (the dough is no longer clinging). This should only take 1-2 minutes. 
  5. Place the dough on a clean, flat surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth. You should not need to dust the work surface with flour. Try to avoid using flour so that the dough does not dry out. The more you knead, the less the dough will stick. Only add flour if your dough is too wet and will not stop sticking.
  6. Once the dough is kneaded, divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll the pieces into balls. I like to cup my hand into the shape of a “C” and rotate the ball while pressing it against the work surface to make a tight ball. Place the balls of dough into a bowl and cover with a damp paper towel. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.
  7. One the dough has rested, and you are ready to roll, heat your pan on medium-medium high heat. You may have to adjust your heat settings depending on your stove. (For example, my glass stovetop burner gets extremely hot, and I have to keep my heat on medium-low) If it is too hot, the tortillas will burn. If it is not hot enough, the tortillas will not bubble up.
  8. Dust your work surface and rolling pin lightly with flour. Roll out the tortillas. This recipe makes 12 8”-9” tortillas. Hang the rolled-out tortillas on the edge of the bowl and cover with the damp cloth until all or most are rolled out. (You can roll and cook as you go if necessary.)
  9. Cook the tortillas on the preheated pan. The tortillas should start to bubble up. If they do not, your pan might not be hot enough. The tortillas should cook 10-30 seconds per side and will bubble up and become more opaque. Flip the tortillas to finish cooking on the other side. Place the tortillas in a warmer or in a dish covered with foil to keep warm.

 

 

Troubleshooting Tips:

Dough is hard to knead, shape, roll: The dough does not have enough moisture. More water must be added in the beginning.

Tortillas are hard to roll out, keep retracting when rolled: The dough either needs to rest longer or does not have enough moisture.

Tortillas do not bubble up, are hard: 1. The pan may not be hot enough to produce steam from the moisture in the dough, resulting in bubbles to make a light, airy tortillas. Try adjusting your heat. 2. If the pan is hot enough and the tortillas are still not bubbling up, there is not enough moisture in the dough. More water must be added in the beginning.

 

Alonzo Cantu
Alonzo Cantu



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