Friday, October 24, 2014

Making Tortillas

About a month after we came here, I wanted to make something for dinner that used tortillas. I realized I hadn't bought any at the store so I decided to take the plunge and see if I could make them. Pinterest to the rescue! My results were tasty, though warped. I used a glass as my rolling pin, and my shapes were not perfect circles. The kids weren't so sure about them; they were used to the ones I always bought back in Michigan--the standard packaged kind. We could get them here, too, and did, because that was the only way I could find flour tortillas. Guadalajara is known for its corn tortillas, and if you go to any shop you'll find bags of fresh ones, not to mention shops that are devoted to making them. We don't mind the corn ones, but we're still partial to the wheat. While the kids were leery of these homemade ones, Kraig delved in with gusto and declared they were the best ones he'd had and we should always make them that way. I had cooked myself into a corner.

There was still the problem of the rolling and shaping. But a few weeks ago a local acquaintance mentioned that I could buy a tortilla press at most of the local groceries. With one of these, I could throw my disc of dough down, squeeze the lever, and have lovely round tortillas, all set to toss on the griddle. I found one, and have used it a couple times now, and it makes life much easier. The kids love to help out with the dough, which is one of those frustrating processes that I allow because I know it will help them down the road. But today I wanted to make them without interruption, and I needed to pay attention to the process for a writing assignment, so I worked on them while the kids were at school.

I have to admit, when one has the time, it's worth making tortillas. Mine aren't perfect by any stretch, and I don't know if this is my own ignorance or the fault of the recipe. For one thing, mine don't stay as flexible as I'd like them. If they have a touch of moisture, they're okay. I'm wondering if they need more oil. Despite the flaws, though, the process is therapeutic.

First I mix the flour, salt, and baking powder. Today I experimented by using one cup of whole wheat flour with two cups white. We'll see if that works. After this, I add oil and warm water and mix it up. I've made this as a double-batch as well, but that takes forever, so I've stuck with the single batch. It's more than enough for a meal. Once the mixture is a doughy ball, I start to separate it till I have sixteen balls approximately the same size. I scatter flour over the granite countertop, and lay out the balls, pressing them down with the palm of my hand so they become thick disks. The whole wheat added flecks of darker brown to tan. I lay a kitchen towel over these discs and let them sit for about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile the griddle heats up.

The press eases the process of flattening the disks, and I can have two prepared and on the griddle within half a minute. The griddle isn't greased, but the tortillas land on it with a hiss and sizzle and immediately start to bulge here and there as if the heat were blowing hills into them. The raw dough smell transforms into the aroma of roasted wheat and within a moment I need to flip them or the scent sharpens to burned toast. On the cooked underside, the cinnamon-colored flecks are interspersed with coffee-colored blotches. Soon it's time to flip them off the griddle and into a container which I can quickly seal, and so keep them soft for eating. 

There is something beautiful in the texture of the dough. I love the separation process as I ball the dough and weigh each section in my hands, compare and contrast, estimate. A soft thump as each lands on the counter and the give of raw dough under my palm as I press it down. I love the smooth white flour I pinch and scatter so the dough won't stick, and the clank and squeeze of the press as I shove the lever down as far as it will go. The sizzle on the griddle and the steady heady scent of baking create magic. This is a task worth doing.


  1. Anonymous12:05 AM

    The words in this post were a feast to my mind!


    1. You're always an encouragement, Pam! Thank you :) .