Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I went to church with a hole in my skirt.

In the back.

On my butt.

Dead center.

I kid you not. I didn’t know about the inch-long rip in the seam until I returned home after spending the last three hours standing, sitting, bending over, in the presence of a couple hundred people. I discovered the hole when I was climbing the porch steps and my hand brushed the back of my skirt and—goodness gracious me!—snagged on something. My fingers scrambled to relocate the hole and I yanked the skirt around to examine just exactly how much I was falling apart. It really was a hole, and not an inconsequential one either. I half bellowed-half wailed into the vast cosmos, “I WENT TO CHURCH WITH A HOLE IN MY SKIRT!”

Mr. Handsome examined the rip and then made me walk in front of him. “Nope, you can’t see a thing. The material has that black swirly stuff and the black slip underneath blends right in.”

Still. Still! Just thinking about it makes my cheeks flush.

As part of the healing process, I made some flour tortillas.


I’ve made flour tortillas before, many times, in fact, and they've always been so-so, a bit soft, a bit dry, but they kinda-sorta-maybe met the definition of a tortilla , so I shrugged my shoulders and figured they were as good as homemade tortillas got.


I couldn’t have been more wrong.


Flour tortillas are my new weapon. These tortillas are fabulously supple and toothsome, chewy and tender. They are not just the vehicle with which to scoop up beans or wrap around eggs and potatoes, but rather a delightful snack all by themselves. With them in my arsenal of culinary tricks, I can stuff bellies, slay picky eaters and charm the object of my desire.

Which would be my husband, of course, and I’m here to tell you that he has been duly charmed. (Insert tinkling bells and fairy dust.) He eats these tortillas, sighs, and then asks for more. He never asks for more tortillas.


Along with the incredible texture, the other miraculous thing about these tortillas is that they are wondrously malleable. Not only are they malleable, they are bendable, wendable, twistable, turnable, foldable, and moldable. Let’s talk about this for a minute, shall we?


See how that tortilla is slumping over, all lazy and gentle, like it was created for the sole purpose of slumping? None of my other tortillas ever did that, at least not without screaming for mercy.


Let’s take it a step farther. The tortillas don’t just fold over once, oh no!—I can actually roll them up and they’re none the worse for wear!

This pliable-foldable-bendable-rollable component of the tortilla truly is a noteworthy point, one that calls for a justifiable bit of harping and some extreme demonstrations. Get this: I can roll the tortilla up even tighter and it still doesn’t crack!


Is that not Truly Amazing?

(Cue roaring applause)

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Alrighty then. Point made. Moving right along.


I use a comal to fry tortillas. The comal, a skillet made for the express purpose of cooking tortillas, is one of the few items that Mr. Handsome and I lugged home with us after our three years in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan women used a comal (or, if they were too poor to purchase one, simply a piece of tin) to fry their tortillas and I wanted to be like them, but minus the open fire in my kitchen. I bought my comal from a venta in El Jicaro, the town (if it could be called that) closest to our house, ten minutes by bus (or longer, if they had to load pigs onto the roof) or an hour by foot. My comal is heavy and mostly flat, with slightly curving sides. I never use any grease on it (unless you count the cheese-grease that oozes out when I’m making quesadillas), and I never wash it, only wiping it down with a damp rag when necessary.

However, you don’t need a comal to make good tortillas. While a cast iron skillet is your best bet, any old skillet or pan will do the trick. If the Nican women could turn out luscious corn tortillas on a raggedy piece of tin, then pretty much anything will work.

I’m making a tortilla extravaganza for dinner tonight—beans and rice, egg-and-potato burritos, salsa, sour cream, cheese. I woke up thinking about it, wishing it was dinnertime already.

So, go on now. Get cracking! Stir yourself up some supple wheaty goodness, mis amigos. Pronto! ASAP! Ya!

Y buen provecho!

Flour Tortillas
Adapted from The Homesick Texan

The original recipe called for all white flour, but I swapped half of it for whole wheat. If you use one hundred percent whole wheat, you’ll get something resembling chapatis—they will be delicious, but they won’t be tortillas.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I used ½ cup of 1% milk and a quarter cup of cream. I recommend you use whole milk (I have a feeling a little fat adds a pleasant dimension), though I think any milk composition will work.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup warm milk

Stir together the flours, salt, and baking powder. Stir in the oil and warm milk. Gently knead for a couple minutes until the dough is soft and supple. (You may need to add a couple more tablespoons of flour to ward off the stickies, but don’t overdo it. Too much flour and the resulting tortillas will be tough.

Cover the dough with a clean dishtowel and allow it to rest for 20 minutes.

Cut the dough into eight equal pieces and roll them out, using a little flour as needed, into rough circles, about 8-inches in diameter and 1/4th to 1/8th inch thick.

Fry them on a hot comal (or cast iron skillet) for about 45 seconds on each side. As you finish the tortillas, wrap them in a clean cloth. Serve warm.

To reheat, wrap the tortillas in foil and place in a 350 degree oven for about ten minutes, or heat them in a hot skillet, flipping each tortilla till warmed through. (Do not reheat in a microwave as that tends to dry them out and make them tough.)

Updated April 15, 2010: I made these again and stuck the leftovers in a plastic bag in the fridge. The next day they were as flexible as when they were fresh, exactly like store-bought flour tortillas. Amazing.

About one year ago: Easter chickens. These little critters have been making our tummies very happy...

13 comments:

  1. My goodness, but your timing is right on! I've recently been making pizzas on purchased flour tortillas (neither hubby nor I like much of any crust on our pizza) and kinda sorta wishing I had a good recipe to make homemade ones.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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  2. You really should inform me as to when you are going to participate in a drama or wear a skirt with a hole in it at church. I'd come back for a visit:-).

    I've had success making tortillas in the past and am not sure why I don't make them more regularly. We love stuffing them with sauteed fresh vegetables and cheese in the summer, so I need to put this on my to do list. The ones we made froze beautifully, by the way.

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  3. This is the exact same recipe I use! We love it to. I just had one of these for lunch with tuna salad, cheese, and spinach. Can't wait 'til tomatoes are in season!

    Is pastry flour better than bread flour? For some reason, I thought it was best to use bread flour for tortillas. And I guess mine would be called chapatis because I use 100% whole wheat flour.

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  4. I can't wait to try these. When do we get the banana muffin recipe?-ME

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  5. Don't feel so bad about the hole. When I went to Park View, a woman walked down the aisle with the back of her skirt stuck into her panty-hose. She made it half way down until someone ran to her rescue. True story, and I won't mention names just in case someone that knows her reads this blog.

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  6. You should try making them with a bit of sourdough starter. They start pliable and stay pliable, they are a real treat. .. you know, if you find yourself without all the milks and stuff one day.

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  7. I'm definitely going to try these. I've made tortillas before and thought they were too much like chapatis, so I went back to buying them.
    I wanted to look into using masa harina, but never did.
    Thanks for the recipe!

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  8. Milk? Cream? This is uncharted territory for me indeed, but the results speak for themselves.

    I've been wanting to do a DIY tutorial on Simple Bites....people need to know how GOOD they are. And how simple.

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  9. Zoe, I don't know which flour is best---I just used pastry because I figured it wouldn't stand out as much.

    ME, The recipe is coming soon. Promise!

    Karen, I'm always afraid I'm going to do that and obsessively brush the back of my skirt to make sure I'm hanging in all the right places. Maybe I brushed that hole into being!

    Katie, Do you have a recipe? I'm interested...

    Margo, I'd like to try masa harina too...sometime. But somehow I doubt it can get any better than this. Yes, I've fallen hard.

    Aimee, I'm all for getting the word out. All those tortilla-buying people MUST be converted. Like, yesterday!

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  10. Hmm.. We don't usually use a recipe. I know you're very familiar with sourdough starter, although ours is whole wheat it's probably similar enough to yours. We just mix up a bit of starter into more flour, water and salt. Degree of hydration is up to your preference, I think, we prefer it to be fairly wet so it's easier to roll out. It's a very simple "recipe".

    Also, I thought of this after I wrote yesterday and you might be interested. We started making corn tortillas but instead of just using masa harina, we add a cup or so of bread flour and a handful or two of chick pea flour, a pinch of salt and if we're feeling it, a dash of oil. You can still flatten them with a tortilla press, but they bend, roll, and all those delicious things. Not exactly traditional, but wonderful anyhow.

    We don't have a fridge right now, so haven't been keeping milk around so I can't try yours right now to compare. But I will someday!

    All the best!

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  11. Yummy! They were yummy! I made a double batch and had NO leftovers...story of my life ~ oh well! I don't have a comal or cast iron skillet and they turned out great on the electric (non coated) stainless one I have ~ I used coconut oil to grease the pan. Too amazing...definitely a "must keep" recipe! Thanks for sharing! I plan to post and link back to you here. :)

    Blessings,
    Camille

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  12. I just dropped by from Camille's to get the recipe for your tortillas. I am looking forward to trying this. Sorry about the skirt! Hopefully it will mend well. Thanks for the recipe.

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  13. Oh my goodness, I laughed out loud reading this! I got your site from Camille and I'm glad I did. I will never feel the same about food again :)

    Heather

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