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Flour Tortillas - Mexico's National Bread

We are all familiar with the tortillas found in stores - they are convenient and easy to prepare. However, once you have eaten a freshly-made tortilla straight from the hands of a Mexican cook, you will yearn to make your own!

Flour tortillas, which originated in Northern Mexico, become utensil-like in Mexican homes. A piece is pinched off and used to pull bits of chicken off the bone, or a section becomes a spoon to scoop up rice. Soft, perfectly cooked flour tortillas are accompaniments to almost every meal.

Skilled tortilla makers press the dough into large, thin circles with their hands, but we won't be attempting that. It is much easier to use a rolling pin (save the tortilla press for making the corn flour version). A palote, which is the traditional rolling pin, is similar to a thick dowel rod measuring 18 inches long and a minimum of 1 inch in diameter.

Flour Tortillas (Tortillas de Harina)

2 cups all-purpose flour (you can also use wheat flour)
¼ cup shortening
½ cup warm water (more or less)
½ teaspoon salt (or less)

In a bowl, mix the shortening with the flour by hand. Heat the water and add the salt until it dissolves. Add the water gradually to form a soft dough. If it's too dry, add additional (unsalted) water; if too sticky, add more flour. Knead for at least 15 minutes. Quarter the dough and then divide each quarter into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough balls sit for about 30 minutes.

Press each ball lightly with the palms of your hand to flatten. Roll them out on a floured surface to about an 8-inch diameter (for 12 tortillas).

Preheat an ungreased skillet or griddle on a medium-high setting. Cook until light brown bubbles form on the bottom - about 1 minute or less. Turn over and press any raised areas down with a spatula. Stack the cooked tortillas in a dry, clean dishtowel until serving time. For reheating, wrap them in foil.

If you have a favorite Mexican dish, please share it with all of us in the forums. See you there!


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