There are so many ways that you can have and enjoy tortillas de harina at home. You can make them the traditional way, the fast-track-modern way (if you have an electric tortilla maker such as the REVEL…), or buy them ready made at the store. Different from corn tortillas, which rule Mexico’s south and are made with a base of nixtamalized corn, flour tortillas rule Mexico’s north and are wheat flour based. The latter also have an element of fat (either lard, vegetable shortening or oil) and are milder, sweeter and softer.
Sometimes both kinds of tortillas, flour and corn, work interchangeably for a dish, say cheese quesadillas or chicken tacos, and may depend on the preference of the eater. However, beware, there are other times when either the flour or corn tortilla should be the prime choice. Take Chilorio, it needs to be tucked in a flour tortilla. Yet any kind of enchiladas, enfrijoladas, or casserole must, REALLY MUST, be made with corn tortillas because they withhold the sauce much better than wheat flour ones, and sweetness may be uncalled for.
I have been surprised with how many requests I’ve received from people on how to make “good tasting,” “authentic homemade,” “white flour” tortillas, being both, that one can find them already made at the stores practically all over the US, and that it is time consuming. That, being said, the feel and taste of a homemade tortilla de harina does happen to be a galaxy away from a store bought one. So, if you can spare the time, and you like playing with your hands, give them a try.
As you will see, the trick is not only in the right amounts of ingredients, it’s also in the kneading and mostly in the cooking: don’t over cook them or they will lose ALL their appeal.
Of course, once you master the technique, you can flavor them with ingredients like fresh or dried chiles, tomatoes and even nopales. You can also experiment with making them using whole wheat flour. Though, I do prefer the plain, original taste.
- 1 pound all-purpose flour or about 4 cups
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or lard
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- Traditional Version: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and vegetable shortening with your hands until incorporated. Slowly incorporate water to the dough, until it can come together into a ball. Transfer to the counter and knead for about 2 to 4 minutes, until it is smooth like play dough. (You may do the same process in a food processor, pulsing until dough is incorporated!)
- Divide into 18-20 ball shaped portions. Set them on a floured board or plate, cover them with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let them rest for 25 to 35 minutes.
- Heat your comal, or ungreased cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. On a floured surface roll out one of the balls with a rolling pin, rotating 5 or 6 times until you get a 6 to 7 inch circle. Lay tortilla on the already hot comal or skillet. You will hear a faint sizzle. After 30 to 40 seconds, when there are brown freckles on the bottom side and there is some puffing up in some areas of the tortilla, flip over. Cook for 30 to 40 seconds, until the other side is freckled and the tortilla puffs up, again, like pita bread. Don’t overcook, or they will become crisp and stiff (and lose all their appeal).
- As they are ready, place in a tortilla warmer or clean kitchen towel. If you will not eat them within the hour, wrap them in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Reheat in a hot comal or skillet.
- Fast-Track-Modern Version: If you have an electric tortilla maker, such as the REVEL, instead of rolling them out with a rolling pin, place your flour dough balls in the tortilla maker, press for 1 to 2 seconds. This will roll and precook them; you will hear the hiss. Finish them off for about 30 seconds on each side on the comal or skillet, where they should also puff.
- Easiest version: Buy them already made at the store!