Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tortilla Sunset

It's pretty much a given that homemade goodies almost always taste better than store bought. That's assuming, of course, the person doing the cooking has at least a basic grasp of the principles and a willingness to bravely leap any chasms of ignorance.

It was a long, LONG time ago that I made my one and only attempt at homemade tortillas. Lord knows, I had an excellent teacher in one of my sisters-in-law. Tommye made wonderful tortillas and patiently did her best to educate me. That was back before everyone got all panicky about using lard so the basic recipe, if I recall it correctly, was flour, salt, lard and water.

That wasn't the problem. No. The problem was, I was learning (hah!) to use the smaller, handleless roller customarily used for tortillas when I was used to using a rolling pin with by-gawd-handles. To say the results were less than excellent would be an understatement. The very first tortilla I rolled out resembled a severely distorted elephant. In spite of my best efforts, it all went downhill from there. I will admit, Tommye didn't snort and laugh out loud -- but she was smiling an awful lot.

Okay, for whatever reason, tortilla-making was never high on my list of Things I Really Want To Learn. Besides, in recent years, I could buy pretty good tortillas -- both corn and flour -- at the grocery store so why worry, right? Right! That's what I thought.

Then, today, a revolutionary thought dropped into my alleged mind. I wonder, I said to myself, if you can make flour tortillas with oil instead of lard or shortening?

Well, almost faster than you can say "Google!" three times, I was prowling through a kajillion tortilla recipes and, blow me down, there IS a recipe that uses oil! It's a bit non-traditional in that it includes baking powder and calls for milk instead of water but it looked good and, what the hey? So I gave it a shot.


Mix together 2 cups all purpose flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder. Measure 3/4 cup lukewarm milk and mix in 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons oil. (I used olive oil.) Add the liquid to the flour and mix well, until dough cleans bowl.

Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead for a couple of minutes. Form into ball, replace in bowl and cover with a damp paper towel. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Divide dough into 8 portions, form into balls and set on a plate with space between each dough ball. Cover with damp paper towel and let rest 20 minutes. Take each ball and flatten with fingers, then roll out thin. You can really lean into the rolling -- the dough can take it. And yes, I used a regular rolling pin with by-gawd-handles.

Set a skillet or griddle (preferably cast iron) over medium heat and lay a tortilla in the pan. Do NOT use grease. The tortilla will begin to bubble and blister. Give it 30 seconds or so, then catch an edge with your fingers and flip it over. Wait another 30 seconds, then remove to another pan and cover with foil. Keep in oven on lowest heat. (Or tuck the finished tortillas into a Styrofoam tortilla warmer, if you have one.)

Tortillas freeze well. To use after freezing, let thaw to room temperature, wrap in foil and heat in oven. I dunno -- maybe 350 degrees fairyheight for 10 minutes? I'm guessing.

This recipe makes 8 tortillas -- all of them light and fluffy and tender-chewy and so delicious there is probably a Puritan group out there somewhere, busily attempting to formulate laws that would make these gems illegal.

The very first thing I did was sprinkle a hot tortilla with grated cheddar, then I sprinkled the cheese with Morton's Hot Salt, folded the tortilla over and cut it into sections. Instant quesadillas! As we speak, I have a chicken breast thawing. I will cut it up tiny and stir fry it with Mexican seasonings and make some more quesadillas later. Yes. 'Tis pleasant to contemplate. Tequila Sunrise may be more famous but my money is on the Tortilla Sunset. As long as I don't lose my shaker of hot salt.


John Bailey said...

I was scratching my head for something--anything--similar in my kitchen reportoire to tortillas. There's crepes, of course, but ... ah! ... the Cornish Pastie! Haven't made 'em myself for years because they're so easy to buy in the market but the boughten ones are a pale imitation. I shall have to find my pastry board and get a'rolling. Sorry, Dee, you still haven't tempted me away from my dislike of chilli/salsa flavoured food... just call me an ignorant Brit! :-)

Dee said...

John, I couldn't possibly think of you as ignorant! Although I must point out that the humble tortilla is simply a flat bread that exists in pretty much the same form in cultures all over the world. The beauty of it is, you can wrap it around any kind of filling you want -- even peanut butter and jelly -- or use it as an edible scoop when eating a hearty stew -- or, when it gets old, fling it at the dog as an edible frisbee.

But pasties! Thank you for reminding me. I learned to make pasties when we were stationed with the Air Force in Upper Michigan, in the copper mining country. Pasties are part of a rich tradition there and, you're right -- homemade is infinitely superior. Do show us pictures when you make yours!

Ava said...

Yum! Unfortunately, I love the lowly tortilla too well. I like 'em warm with a little butter for breakfast. Or filled with scrambled eggs, bits of ham and finely chopped hot peppers. Or...cheesed up for quesidillas. name it, I just love the things. I have never made them myself because our grocery store, HEB, makes them right before our hungry eyes and drooling lips and packages them warm. I eat them in the car on the way home!

Make pasties and tell us about them, Dee. Please.


daB said...

Well now the only thing I really like in them is fajita and avacodo. :-)

BTW thought blufr was pulling a fast one so of course I was bluffed. Glad to see something different on the Amazon thing so I shall click on Carol Barrett which I thought at first said Carol Burnett. OK so I had a bad night.

bonnie said...

how the heck did comment come out dab? did I put da b? :-)

mage said...

I'm lazy. I can get good tortillas at my corner store. But it is sure nice to read you. :)