Saturday, June 29, 2013

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Growing up, my working single mom arranged for me to go to a friend’s house after school in sixth grade. My friend is Mexican and her mother would make the most delicious flour tortillas just as I was leaving (around dinner time). If I was lucky, I was offered one of the soft, thick, velvetly flour tortillas, and I’ve never forgotten them. Thanks to Facebook, I was able to reconnect with my sixth-grade friend and ask her for her mom’s recipe. Of course, her mother didn’t make the tortillas from a recipe, but she looked on the internet and found a photo tutorial by Cynthia Detterick-Pineda. By the time this information was passed on to me, I had already mixed the ingredients following Pioneer Woman’s recipe. So, below is a blending of the two.  I follow Pioneer Woman’s list of ingredients for the tortillas (we LOVE these tortillas so much, I’m scared to try anything different now), and I follow the methods of Cynthia Detterick-Pineda.

2-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
2-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
2 Tablespoons (additional) Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
1 cup Hot Water
*Note: I used butter flavored Crisco and that’s why mine turn out with a slightly yellow tint. I want to try real lard next.

In a large bowl, blend the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
With a pastry cutter/blender (unless you are one of those, like my teachers, who always used their hands) cut in the lard or shortening. You want these ingredients to cling together slightly and hold a form when squeezed in your hands.
If the mixture crumbles, you do not have the shortening mixed in well or have too little (if it makes a hard clump them you need more flour and less shortening).
Add the water all at once and mix the dough quickly with a fork or by hand until the dough forms a mass.

Work it in the bowl, moving it around the sides to pick up any flour remaining in the bowl.
Knead the dough by folding it in half, pushing it down, and folding again. It should take about a dozen folds to form soft dough that is no longer sticky. 

Cover the dough with a towel or plastic wrap to let it rest for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Allowing the dough to rest lets any of the liquid absorb into the flour, which will give you a softer tortilla after cooking.
Take your ball of dough and begin pinching off 1-inch diameter balls. Knead each of these into a tight ball by folding them over with your fingers, turning and repeating until it is shaped like a fat disk. Place it to one side of the mixing bowl and continue to do this until you have used all of the dough. Before rolling out the tortillas, allow the dough balls to rest at least 10 minutes. This will permit the gluten to relax and make them much easier to shape and roll.

On a lightly floured surface take one of the dough balls and begin to roll it out. To keep a somewhat round shape, roll one directions, make a 1/4 turn and roll again, make another 1/4 turn and roll. Continue to roll and turn until you the dough is about 1/8-inch thick and 8 to 10 inches in diameter. NOTE: You can roll the thinner or thicker, if you like. Just remember to adjust the cooking time for how thick they are rolled. I roll mine the way they are done in New Mexico – slightly thicker than any store bought ones.

Heat a Comal, cast-iron griddle, or small skillet to about 450 degrees F. over medium to medium-high heat until water droplets "dance" when dropped on the surface. You might have to increase or decrease the heat after you cook your first tortilla, but you should be able to tell if the tortilla is cooking too fast on the outside and still raw on the inside, or increase it if your tortilla is taking more than 30 seconds to begin to “puff” when placed on the comal.
Place the raw tortilla on the preheated Comal and allow it to cook until it begins to puff up with air pockets, turn carefully since not only is the comal hot, the tortilla is hot and the air pockets may release steam that can burn. Each side should cook about 30 seconds, leaving the tortilla puffy. Press on a center part of the tortilla slightly to be certain the inside is cooked. If it looks as though it has compressed down and is a darker color, your dough is not cooked in the center and will need to be returned to the comal.

  • The tortillas can be place in bags or containers and kept for several days in the refrigerator, and they can be frozen (although I do not recommend this as the taste changes some when they are thawed).
  • The dough can be frozen easily before cooking and thawed later.
  • Store extra tortillas in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Since they don't have preservatives, they will spoil after a couple of days on the counter. 

Comal Definition - Mexican Comal or cast iron plate used to make tortillas. If you do not have a comal, a large cast iron skillet or griddle works well, or even an electric griddle can be used when heated up to 400 to 450 degrees F.
Notes on cooking tortillas: I, along with others who have been making tortillas for quite some time, will roll the next tortilla while the previous is cooking. Unless you feel very comfortable doing this, I would recommend either having someone else flip the tortillas and pull them off the comal, or wait until the present tortilla is cooked before starting to roll a new one. You will find that tortillas can cook very quickly (approximately 1 minute), and they can burn very quickly! If you are using a cast iron comal, and the tortilla burns you will need to scrape off the char and use a damp rag to wipe down your comal before continuing to cook. The flavor of one burnt tortilla can ruin the remainder of the batch. 
As you pull the tortillas off the comal, place them in a tortilla warmer or on a plate (lined with a dish towel or paper towels to keep them warm).
Storing fresh-made tortillas:

The House that Love Built

Beth Wiseman's The House that Love Built is an easy and comforting read. This is my first Beth Wiseman book, and based off this one, I would be interested to read more of her work.

The Love Shack (Beach House No. 9 series)

The third in Christie Ridgway's Beach House No. 9 series, The Love Shack is a good read. I've read the first and the third in the series now, and am waiting for my copy of number 2 from the library. Four out of five stars!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

1 Year Old

I had the privilege of photographing a returning client. First I got to meet and photograph him at 5 days old, and now I get to see him nearly a year later almost ready to turn one. This little guy is full of smiles and we had a great day at the park playing with bubbles and watching him walk.

Crush on You by Christie Ridgway

My first Christie Ridgeway book was Beach House No. 9 (the first in the series). I really enjoyed  Beach House No. 9, so while waiting for the second and third books in the series to come out this summer, I ordered her other books from the library. First up was Crush on You.  ...sigh... The two main characters were disappointing. It took a long time for me to get into this story, and the only reason I kept reading was because of the story of the secondary characters, which I found much more realistic and endearing that the story of the main characters (that and I had NO other books to read at the time!). I give this two out of five stars.