With what is being called an “arctic hurricane” currently dropping our temperatures to around -20 F (-29 C) today, I wasn’t feeling too inclined to go grocery shopping, despite the larders being quite lacking in recipe-making essentials. So, scrapping my original plans for this week, I, with a veritable forager’s mentality, took to the cupboards to uncover what ingredients might still remain. Amidst the remnants of near-empty butter containers, dwindling yeast stores, and a less-than-impressive cache of dried fruit, I did find a long forgotten stick of vegetable shortening, a sack of unbleached flour, and a fresh can of baking powder, that modern yeast-replacer. With these spare, yet limitless, ingredients in hand, and hungry for something warm and filling, I grabbed a skillet to try my hand at an ancient North American staple: tortillas!
Stemming from the great agricultural revolution of 15,000 – 10,000 BCE, corn tortillas are the product of North American mankind’s first attempts at true cooking. Before the power of yeast could be harnessed, flatbreads like tortillas ruled the agrarian diet. Now, because of our own cultural shifts, many of us in the United States have replaced corn/maize flour with wheat flour, a possibility first introduced by the Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. So today, we’ll be looking at how to make flour tortillas, instead of the traditional corn. Another modern adjustment to the traditional tortilla recipe that I was forced to make today involves the use of vegetable shortening. In a traditional tortilla, lard would be the ingredient of choice, but, with lard being an ingredient I don’t typically stock in my kitchen, I was forced to switch to shortening. Because I’m not a tortilla purist, I feel perfectly fine advising you to use whatever lard-replacement you have on hand (even butter could work in a pinch)!
Flour Tortillas Recipe
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (or white whole wheat)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon lard/shortening
- 3/4 cup water
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Using your hands, mix the lard/ shortening into the flour mixture until evenly distributed (keep mixing until no large chunks remain).
- Stir the water into the flour until it forms a sticky dough. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and need for 2-4 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, springy, and only slightly sticky.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Using a floured rolling pin, flatten each ball as thinly as possible.
- Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook each tortilla until the underside is crisp and bubbly, flip over and continue cooking until crisp.
- Place your finished tortillas in a clean, warm dishtowel, or in a tortilla warmer, to hold until the entire batch is finished cooking.
- Serve hot or cool with any toppings you have on hand! These tortillas are wonderful for tacos, beans, or quesadillas, and can be used for sweeter recipes as well (I’m currently enjoying them topped with cinnamon sugar)!
As always, thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next Tuesday for another international bread recipe that’s perfect in any kitchen!
Stay warm and keep digging!