It seems like forever now. But exactly one month ago we winged it down to Cabo Mexico for a one-week culinary immersion class with The Farm Cooking School. It was incredible fun, delicious, and nurturing. I made new friends I hope to connect with later this year back in Mexico, God willing. And I came away with new fun recipes – like these easy homemade flour tortillas – and tips galore.
Cooking in Mexico as Sabor de Rancho
The day we made these flour tortillas, we first bumped over 6 miles of a dirt road that wound and dipped along the coast of the Cortez Sea. Next, we swung along twisty paved roads up the mountains to Sabor de Rancho, an old ranch passed down through generations. This was our cooking destination for the day. And what a day it was.
Sabor is translated as taste or flavor, and we had plenty of that all day.
We didn't have tortilla presses or even rolling pins. Using only our fingers, we made flour tortilla dough, and formed small dough balls the size of golf balls. After a brief rest (for the dough, I should point out), we pressed the balls into round tortillas. Finally, we threw them onto a hot griddle heated by burning logs.
We made cilantro rice, refried beans and chiles rellenos for a very full day.
While the chiles rellenos cooked, the owner tucked a battery-operated radio into her shoulder. She flipped it on, and began to dance. Within 5 minutes we all joined in, celebrating the meal we were about to share, beneath a thatched roof.
There is something magical in the freedom of expressing pure joy. Being in the moment and embracing life together. It stays with me still.
Making Easy Homemade Flour Tortillas
The beauty of these easy tortillas is that they don't require any special equipment, and come together quickly. I've made them so many times now, it takes me barely 10 minutes to make the dough balls. They rest while I make the rest of dinner, and then cook up quickly. Just 2 minutes per side should do it.
And now we have freshly baked bread with dinner all the time. And that's pretty hard to beat.
Do You Need a Tortilla Press to Make Homemade Flour Tortillas?
Absolutely not. At Sabor de Rancho, we did everything by hand. But honestly, I find that a rolling pin is by far the easiest and fastest way to flatten the dough balls into tortilla discs in my own kitchen. Once you get the hang of it, it should take roughly 30 seconds or less per disc.
If you use a tortilla press, I recommend the wooden ones for making flour tortillas. They're more expensive, but work much better than the more prevalent cast iron ones. But if you use a cast iron tortilla press, be sure the dough balls are between 2 sheets of wax or parchment paper. You'll also need a bench scraper to peel the tortilla discs from the wax paper.
The cast iron tortilla presses work better, IMHO, with corn tortillas.
Note: I've not made tortillas with casava flour, so I can't comment on that (yet). But it's on my list of things to try.
How to Reheat Homemade Flour Tortillas
There are 2 methods I recommend for reheating tortillas:
- Place the tortillas between 2 damp paper towels and microwave for 15 – 20 seconds. (This is what I do.) If I have a large stack of them, I use a tortilla warmer (pictured above) that's microwave-oven safe to hold them, use the damp paper towels, and cover the tortilla warmer. When they're warmed up, I remove the paper towels, and replace the cover to keep them warm.
- Reheat them in a warm pan, covered, over medium-low heat. There's no need to add any oil to the pan.
This recipe is slightly different from the one shared at the Ranch. If you look on the internet, there are oodles of variations, and this is mine. For those of you who might have been in class, below are the changes I made.
- I suspect my flour, King Arthur Flour, is different from the one used in the class. I needed quite a bit less than we used in Mexico, as the original recipe calls for 4 cups of flour.
- The original recipe calls for lard. I switched it out for an equal amount of unsalted butter, as I prefer the taste. And for those of you following a strict vegetarian diet, lard is a no-no.
- Since I reduced the flour, I needed to reduce the water.
Easy Tortilla Flatbreads
- 13 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour, or 3 cups
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or 1 teaspoon table salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder (for high altitude baking: 5000-7000 ft), 1 teaspoon at sea level
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature or lard
- 3/4 cup warm water (NOT hot), plus a little more if needed
- Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl.
- Add the butter (or lard) and mix in well using your hands. The flour will become more crumbly with small pieces of butter no larger than a pea. No large pieces of butter should remain. The flour will become a very pale yellow.
- Add the water, a bit at a time, stirring the flour into the water using a fork, until the dough becomes raggedy. Spill it out onto a work surface, such as a countertop, and begin to knead it into a ball. Add additional water as needed. The dough should be smooth, not sticky, but not dry. If it sticks to the countertop as you knead it, add a little additional flour.
- PRO-TIPS: Be careful not to add too much additional flour, as that can make the tortilla more tough. For the same reason, don't knead much longer than it takes to get a smooth ball of dough.
- Clean out the bowl you were using, lightly oil, and place the ball of dough in it. Cover lightly with plastic or a towel. Let rest for 20 minutes.
- Divide the dough in half. Squeeze and twist off 6 smallish balls. Cover, and repeat with the other half of the dough. Cover.
- If using a tortilla press, place a piece of wax paper on the bottom of the press. Set a ball on top, and cover with another piece of wax paper. Close the press to flatten the ball. It will take a little practice to get the thickness you prefer. Repeat with the rest.
- If using a rolling pin, roll out each ball to between I/8" and 1/4" thickness. The tortillas expand a little when placed on the grill.
- PRO TIP: Always cover the dough when you're not working with it, as it will form a thin crust as it dries out.
- Heat up the grill over medium heat. If using a non-stick anodized grill, you won't need to oil it to cook the tortillas. I can fit 3 tortillas on my grill. If your grill isn't non-stick, use only a very thin slick of oil, as the dough will absorb it.
- Cook for 2 minutes per side, turning once. Remove and stack in a tortilla warmer, or wrap in foil to keep warm.