Back in elementary school, we were given a recipe assignment. The assignment was highlighting measurement units, all while incorporating a cooking lesson and probably a lesson on penmanship (maybe that was just my dad that included the penmanship lesson). I wrote out my grandma’s tortilla recipe, and cooked a few for my classmates. My parents saved the hand-written recipe, even to this day.
Some of my fondest memories are walking into my grandma’s home and finding that distinctive smell of tortillas unfolding in the kitchen. Thinking back on family recipes, both sides had very distinctive styles of tortillas: light and fluffy; hearty and thick. No matter what side of the family it was, a guaranteed fight would ensue over the last tortilla.
Those fond smells and fights seem to be limited in numbers these days.
This week, I decided to jump in the kitchen with my Tia Lupe to deconstruct that family recipe to share with you.
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup or ½ cup cooking oil (canola or safflower oil)
½ cup warm water
*Makes about 10 – 12 tortillas
Before getting started, you’ll want to have plenty of counter space to spread out on. Be sure to wash your space and hands before diving in.
Once you’ve washed up, mix your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Work each dry ingredient in slowly, giving care to each with your hands; mix well.
Next, gradually work in your oil.
This step is where I can mark the distinctive difference in recipes for both sides of my family. On one side, we had a grandma that used oil – the lighter and fluffier tortilla. On the other, manteca, or lard, was the additive giving the heartiness to the tortilla.
Back to the recipe, you’ll want to avoid dumping in all of the oil at once so you can get an even coat across the bowl. This process should take three to five minutes.
Next, slowly add in the warm water until the dough starts to take form. You’ll want to work with the dough until it looks smooth through and through.
After, you’ll start to form your tortilla balls. Use your best judgment to divvy out 10 to 12 balls with the dough. Shape each into a ball and knead on a floured surface. This process should take about five minutes. After each is rolled out, let them rest for another five minutes.
Next, you’ll need your rolling pin. Roll each out into a circle, the best you can. Practice makes perfect on this step, as the perfect circle isn’t always achieved.
Each tortilla should be rolled and then immediately placed onto a warm griddle.
Your skillet should not be too hot, but the temperature needs to be constant. A medium low setting is ideal.
Once the tortilla is on the comal pan, turn each tortilla three times or until you have just the right amount of brown on each side that you’d like.
The best tortillas are the ones hot off the comal. Grab one before they go!
My Tia Lupe, like all good cooks, found imperfections with her tortilla after we finished. But after that first bite into her tortilla, they were perfectly imperfect, just the way I like them. I enjoyed the time we got to spend together in the kitchen and, most importantly, we shared family knowledge and recipes that will get passed down for years to come; rewritten for us and you to enjoy.