Tammy’s Flour Tortillas
Four cups of all-purpose flour (you can make them whole wheat by substituting two cups of whole-wheat flour for 2 of the white flour)
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
3 teaspoons of sugar (do not use substitute)
½ cup of shortening (not vegetable)
1 cup of very warm milk
½ cup of HOT water
Mix together the flour, baking powder, and sugar. Add the shortening and work with pastry fork or hands. Slowly add the cup of the warm milk. Keep working the dough. Add the water as needed to moisten all the flour.
Knead for two minutes on a floured surface (just powdery, not lots of flour, use only what is absolutely necessary or none at all. Remember, that the more flour that is absorbed, the dryer the tortilla will be). Knead front and back, then turn ball and knead again. Dough should be firm and soft, and have an elastic feel to it.
Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 20 minutes. I cover it with a plate.
After the dough has rested, divide into twelve sections; roll them into balls in your hand. As you make each ball, knead it in your hand pulling the dough in with your fingers to tuck it in underneath the ball. Place the balls on a plate (make sure they are not touching) and then cover balls with damp cloth or plastic wrap for 10 minutes. I put them on the plate, and then turn the bowl over to cover the plate. (It is very important to let the dough rest; otherwise, it will be too tough and will not roll out to a proper thickness and shape.)
After dough has rested, one at a time place a dough ball on a floured (only if needed) surface, pat it out into a four-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin and about eight inches in diameter. (If you roll out piecrusts, you will have no problem with this.) Do not over work the dough, or it will be stiff. Keep rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook.
Cook, one at a time, on a HOT (a drop of water will instantly turn to steam) ungreased cast iron skillet/griddle until the tortilla bubbles up, on the top side, about 30 seconds. Turn and cook 30 seconds longer. Do not mess with the tortilla the first two turns. Turn it back to the first side, take a cotton hand towel, and push down on the tortilla. This will break down the fibers and allow it to puff up. Do this side for about 30 seconds pushing down on it and trying to get the bubble to expand. Remember to not mess with it the first two turns as it is cooking at the time.
Keep cooked tortillas covered; wrapped in a napkin or hand towel until ready to eat.
The tortillas can be reheated in a dry iron skillet, over your gas-burner flame or in the oven wrapped in foil. They can even be wrapped in a hand towel and heated in a microwave.
While you probably will not have any leftovers, you can store in the fridge tightly wrapped in foil or plastic bag.
Makes twelve tortillas.
One note for anyone trying this out- if you have never made tortillas before, roll them thin. If you think you have rolled them thin, roll them even thinner! Unless of course, you do like them thicker for some recipes.
The introduction of milk is so the cream from the milk will give a much fluffier, softer texture on the tongue. An integral part of good cuisine is how it FEELS in the mouth as you eat it. The use of dairy products is more about texture than flavor, just as in any sauce or soup. The cream is a base for the other flavors you include.
The reason why plain white sugar is added is that it does three things: it improves the flavor by making them brown more evenly (in my experience); and it keeps them just a little more soft and moist. Sugar not only keeps the flour from forming longer chains of gluten (protein), which in turn prevents things from being tough, it is also hygroscopic (absorbs water). This helps keep the tortillas soft and moist (but not soggy) for days.
A modest amount of sugar goes a long way. Just a teaspoon or so per cup of flour...not nearly enough to make them "sweet" or change the flavor in any unpleasant way. That is why sugar is added to rolls, etc. even though we do not consider them sweet foods.