One thing I love about working from home is getting little bits and pieces of things done between writing sessions. In all honesty, it doesn't always work; mostly I get too excited/distracted by the little bits and pieces and everything goes out of whack and the day is ruined. So I try to get into the office most days. But sometimes - once in a while - I stay home and everything just works. I get to hang out with Quincy, get some washing done, eat a better lunch and everything on my work list gets crossed off. Those days make me feel like I'm really winning at life.
Tragically, today is not one of those days. But that's okay. I've written a little, nursed my slightly swollen throat with constant sips of ginger tea like the hypochondriac I have become, and I've made flour tortillas.
Homemade flour tortillas are both really easy to cook and significantly more delicious than the store-bought we typically find in Australia. They're fluffy, supple and even taste good cold - which is more than I can say for those snowy white discs in the plastic packaging (home very very late one night I ate one straight out of the pack and decided, even in my jolly state, that next time I wanted to taste a cold commercially-made tortilla I could just mix some flour with water to a smooth paste in a teacup and drink it).
To achieve that really nice crepe-like texture, you need to include some kind of fat. I will happily admit that these ones are made with lard, just as those you typically find in Mexico are. That super-white, greasy fat definitely produces the finest tortillas with the best kind of bubbling and flakiness. But I understand that cooking with animal fat is not for everyone. The good news is that you can easily swap the lard for an equal amount of vegetable shortening and get a really similar result. And yes, you can make tortillas with olive oil and even butter; I have and they can also be very tasty, but you'll get a different result texturally and a less authentic flavour profile.
The other thing you can change up is the flour you use. Here I've used a combination of plain and atta flours and I really like the flavour this produces. The atta flour is also high in gluten and helps to produce a lovely smooth and elastic dough that is really easy to work with. So even if you're a homemade pastry or bread virgin, you can still make flour tortillas. It's kinda like getting to third base in the world of breadmaking: not as risky as a yeast-risen loaf (home-run), with an end result that's less reliant on experience - but still very, very sexy.*
And third base on a Tuesday afternoon is not too bad. There's days left yet to win at life.
*I do not necessarily agree with this analogy, but I don't have time to think it through.
Homemade flour tortillas
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot water
1 3/4 cup of plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup atta flour (or wholemeal, or more plain)
75 g lard, roughly chopped (or vegetable shortening)
1. Add hot water and salt to a small bowl and stir to dissolve salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, gently whisk the plain and atta flours with a fork to combine. Add the lard or shortening and, using the tips of your fingers, rub the fat and flours together until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
3. Add 3/4 of the salted water and use a fork to combine. Continue to add as much water as necessary to bring the mixture together in a stiff dough; different flours will have different absorbencies. Use your hands to draw the mixture together in a ball and knead lightly on the counter until the dough is uniform and smooth - 3 - 5 minutes. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to rest 30 minutes. This will relax the gluten in the dough and make it easier to work with.
4. To roll tortillas, very lightly dust the counter top and rolling pin with flour. Roll each ball until about the thickness of poster paper, or just before it becomes translucent. Stack tortillas on top of one another while you continue to roll.
5. To cook, heat a heavy based frying pan to medium heat. When it is hot, add the tortillas one at a time, for around 30 seconds each side. They will bubble up and brown in parts. Don't leave them in the pan too long, as they can dry out and become crispy instead of pliable. As you cook, keep the stack of cooked tortillas covered with a clean tea towel, doubled over, to keep them warm and soft. When cool, they store well in the fridge for about a week when wrapped.