Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Better Tortilla Formula


The trick is to use boiling water, and to smash them as you are frying them.  Here's the recipe-

400 grams all purpose flour
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put all the dry ingredients and the oil in the bowl of your bread machine and turn it on. Slowly dribble the water in as the beaters agitate the flour. Let the knead cycle finish, and you're ready to go.

Roll out the tortillas as seen in the video toward the end of this post. The process is exactly the same, just bigger. You should get 10-12, 11" tortillas. If you make them little, you'll get as many as 15.

Heat a heavy skillet to medium-high. Make sure it is completely dry, or the tortillas will stick.

Have a clean, damp towel ready to wrap the finished tortillas in.

When the skillet is hot, lay a tortilla in the pan. It should turn translucent in about 5 seconds, when you turn it over. Use a silicone spatula to quickly but gently smash the whole tortilla against the pan for about another 7 or 8 seconds, then scoop it out and put it under the damp towel. Repeat until you've cooked all the tortillas. 

 Here are a few more technical pointers:
1. Use enough flour when you roll them out, or they will stick to everything.

2. Roll all the tortillas before you start cooking them. They really do only take about 15 seconds in the pan.

3. I have one of those large, super flexible pancake spatulas to do the smashing with. The smashing is important, it prevents the tortilla from developing giant bubbles which make them cook unevenly.

4. You will need a bigger frying pan than mine, like a 14" one. I'm going to be looking for one at goodwill.

5. As you can see from the pictures, one side of the tortilla has more freckles. That's because when you first put them in the pan, you basically just show it to the heat before flipping it over. That way you don't overcook it by accident.

6. You could put the hot tortillas in  tupperware or a ziploc bag, but I find that a towel allows them to stay moist as they cool without developing slimy spots. Once they cool off you can put them in something airtight.

What makes this a better recipe? The boiling water. I find that if I use cold water, the dough is springier, and harder to roll out. That makes it harder to make a very thin tortilla. If they're too thick, they take longer to cook, which makes them dry out of you use a lower heat, or burn if you use higher heat.. If you don't cook them long enough, they just taste like raw dough. In either case the texture is a little stiff and papery.

On the other hand, using boiling water partially cooks the flour to begin with, which alters the elasticity of the dough. This recipe makes a very durable, forgiving dough that is easy to roll out, but difficult to accidentally poke holes in. They cook up tender but not gummy, delicately chewy, and substantial enough to make a good burrito even when they are very thin.
So, what's in the bowl? Tortilla soup of course. This is a 'cheating' recipe, because it uses a can of Trader Joe's Cuban Style black beans as a main ingredient.

David helped me make it. My instructions to him over the phone at about 3 o'clock were something like

"Get the big cooking pot with the silver handle sticking off it. Fill it half way with water. Put it on the big back burner on high. Put 3 frozen chicken pieces in it, 4 if they're small. Chop up an onion and put that in. Open the can of chilis in adobo and put 3 chilis in the pot. When it boils, turn it down to 5 and ignore it until I get home."

When I got home at 7, I added a bunch of cumin, garlic powder, a blob of tomato paste, a dash of salt and the aforementioned can of beans, cranked the heat back up to a boil, and waited until the soup had reduced enough that it looked tasty. It was, very. You tear up chunks of the fresh tortillas and put them in your soup and they get all dumpling-y. You can add fresh tomatoes and cilantro, but I was out of those things the day I took the picture, and it was still very good.

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