Flour tortillas get a bad rap, widely thought of as “Americanized” tortillas, but they are a staple in many regions of Mexico. Yes they contain fat and yes they contain white flour, but then so do more than a few commercial yeast breads. Combined with some rice, beans and a few pieces of pan-fried plantain, they’re part of Mrs. Pastry’s favorite meal. The recipe goes like this:
12.5 ounces (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
3.5 ounces (scant 1/2 cup) vegetable shortening (or lard, preferably home-rendered, is probably even better, butter is also an option, as is vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the flour, shortening and salt. Mix on medium-low for about 3 minutes until the shortening is incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. With the machine running, add the water and mix another three minutes (alternately, knead by hand for about five minutes).
Divide the dough up into 12 pieces of about three ounces each. Rolls them into balls and cover them with a towel to keep them from drying out. They can be held for upwards of an hour at this point if you wish. Using a pin and a lightly-floured pastry board, roll them one-by-one into circles about 10″ across. You can griddle them as you go on a cast iron skillet or stack them between pieces of plastic wrap, waxed paper or parchment. Covered, the uncooked dough will keep for a couple of days if you like.
To finish them, heat a 12″ cast iron skillet or omelet pan over medium heat. Lay the tortillas on one at a time, about a minute per side, until they puff up a bit and brown spots appear on them (I like mine more deeply toasted, but it’s up to you). Cool each one for about a minute on a towel, then stack them in a tortilla warmer or wrap them in another towel so they remain toasty for delivery to the table.
Cooled, they can also be refrigerated or frozen. All it takes is a 15-second burst in a microwave to make a cold and rigid tortilla warm and pliable again.