Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tortilla Trouble

Hello Pinstrosity! Cameron here! Marquette had an appointment up north in the big city, so she asked me if I could take a break playing lizard mortician to fill in for a day. This particular submission has been on my mind for a very long time. Andrea e-mailed this in about two years ago, and when I saw it, I asked Marquette if I could do this one because of my experience in this field. While it would be pretty fun if it was about pickling lizards in chemicals, it's about tortillas.

The Original Pin

I have loved tortillas ever since I moved to New Mexico with my family when I was five. I usually don't eat regular bread at all when there are tortillas handy. So, when I found a recipe for tortillas, I became the tortilla man in this house. So, I can totally understand how excited Andrea was when she found a recipe for tortillas that was so easy.

Andrea said, "I thought this pin would save me from buying tortilla's on a regular basis. In my family we love making tacos and fajitas."

I hear ya loud and clear Andrea, make those tortillas!

The Pinstrosity

"I think I messed it up when it asked for 1kg of flour. I love to cook but have never seen that before. Not only did the shape not turn out, but they were super salty. It was such a mess to clean up too. This experience has scared me from trying it again."

Hmm, maybe don't make those tortillas. So what went wrong? Well, I stepped into the Pinstrosity Test Kitchen, and then promptly stepped out because it was a disaster zone. I tried calling FEMA to set up a camp here, but Marquette told me to quit whining and clean it up (this was before she left for Albuquerque, otherwise you would see pictures of how we shuffle dishes around to make room to cook). Anyway, three years later when the dishes were finally done, I started up the project.

First I quartered the recipe using this recipe calculator, because I wasn't too jazzed about having to feed the coyotes a wet lump of unappetizing tortilla dough if it really was awful.

Once quartered, I got to work. I pretty quickly found out that first thing wrong with the recipe featured was the lack of moisture. I forgot to take a picture to show you all, but there was no amount of mixing that would fix the problem of crumbliness. The tortilla is a desert food, and is very thirsty. These tortillas needed more water. I actually had to add a significant amount of water to the dough before it hit the right consistency. The dough should not be sticky, but it should hold together really well when you knead and pull it.

It's still thirsty

Which brings me to the next important point of tortilla making. Knead that ball of dough like a Swedish masseuse. This ain't French Pastry class, this is a dense piece of Mexican goodness, so get after it. The dough should almost be able to bounce after your done with it.

It doesn't actually bounce.

Afterwards, I let it sit for about twenty minutes. I don't really know why. All of my recipes say to let it sit, and I'm not one to argue with those that have a splash of that fiery Aztec blood, so I do as I'm told.

The next step is pretty easy. This dough is not supposed to be sticky, so I have never felt the need to dust with flour before rolling the tortillas out. Jazibe suggests flouring your counter-top, but I feel like you would just end up with more flour in the dough. Once again, I deviated from the recipe (I'm often told that I'm a deviant), and just rolled them out on the bare counter.

I have a specially made tortilla roller, which makes it easier. A French pin would work almost as well.

You want to roll 'em out pretty thin, because they do shrink up a little when they cook. These tortillas cooked up just about how I would expect. After they cook, I usually put the tortillas under a dish cloth so that they don't dry out too bad.

Bluebird flour. Its not the flour that makes it special, its the sack.

Now, I realize that all the Pinteresters out there think that pretty presentation and totally unrealistic picture equals tasty tasty, but here at Pinstrosity we know that pictures don't mean squat. Is the food actually tasty tasty? Well, I thought that these tortillas were pretty good, but they were a bit on the salty side, as Andrea pointed out. In addition, they got kind of dry during cooking, which may indicate that instead of more water, I should have added a little more oil as well.

Actually, they got really dry. 

Jazibe does tell us that we can use less salt in this recipe than what is called for, which gives some flexibility as to how salty it will taste. The only real problem I see with this Pinstrosity is the lack of moisture. Once that is corrected by adding some more water and oil or shortening, you should be good to go. I should have measured the amount of water I added, but maybe we can revisit this one on another post if we get some interest. Tortillas are a really fun and easy food to make, so I hope that you'll give it another go, Andrea.

(I don't have a cool signature)

Wait, Wait! Don't leave to check out all of your open tabs just yet! I have more tortilla goodness to share! The best part of of tortilla making are the Sopapillas!

Sopapillas are pieces of tortilla dough that are rolled out like a tortilla, but instead of cooked on a griddle, they are dropped into really hot oil. The flash cooking causes them to puff up like balloons.

Did you hear that? That was sound of your diet going out the window.

Any New Mexican restaurant worth a dang will serve these at the end of your meal on the house. We usually eat them with honey, but I've seen people eat with cinnamon sugar,  powdered sugar, maple syrup, or even stuffing them with meat and beans. This particular recipe we just tested did not lend itself too well to sopapillas, but my mother-in-law's recipe works pretty well.

4 cups Flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 heaping tablespoons of lard or shortening (lard is way way better)
1 1/2 cups warm water (the warm temperature helps soften the lard to mix well)

Mix flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in shortening. Stir in warm water and knead on a BARE surface until smooth and elastic. Divide into 12 balls cover with a damp cloth, and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Roll thin and bake on a hot griddle.

For Sopapillas: Cut tortilla into quarters and deep fry.

You're welcome.


  1. I don't know......sure seems easier to just buy the tortillas. Same thing with dog biscuits. Just easier to buy them than make them!

    1. It is easier. But at the same time, there is nothing like a fresh hot tortilla or sopapilla straight out of the pan. Those are the best! Sometimes we buy our tortillas, sometimes we make them. It all depends on what taste we're going for.

  2. Tortillas can be pretty easy to cook, don't give up Andrea!

    Cameron the recipe you got from my mom is slightly different than the one I got... Same ingredients, just cool water not hot. Then Mom told me to let it sit for 10 minutes after mixing and kneading, then another 10 after rolling into balls. Did you modify it like that, or did we just get different versions of the same recipe?

    1. The recipe we have is in Mom's handwriting, and Cameron typed it up word for word. Cameron says that the water he uses is about room temperature warm (which isn't hot, and I guess could be called coolish as it's not really cold). I guess we just have slight variations of the same recipe.

  3. Letting the dough rest for 20 minutes lets the flour absorb extra moisture so it isn't so sticky and lets the gluten in the flour relax so the tortillas are much easier to roll out. =) I've also heard that it helps develop the gluten so your food won't be so crumbly.

  4. I've never thought about making tortillas before, but I might just have to try now. Good job on the guest post! I liked your writing style and you kept me chuckling.

  5. Great post, Cameron! You should be a more frequent contributor! p.s. I live, literally, around the corner from Poco & Mom's in Tucson! :)

    1. Oh, jealous. That's one of our FAVORITES! We go there every time we go through Tucson. MMMmmm!

  6. I tried this recipe and it's great- nice and soft, not dry or salty. I think I've used butter or olive oil instead of just coconut oil.

  7. I learned how to make tortillas from a friend who made her own fresh tortillas every morning from an old family recipe. Even within her own recipe, she told me the amount of water needed depends on the weather. On humid days, less is needed, and on dry days, she needs more. It's all about making them regularly and learning exactly how the dough should feel.

  8. Carolyn Hansen that is the recipe that grandma gave to your mom and me. It actually calls for warm water. Grandma always let hers rest 20 minutes after forming balls. I use oil instead of shortening or lard and it is easier and just as good. Works great for sopapillas or Navajo tacos.

  9. For some reason I thought I was a genius when I figured out that fried tortilla thing on my own. now I pre spread butter, sugar and cinnamon on them and put them in the oven.


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