A flour tortilla – a name given by the Spaniards derived from the word TORTA which means round cake – is a kind of unleavened soft flatbread made from wheat flour, fat, water, and salt. It’s a staple food in Mexico that gained popularity in various places in the world. The tortillas, so simple and easy to make, are the basis for a number of Mexican recipes such as burritos and tacos and can be used as a wrap for anything you can think of.
Origin and history
Tortilla, cames from the Spanish word TORTA which means cake, plus the diminutive -illa (for small), literally means “little cake”. Tortilla in Iberian Spanish also means omelet. However, Mexican tortillas have nothing to do with tortilla española, the famous Spanish omelet.
Originally, a tortilla is a typical circular, thin flatbread made from corn flour. Tortillas were first made by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica before colonization and are a fundamental part of many countries of the American continent. The origin of the corn tortilla in Mesoamerica dates back as far as 10,000 years BCE and was made of native maize with dried kernel which they called, in their native Nahuatl language,”laxcalli”. It was the principal food of the Aztecs and other mesoamerican civilizations.
The flour tortilla is a variant of the corn tortilla since wheat was not grown in the Americas prior to colonization. Flour tortillas originated in the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango, Sonora, and Sinaloa, where the territory is more suited to growing wheat than corn. But in recent times they have become both integral to Mexican—and Tex-Mex—cuisine.
Notes and tips
It’s really easy to make homemade flour tortillas and so much better than the store-bought. Here are some tricks and tips to make perfect homemade flour tortillas :
- The simplest recipes use only flour, water, fat, and salt, but commercially-made flour tortillas generally contain chemical leavening agents such as baking powder, and other ingredients. In our recipe, we’ve decided to add baking powder (you can definitely replace it with baking soda) to give it some leaven and a soft touch.
- For the flour choose to use bread flour or all-purpose flour. You can also use white whole wheat flour.
- Use oil instead of shortening since it will make the tortilla more moist and elastic. For a neutral flavor use unflavored vegetable oil but if you prefer, you can use another mild flavor cooking oil like coconut, olive oil, or peanut oil.
- Use warm water and add little by little to form the dough since the amounts of water will depend on the quality of the flour and the climate. The resulted Dough should be soft but if you end up with an overly sticky dough you can add more flour or if you end up with a dry dough add in water 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Don’t skip the resting period: it will help to develop the gluten making it easy to roll out the tortilla. If you try rolling out the tortillas and the dough keeps shrinking back, let it rest for another 15 minutes. The gluten hasn’t had enough time to develop.
- Try to roll out the tortillas pretty thinly, almost translucent. Thick tortillas won’t be soft and tender.
- Use a griddle to cook the tortillas but if you don’t have one you can use a cast-iron skillet or a nonstick heavy pan. The griddle should be hot enough but the bubble spot should be brown not dark otherwise the heat is too high.
- Once the tortillas are cooked, stack them up on a plate lined with a towel and wrap them up to keep them warm and tender.
Tortillas are the basis for a number of Mexican recipes such as :
You can even fry them to make tortilla chips.
- Corn tortilla;
Homemade Flour Tortillas
- 360 g wheat flour
- 80 ml vegetable oil
- 250 ml water, warm
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sea salt, and baking powder until combined.
- Add the vegetable oil to the flour and Use your fingers to crumble the oil into the flour mixture.
- Make a well in the centre and add the water gradually, then mix together so that the water absorbs the flour. Use your hands to bring the dough together. The dough should be workable but sticky to the touch to have soft tortillas.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead to form a smooth and soft ball, for about 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rest for at least 15 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Round the pieces into balls, flatten slightly, and allow them to rest, covered, for at least 20 minutes.
- While the dough rests, preheat an ungreased cast iron griddle or skillet over medium-high heat.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into a round about 6" (15cm) in diameter.
- Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
Sources: 1. Wikipedia - Flour tortilla : www.wikipedia.org. 2. History of Bread - Origin and History of the Tortilla : www.historyofbread.com.