RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—When I married my first husband, I gained some of the best sisters-in-law any woman could wish for, one of whom had previously married into a wonderful extended Mexican-American family in northern Arizona. Being a fan of both Mexican food and making things from scratch, I was quite excited when Rita told me she was going to make some homemade tortillas when I visited her once…and I can still remember my disillusion when she pulled the Bisquick box out of the pantry and whipped up a big batch. The resulting tortillas were delicious with just the right texture, but it just somehow seemed wrong.
You can make homemade tortillas out of organic whole wheat, GMO-free corn, and even a natural version of Bisquick, if you're in a hurry. Tastewise, they all beat out the ones in plastic bags from the supermarket, hands down!
½ cup water
2 cups natural baking mix, such as Arrowhead Mills All-Purpose Baking Mix
2 Tablespoons olive oil
In a mixing bowl, add most of the water to the mix and stir until combined. The result should be a single ball of firm but not sticky dough. If your mix is still a little dry, add the remaining water a little at a time until your dough reaches the right consistency.
Knead for about a minute, and roll into small balls of dough. You'll get about 5 to 6 balls per cup of mix used; start with more, smaller balls until you get the hang of rolling and cooking tortillas, then move onto fewer larger ones if you want to. When you finish, put them in the fridge for at least 15 minutes, or prep them up to a day in advance and refrigerate in an airtight container.
Place one ball between two sheets of natural wax paper, and flatten it with a rolling pin or empty wine bottle, doing your best to make it the same thickness all over. Don't worry if your tortillas aren't round, they will still taste fine. Cook each tortilla on a preheated ungreased cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat, turning once after about 30 seconds. The tortilla is done when it puffs up and you see brown spots on both sides. Wrap finished tortillas in a clean tea towel so they stay warm and tender. Serve them warm with butter (plain, or sprinkled with cinnamon sugar for a sweet treat), or use them to make Mexican dishes. Or turn them into chips (see below).
Whole Wheat Tortillas
These days, I prefer whole grain tortillas, and they only take a few seconds longer to mix up than the "quick" ones do.
½ cup water
2 cups organic whole wheat flour ("white" whole wheat is good; I like to grind my own just beforehand)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or soft lard (from pastured pigs, if you can find it)
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, including the olive oil or lard. Then proceed as for quick tortillas. With whole grain, though, it's better to refrigerate the balls of dough at least overnight, as it seems to help them hold together better. Make sure you refrigerate them in an airtight container.
• Flax-Whole Wheat Tortillas. Use the same ingredients as whole wheat, just substitute up to 3 tablespoons of the flour with finely ground organic flaxseed.
• Spinach Tortillas. Just like whole wheat tortillas, but you also need 8 ounces of fresh or frozen spinach. Cook the spinach, lightly steaming it in a little water if fresh, or per package directions if frozen. Save the cooking water, which you'll substitute for your ½ cup plain water. Blend the cooked spinach into a smooth puree. Combine the spinach puree with the flour, baking powder, salt, and oil or lard, and add just enough of the cooking water to make a firm ball of dough.
• Gluten-free Tortillas. Many commercial gluten-free flour blends make good tortillas. Just substitute the gluten-free flour for the whole wheat flour in the recipe above. Some mixes may fall apart when you try to roll them out, and they may be easier to work with if you add a ½ tablespoon of xanthan gum when you are mixing the dough in the first place. You'll have to experiment a bit.