Tortillas de Harina
(recipe from Authentic Mexican, Rick Bayless, Morrow © 1987 )

The first homemade-wheat-flour tortillas I remember tasting were Morelia, Michocan, of all places-far away from the Northern states where these are common. Outside the glass-enclosed kitchen of the Silla de Cerro cabrito restaurant, you could watch one cook care for the roasting kid and another rhythmically roll out ball after ball of white dough-four or five passes, and they were ready to bake on the iron griddle, where they ballooned beautifully. Like the best of them, those tortillas were steaming, tender and savory-tasting. After a lot of experimenting through the years I think that the lightest and tastiest flour tortillas are the simplest ones-those made from part lard and cooked over fairly high heat. No baking powder, no milk, and no low-fat approaches. They are easy to make once you get the feel of the process; your rewards will match the effort, too, since they are so much better than the bready ones in the grocery-store packages.

YIELD:12 Tortillas
  • 3/4 pound (2-3/4 cups ) all purpose flour, plus a little extra for rolling the tortillas
  • 5 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening, or a mixture of the two
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • about 3/4 cup very warm tap water
1. The dough. combine the flour and fat in large mixing bowl, working in the fat with your fingers, until completely incorporated. Dissolve the salt water, pour about 2/3 cup of it over the dry ingredients and immediately work it in with a fork; the dough will be in large clumps rather than a homogeneous mass. If all the dry ingredients haven't been dampened, add the rest of the liquid (plus a little more, if necessary). Scoop the dough onto work surface and knead until smooth . It should be a medium-stiff consistency-definitely not firm, but not quite as soft as most bread dough either.

2. Resting. Divide the dough into 12 portions and roll each into a ball. Set them on a plate, cover plastic wrap and let rest at least 30 minutes (to make the dough less springy, easier to roll). 3. Rolling and griddle-baking. Heat an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium to medium-high heat. On a lightly floured surface, roll out a portion of the dough into an even 7-inch circle: Flatten a ball of dough, flour it, then roll forward and back again: continue rotating and rolling until you reach a 7-inch circle, lightly flouring the tortillas and work surface from time to time. Lay the tortilla on the hot griddle (you should hear a faint sizzle and see an almost immediate bubbling across the surface) After 30 to 45 seconds, when there are browned splotches underneath, flip it over. bake 30 to 45 seconds more, until the other side is browned; don't overbake the tortillas or it will become crisp. Remove and wrap in heavy towel. Roll and griddle-bake the remaining tortillas in the same manner, stacking them one on top of the other, wrapped in the towel.

Cook's Notes


Combining Fat and flour: If this isn't done thoroughly ( until no particles of the fat remain visible), the tortillas will have an irregular texture.

Preparing the Dough in a Food Processor: Measure the flour and fat into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times, then run until the fat is thoroughly incorporated. Dissolve the salt in 2/3 cup warm water. With the machine running, pour the liquid through the feed tube in a steady stream. Let the machine run until the dough has collected into a ball. Test the consistency: If it is too stiff, divide pieces, sprinkle with a tablespoon of water and process until it forms a ball again. No additional kneading is necessary.

Griddle-Baking: The temperature is all important: It must be hot enough to puff the tortillas quickly; if the tortilla balloons up into a pillow, all the better, since the more bubbles the lighter the end result.

Ingredients: Lard and Shortening: In my opinion, flour tortillas made from all vegetable shortening are bland, but those made with all lard are a little crumbly and heavy. My favorite tortillas are made with 2-1/2 tablespoons of each.

Timing and Advance Preparation: the dough preparation takes 15 minutes and should be begun 45 minutes before you start baking; covered and refrigerated, the dough will keep for several days,, Allow about 30 minutes for rolling and baking. If you don't [plan to serve the tortillas right away, wrap the cloth-covered tortillas in foil and keep them warm in a very low oven; they will hold for an hour or more.

A note on rewarming flour tortillas: Though they're not quite as good as the fresh-baked ones, flour tortillas can be made ahead; refrigerate them wrapped in a plastic bag. To reheat, wrap stacks 6 to 8 flour tortillas (either homemade or store-bought)