Once upon a time, there was a restaurant located in Fountain Valley, Calif. Mañanas’ claim to fame—fresh, hot, homemade flour tortillas.
Mañanas had a machine—a big, long, crazy machine—set right out in the open in plain sight. It alone was worth the trip, if only to watch a tiny ball of dough start at one end, go through a series of squishers and rollers, fly onto to a sizzling hot pan; get flipped at just the right moment, then deftly fall into a waiting basket at the other end. This thing was amazing—and super fast!
As a basket filled, off it would go to a table of waiting, hungry, drooling patrons.
Every Friday night, we and our friends were among those loyal customers. We’d slather those hot tortillas with butter, roll them up, and try to mind our manners while we scarfed down tortillas.
As quickly as one basket emptied, it would be whisked away and replaced with a full one.
I don’t have words to adequately describe how delicious, comforting, absolutely fabulous. The memories are poignant. We built deep, long-lasting friendships over fresh, hot, homemade tortillas. The restaurant failed, but the friendships remain to this day.
Here’s some good news. You can make tortillas at home. You don’t need a machine, although wouldn’t that be fun! If you’ve got flour, salt, baking powder, lard (or vegetable shortening) and water, and a heavy skillet or griddle, you’re there! You can do this, like now.
By way of background, tortillas are one in the world of flatbreads. Flatbread refers to any bread made with flour, water, fat and salt and then flattened or rolled. Some flatbreads are unleavened, meaning they do not contain an agent like baking soda or yeast to make them rise. Tortillas can be made with or without leaveningl
Other flatbreads, like Pita bread and Naan often include baking soda or yeast depending on the recipe. Flatbreads range from super thin to slightly puffy and even thick, but eaten without being sliced.
- Large mixing bowl
- Greased cast-iron skillet or griddle
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (363 gr)
- 2 ½ tspn baking powder (12 gr)
- 1 tspn Kosher salt (6 gr) (or ¾ tspn table salt)
- 1 cup hot water (8 oz)
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp lard (120 gr) or vegetable shortening, vegetable oil, or coconut oil (see NOTE 1)
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the 1/2 cup PLUS 2 tbsp lard or shortening. Use a pastry cutter (or fork) to combine ingredients until it looks like coarse uniform-size crumbs.
- Slowly, pour in the hot water, stirring gently until the mixture comes together and is not too sticky.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface (cutting board, counter, or pastry cloth).
- Lightly knead 30 to 40 times. If too sticky, add a little flour and work it in with your hands. Too stiff? Add water as needed to achieve a smooth dough.
- Cover bowl with a clean towel and let rest in the bowl for 1 hour.
- Divide the dough up and roll into balls about the size of a ping-pong ball for regular size tortillas, or the size of golf balls for larger tortillas, placing them on a tray or cookie sheet.
- Cover again with a towel and allow to rest for another 20 minutes
- When you are ready to make tortillas, heat a cast iron skillet or griddle to medium/medium high heat. One by one, roll out a torilla so it is very thin and toss onto the skillet or griddle. See NOTE 4.
- Cook on each side for only 20 to 30 seconds, removing while tortillas are still soft but slightly brown in spots.
- Remove and stack tortillas, and cover with a towel to keep warm. Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing tortillas in a covered container.
- To warm, heat for just a few seconds tortillas in the microwave, or wrap in foil and warm in a hot oven.
- Other oils or fats will do here. Traditionally, flour tortillas are made with lard. Alternatively, you can use vegetable shortening, coconut oil or vegetable oil. If solid, you will want to cut in that lard, shortening, etc, instead of stirring it in.
- Don't worry if you don't have kosher salt. Table salt is a fine substitute, just use less (3/4 tspn is about right). Kosher salt is not as "salty," which is the reason you will want to use 1 tspn.
- Make sure the water is VERY warm (hot, but not boiling).
- If the dough is too "elastic" and springy when you try to roll it out, let it rest a few more minutes until it calms down.
- The secret to tender tortillas, is to cook them quickly on a hot surface. But you don't want them to burn. Get the heat right on your stove: Too hot, and the tortilla will burn in spots. Not hot enough, and the tortilla will begin to crisp before you can get it to brown. Watch carefully, adjusting the temperature as needed. You want them to be soft, not crisp.
- Rather have tortilla chips? Cut the rolled out dough into wedges and bake them in a 350 F. oven until crisp. Sprinkle with salt or other seasonings of choice.
- Enjoy and have fun!
First published: 3-26-20; Receipe revised & updated 9-3-21
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