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, oil and water, and a stovetop or grill, 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, and salt and then flattened or rolled. Most flatbreads are unleavened, meaning they do not contain an agent like baking soda or yeast to make them rise, like tortillas.
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 quick thick, but eaten without being sliced.
- Large mixing bowl
- Greased cast-iron skillet or another heavy skillet
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (Note 1)
- Combine flour and salt in the mixing bowl.
- Stir in water and oil until fully incorporated.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface (cutting board, counter or pastry cloth).
- Knead 10 to 12 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
- Let rest in the bowl for 10 minutes
- Using a knife, cut the dough into 8 portions.
- On your lightly floured surface, roll each portion in a circle approximately 7-in.
- Cook the tortillas one at a time over medium heat until lightly browned, about 1 minute, on each side. Serve immediately, or keep warm.
- Other oils or fats will do here. In fact, traditionally, flour tortillas are made with lard. Alternatively, you can use shortening or coconut oil. If solid, you will want to cut in that lard, shortening, etc, instead of stirring it in.
- 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. So watch carefully, adjusting the temperature as needed.
- 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.