Flour tortillas are so easy to make at home, it's a wonder more people don't do it. Oh wait; they're $1 for four dozen. That's why. Either way, making tortillas at home is both easy and fun.
Tortillas are a flat bread, and like all baked goods, tortillas contain various elements that serve very specific purposes. For tortillas, the most imporant parts are the gluten (created from the mixture of flour and liquids), the fat (here, vegetable oil), the flavorings, and the leavening.
Gluten, a type of protein that creates the structure and elasticity in baked goods—formed when two naturally occuring proteins in flour, gliadin and glutenin, mix with water—is manipulated by the amount of mixing. Cakes, which are mixed for a relatively short amount of time are soft and crumbly, while breads, which are mixed and kneaded for longer amounts of time, are tough, chewy, and elastic. For tortillas, we want something in the middle: a dough that holds its shape and won't fall apart, but also tears apart easily and is soft. To do that, we knead just for a few minutes.
While traditional flat breads can be as simple as mixing flour and water together, tortillas are known for their soft texture and rich flavor. The addition of fat (here simple vegetable oil) does the trick on both fronts.
That rich flavor also comes from the various flavorings in the dough. While every ingredient that goes into a baked good affects flavor, with tortillas the milk, oil, and salt are what create a rich, creamy, and salty flavor.
Lastly, tortillas are leavened with a very small amount of baking powder to help them fluff up ever so slightly during cooking. This will help create that just-airy-enough, soft texture.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus more for cooking
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup milk
- Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl until a dough forms. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it becomes elastic.
- Divide the dough into 16 equal portions and shape into a ball. Let rest 20 minutes.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball out into a very thin disk, about 6 to 8 inches in diameter.
- In the meantime, heat a skillet to 400°F. Once the skillet is hot, rub a small amount of oil over the skillet. Place the tortilla on the skillet and cook 2 to 4 minutes, or until it just begins to turn golden but is still soft. Flip and cook another 2 to 4 minutes or until golden on that side. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.