Fire Life

Homemade Flour Tortillas

By Ryan McKay

Not much speaks to me like the freshly made warm tortilla, nada. Memories of the food I grew up with in California often come rushing back with every bite as I eat them full of shredded pork, beans, and rice or my favorite way, stuffed with avocado. Serving as the ultimate vehicle with which to serve a multitude of eccentric items, this is the pinnacle of street food vehicles.

I’m not intending to place any shade on this recipe, but it does take a little time, patience, and some experience to make these. Go easy on yourself while following the recipe, and play with the ingredients to see what works best for you. My wife (this really is her recipe here, as she has perfected them) and I have learned through trial and error some of the roadblocks to avoid and when to throttle the gas (i.e., adding the water–see below). When you get this right, you’ll never buy premade again, that’s a promise.

A few after the fire critiques: You’ll notice that I placed the weights next to the amounts. This is for consistency, as any true baker will tell you, as my cup of flour may be different than your cup of flour. I’ve used other oils over the years–olive, corn, etc. Just ensure it is a neutral oil with the noted exception of grape seed oil–that just wasn’t good.

 

Fuel

3 cups (405g) all-purpose flour

1 cup warm water

1/3 cup (80g) vegetable oil

1 heaping tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

 

Tools

Stand mixer w/ dough hook

Cast iron pan

Rolling pin

Tongs

Scale

 

Tactics

  1. Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of the stand mixer.
  2. With the dough hook attached, mix all the dry ingredients until well combined.
  3. Set the mixer to medium, then add the oil and ¾ of the water and monitor if more needs to be added. Mix for one minute, stopping several times to scrape the sides of the bowl.
  4. After about one minute, or when the mixture comes together and begins to form a ball, slow the speed to low. Continue to mix for one minute or until the dough is smooth.
  5. Place the dough on a well-floured work surface. Divide the dough in half, then in half again. Continue until you get 14 (50g) equal portions for small tacos or 23 (30g) for street-size tacos. Form each into a dough ball, then cover them with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let them rest for 15 minutes.
  6. After letting the dough rest, heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Roll each dough ball into a rough circle, about 6-7 inches in diameter, making sure to keep the working surface and rolling pin lightly floured. Stack the uncooked tortillas with some wax paper in between to avoid their becoming soggy.
  7. When the pan is hot, place one of the tortillas into the pan and cook for about one minute or until the bottom surface has a few pale brown spots. Similar to pancakes, you’ll begin to notice a few little bubbles. Flip to the other side and cook for about 30 seconds. You’re looking for the tortillas to remain soft but have a few small pale golden brown spots on the surface.
  8. Remove with the tongs and store in a covered container or zippered bag. Eat now and serve warm or allow them to cool for later use.
  9. When ready to eat later, microwave uncovered for 15-second increments (or until warm), then cover to hold the heat.
  10. Store in the same containers as listed above, as they will last for a few weeks if you don’t eat them all first.

 

Ryan McKay is a 12-year fire service veteran and a firehouse cook from Atlanta, Georgia. His goal is to bring the fast-paced lifestyle of the fire service with the slow-paced art of cultivating family and crew through the tool that is food. He has made an appearance on NBC’s primetime show “Food Fighters,” is a co-founder of the Metro Atlanta EMS Conference, and works intimately with the SafePath Child Advocacy Center.