Monday, January 09, 2012

Tortilla Legacy

I have spent the last 18 years trying, without success, to make a flour tortilla.

I have high expectations because the minute I get out the flour  my mind wanders to  an afternoon nearly thirty years ago when I sat on a tall chair in my godmother's kitchen and watched her and her sisters make stacks of tortillas.

Three sisters. Talking and working.  Laughing and cooking. My memory as clear as the day.

Without need of measuring, they mixed flour, salt, (quite possibly) lard, and boiling water.. with bare hands. Heat wasn't a bother.  Once the dough was all mixed they placed large portions into the palm of one hand and by making a fist, squeezed out a perfectly sized ball through the circle made between the thumb and the finger. No gadgets, or worry.

They had heavy wooden rolling pins, without handles or fancy, and would roll out the thinnest tortillas without hole or misshape.

It may be the glorifying imaginations of a young and tender mind,  but I am certain each tortilla was perfectly round and nearly all the same size.

I remember the black, cast iron griddle, hot beyond reason, and yet they would flip the tortillas using only their fingers. And when the tortilla was done, it was quickly placed between the folded ends of a dishtowel to keep them soft and warm.

It goes without saying... these tortillas were good. Not like anything you buy in the store.

 A vivid memory of a warm day,  doors wide open, the sound of wind chimes on the breeze; tradition shared between women, and a little brown-headed girl sitting at the counter watching their every move... dreaming of the day she'd make tortillas too.

 I have spent nearly two decades trying to make tortillas like them.

This morning I found a recipe for whole wheat tortillas (sacrilegeI know).  I was stumped because the recipe called for avocado oil.  I have tried many different recipes, but using oil was something I'd never seen. I figured it would taste wheat-y and weird.

They didn't. They cooked up amazingly delicious.  I burned my fingers three times... but, oh! it was worth it.

I was so impressed that when I was done, I just had to know.. What would these taste like with white flour and regular oil. Would they come close to the standard that lives in my heart?

So I threw caution to the wind (and my current non-processed food plan) and whipped up a batch. My own brown headed kids anxiously waiting.

They aren't round. They aren't pretty. I had to use the knife to get them evenly portioned... but they tasted very much like a sweet memory of this brown-headed girl.

Tortilla's (as modified from wheat recipe above)

2.5 cups of flour

3 Tbls oil (I used Canola)

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup boiling water

Mix flour, salt, and oil in mixer until crumbly. Add hot water slowly. When dough holds to itself, it done. It will be very moist, but not wet. Shape into log. Cut into twelve pieces and cover. let rest for 15-30 minutes. Roll out and place on a very hot griddle until bubbly, flip and cook for about a minute more (don't overcook or they will be too crisp). Place in between two kitchen towels while cooking the rest.



Gretchen said...

Felt like a little blonde head was sitting by you in that kitchen, so long ago. Thanks for the memory--and I do expect to make/eat some when I make it out to NC, again. xo

Anonymous said...

wooohoo congrats my friend! Eat one for me :-) yum!