A family recipe

Tony Ochoa of the Cottage Bagel shares his beloved Abuelita’s flour tortilla recipe.
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Photo by Stacey Feyers-Salo

RECIPE BY TONY OCHOA

A tortilla is a type of flatbread that can be traced back thousands of years to people of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico. Originally made from ground corn, the ancient “cakes” have evolved over time.

This recipe makes about 10-12 tortillas and have a noticeable fluffiness to them compared to your typical flour tortilla. Instead of using only a teaspoon, or omitting it entirely, Ochoa’s Abuelita (Spanish for grandmother) used a tablespoon of baking powder.

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp shortening or lard
1 cup warm water (see note below)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt, and mix. With your hands, incorporate the shortening or lard until it resembles coarse meal.
  2. Add the warm water a little at a time until the dough forms and the flour is fully incorporated. The dough should slightly sticky. Note: tortillas made in the summer will require less water than tortillas made in the winter due to higher humidity.
  3. Cover with a towel and let rest for ten to 15 minutes. Remove the towel and divide the dough into ten to 12 golf ball sized portions. Cover again and let rest for an additional 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat your griddle on high/medium-high heat while dusting your working surface with flour, but just enough! Too much flour will toast on the surface of the tortilla and give a distracting texture. Place your portioned tortilla dough on the surface. Using a rolling pin, start in the center of the “ball,” rolling forward and backward. After a few rolls, the ball will elongate and form an oval. Rotate the dough 45 degrees and roll again in the same direction. It should now look like a square with rounded corners. Rotate 45 degrees and roll, rotate and roll, rotate and roll. Eventually, the rolling pin will round out the edges and you should be left with a circle of tortilla dough. The dough should be thin but not too thin that it tears when you pick it up. Special note: You will be tempted to roll in all directions as you chase that elusive perfect tortilla circle but Ochoa’s Abuelita would disapprove. “One direction only, mijo.” Trust the process and practice.
  5. Place the tortilla on the hot griddle. The tortilla will start to bubble. After a few seconds, flip using a fork or spatula (or if you’re Ochoa’s Abuelita – just your bare fingers). Cook on the other side for a few more seconds. Be on the lookout for great contrast: some nice dark brown spots where the dough has come in contact with

    the griddle while the rest of the tortilla should be off white. If the tortilla is not bubbling or you’re coming away with pale brown tortillas, the griddle might not be hot enough or the tortilla might be too dry. Try spritzing your dough with water, cover and rest a bit longer while you wait for the griddle to continue heating.

  6. Remove the tortilla from griddle and place in kitchen towel. This keeps your tortillas warm while you continue cooking and soften them so they are more pliable. Serve with your favorite toppings!

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