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flour tortillas with baking powder

April 23, 2012

  The previous post described the results of my first round of tortilla recipes in a quest for a tortilla which most resembles my grandmother’s.  I used Diana Kennedy’s recipe as a starting point. The recipe is found in the post titled “the first tortillas”. Vegetable shortening or lard were the first two variations  and bread flour or all-purpose flour were the second two. Then I repeated the 4 variations adding baking powder.  I stuck with the same quantity in each of the variations so I had a total of 8 different recipes.  It’s just a start.  Variations in quantity of the variables will come in later recipes.  Does it sound like I’m taking the fun out of  making tortillas?  So far not yet.  I’m enjoying eating and sharing them. It’s also nice to have a stack of tortillas in the fridge ready for a quick snack or meal.  There are other possible variables like using softer  wheat flours, kneading longer or shorter time, or using different quantities of ingrediants.   There is enough to experiment with to go on for a long time with just plain white tortillas.  In this first batch of recipes,  I could see and feel that using bread flour will make for a thinner tortilla.  There doesn’t seem to be as much shrinkage in the higher gluten dough. It stretches out easily and stays very relaxed .  All purpose flour dough resists being rolled out past a certain extent.  Besides flavor and aroma, I could not detect much difference  between using lard or vegetable shortening.  Rick Bayless in his “Authentic Mexico” says tortillas made with all vegetable shortening are bland while those made of lard are a little crumbly and heavy.  Then again he is using a different ratio of flour to lard/shortening than I am.  He uses a combination of the two.  I must add that the tortillas from the recipe used by Diane Kennedy resulted in the thinnist.  More gluten from the bread flour and perhaps the “lightness” of using vegetable shortening may be the reason.  At this stage, not alot is evident.

 My next round used the same 4 recipes with the addition of 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to each.   I had  more variance in size of bubbles or steam pockets.  In general, they were smaller and more numerous .  The largest bubbles seemed to happen when using vegetable shortening.  Even though there were more air or steam pockets, the baking powder did not do much to fluff up the tortilla.  The reason may be because  there is too much fat and not enough flour for the leavener to make a significant difference.  I’ll try more baking powder in future recipes.

My next batch will omit the baking powder and decrease the amount of shortening or lard.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Marcella Rousseau permalink
    June 25, 2013 7:58 am

    I love how you’re so methodical about baking. It’s like you’re a scientist in a lab. There are 3 foods that I’ve tried being more methodical: pizza dough, meatballs, and sausages. As many times as I’ve made all three, I’ve never been 100% happy with the turnout of any of them. I’ve experimented with English muffins using baking powder. I expected the muffins to rise more and to give me holes in the muffins. No such luck. It was like I didn’t add anything. Even though I’ve baked a lot of breads and pastries, dough is still a mystery to me!

  2. June 25, 2013 8:34 pm

    Marcella, Even after all the testing I’ve done, I’m still not totally happy with my tortillas. The traditional way to learn of course is by having the recipe passed down to you from your Mom or Abuela (Grandmother). I’ve always liked those from my family the best and still intend to get the recipe from my Mom. The one plus I get going through all the trial and error is seeing the nuances between the different doughs. As far as bread, I always feel like a beginner when I start measuring the ingredients. There is so much to learn. Also, two breads with the exact same recipe will not come out exactly the same for me because there are always those outside variables. I think that’s one of the things that keeps bread baking interesting. It would take the fun and drama out if all the loaves came out looking exactly the same.

  3. Betty Ramirez permalink
    February 4, 2017 9:32 pm

    I watched my mom make hundreds of tortillas when I was growing up.. I never saw her measure anything..she just put the ingredients in the palm of her hand then dumped it into her big wooden mixing bowl.. she also scooped the lard out of the can with her fingers.. I tried to get a recipe from her but of course she didn’t have one.
    She was from Mexico but lived in Texas so her tortillas were big hefty Tex Mex tortillas, yet they were still light at the same time.
    My mother is gone now so I have turned to the internet to try to perfect my tortillas

    • February 4, 2017 11:50 pm

      Hi Betty, Thank you for visiting my blog. Since writing this post, almost 5 years ago, I’ve made many a tortilla. I’ve found that a very important thing about getting the texture and feel I was looking for was having just the right amount of moisture. That only came with experience. Recipes are at best a good guideline. I’m always looking for a certain softness and “give” in the dough, I also noticed different flour brands will give slightly different results. I use “King Arthur” all-purpose when I want to go to my comfort zone. Baking powder will give a little fluffiness but not necessarily more softness. The tortillas that remind me of my grandmother’s (who was from the Texas-Mexico border area) are very soft but have a tender flakiness about them as well. They have some air pockets in them. They also roll up or fold very well without cracking. Store bought tortillas or even those from tortillerias, though soft, always seem to be solid and lack that fresh natural taste. My post gives my best results. I’ve managed to improve with time using that recipe. I don’t always use baking powder. The photos, almost 5 years old, don’t really represent what they look like now. My grandmother died long ago so I didn’t get to learn from her. Good luck in your tortilla making! Keep up the tradition!

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