Friday, May 13, 2011

100% Whole Wheat Tortillas

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 eats, or tries to, on $6/day.

To look at these homely, certainly-not-circular-when-I-make-them concoctions, you wouldn't expect them to win you any kiss the cook awards. 

The first time I presented a plate of these unlovelies to Kip, they were one of those lip purser foods--you know the ones: Your husband looks at them. He closes his eyes, pinches his lips a bit. He doesn't say anything because there are children at the table, but you know as he sits down to eat that he's not planning to like it.

And then--and here I hate to brag (whatever, I love to brag; I'm just usually lacking in material)--Kip ate it. And then he ate another. And then he said, "I have to give it to you; those are really good." Since you don't live here and are not married to my husband, you may not understand the utter import of that statement. There was a food he didn't think he'd like. And he liked it. And he even admitted he liked it. In words.

Even more significantly, the second time I made these, I messed them up. I didn't get the water mixed in well enough and they were even less circular than usual and had some dry spots here and there. I didn't even think I'd like them. Lo and behold. Kip pursed his lips. Kip ate one. And another. Kip complimented them. And they were messed up. (I liked them too, for the record, though they are better not messed up.)

 Furthermore, homemade tortillas are not difficult to make. They are more difficult than buying a package and opening it. This I must admit. I will even admit that I still do buy the packages of tortillas--they're really great for easy, uber-fast dinners or snacks. But. And listen closely here. These taste much better. And they are whole wheat. I can only imagine how much better tasting homemade white ones would be, but that is a journey I dare not take for fear my family would never return. Additionally, the the actual mixing of the tortilla dough is a mere five minute commitment. You do need to roll them out and put them in the pan individually, but I still don't think it's much more work/time than making pancakes. After you've done it a time or two, you can even multi-tast and make the tortilla filling as you cook the tortillas. Give it a try one Saturday night and see if you don't become a convert yourself.

And of course, the possibilities for adaptation are many.
-You could, of course, use white flour or half white and half wheat. If your family isn't used to whole wheat at all, I'd recommend beginning slowly with the whole wheat flour.
-You could also go all crazy and foodie on yourself and add fresh herbs: fennel seeds, dill, basil, thyme, oregano, cilantro, coursely ground pepper.
-Or chop up some sun-dried tomatoes and work those into the dough.
-Or--how about a dessert burrito--where you worked chopped raisins, nuts, or dates into the dough and then served it with melted butter and sugar on top.
-You could add very finely chopped ginger and make an Asian wrap.
-You could do so many things with homemade tortillas that your children may begin to send hate mail my way. I'm okay with that. As far as I'm concerned, the more hate mail I get from little kids, the more awesome your food is probably becoming.   

100% Whole Wheat Tortillas
Makes 9-10 tortillas
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes (you may also want to rest the dough for an hour or so, although you don't have to)
Cost: $.25 (.50 with butter)
(whole wheat flour: .20, oil: .05--if using butter it will be .30)

Note on oil versus butter: I do like how the butter tastes better. But the ones with oil are also extremely good and a little easier to mix up.

2 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C canola oil or melted butter
1 tsp salt
3/4-1 C hot water

Stir flour and salt. Pour in butter or oil and mix together until it's kind of all lumpy in the dough (it's not going to incorporate perfectly or evenly--that's okay, but try to get it so it's not a blob of wet dough with dry flour all around). Add water gradually (start with 3/4 C and if you need more after you've mixed that up, add the rest). I try to stir the dough as I pour (or I pour in part, give a quick stir and then pour in more, give a quick stir, and then finish it off). Again, you don't want a big wet blob in the middle with the rest all dry and crumbly. After it's mixed I find I need to give it a few kneads. Not too many, but try to gather it together into a ball and if it's got crumbly parts, don' be afraid to mash it together and give it a few kneads (5-7), or--heck--if the word 'knead' has you all in a tizzy, just keep mashing it until it forms a nice lump. It's not going to be like bread dough where it's all smooth and elastic, but you should be able to form it into a sad looking sort of lump. If it's all crumbling to bits in its lump, add a bit more water and knead/mash it a few more turns. (Remember, even if you mess up and all seems hopeless and dry and butt-ugly, it will probably still taste pretty good.)

Separate dough into 9 or 10 even-ish sized balls. Roll them up like they're Playdough balls, only they won't be as smooth as Playdough balls. Rather, they'll be a little like Playdough balls made from Playdough whose lid may not have been completely shut--if you know what I mean--a few seams here or there in your balls are no big deal. At this point, I like to put the dough balls in a bowl and cover them and let them rest for an hour. It just makes the dough nicer and, um, dough-ier. However, if you haven't got the time, just roll them out and they'll be fine.

When you're ready to make them, heat a skillet--I use cast iron, but another type would work--to medium high. (I do not need to grease my skillet. If you're worried, add a bit of oil--such as peanut--that can withstand highish heat.)

Take each ball and roll it out with a rolling pin. Get it round if you can. I never seem to. Also, try to get it nice and flat--as flat as possible. Peel it up by the edges. I use a spatula, or, um, my finger nails to get it going and then it usually peels off pretty well. If you find yours are sticking, you may have added a wee bit too much water. No big deal, just flour your surface on the next one. 

Put the flattened "circle" of dough on the pan and let it cook for a minute or so and then flip it. Ideally, there will be an air bubble or two that will form--you'll see the dough puff up in a spot or few and then you'll know it's time to flip it. But mine don't always puff up with those lovely air bubbles--especially the first couple. If it's been a minute and yours isn't puffing, just check it--it should be browned in spots, like that stunning picture above. When it is, flip it and give it a few more seconds on the second side. If you find they're burning in seconds, you've got your heat too high. Turn it down. If your tortilla is taking several minutes (these generally take only 1-2 minutes on the first side) on the first side, you've got your heat too low. Turn it up. 

As the one cooks, roll out the next one (you know, if you're a pro), but know that these don't take long to cook on either side, so be careful on your first try.  

All those long paragraphs of instruction make this seem harder than it is. I wanted to make the directions as clear as possible, but seriously, they're  not hard to make. Blob of somewhat cohesive dough. Formed into Playdough balls. Rolled out nice and thin. Put in hot pan and cooked on either side. Give it a go. And don't be discouraged if your husband gives it a pursed lip stare at first. He'll come around.


  1. I'm making these right now (they are currently resting). I am pretty excited to eat them :)

  2. They were AWESOME!! Thanks for the recipe :)

  3. Yay!! I'm glad you liked them.



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