Delicious Homemade Tortillas

Tortillas are an excellent vehicle for foods from many different cultures and cuisines; you can wrap up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your youngster's school lunch, you can drop tortilla strips into a spicy soup, or you can roll up burritos for an easy weekday meal. Store-bought tortillas hold together well, but they are an expensive investment -- homemade tortilla variations are amazingly delicious and eating them warm off the stove is a great cooking experience.

Freshly cooked homemade tortillas

Flour tortillas are the most popular to make, and also the easiest. You will need: 4 cups of flour (all-purpose white flour works well, though you can mix in some whole wheat if you want a healthier tortilla option), 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 2 tablespoons of lard, and 1 1/2 cups of water. Whisk the dry ingredients together, then mix in the lard with your fingers as you would butter for scones (until it resembles cornmeal). Add the water and knead the dough until it comes together, then knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide it into 24 roughly equal pieces, then use a rolling pin to thinly flatten one piece at a time, which you must then place in a hot skillet (over medium-high heat) and cook until bubbling; flip the tortilla and allow it to cook until golden. Remove from the heat and keep warm, continuing to cook all the tortillas the same way.

Corn tortillas are a little more of a challenge, but the reward is worth it! You will need: 2 cups of corn masa mix, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 1/4 cups of hot water with an extra 2-3 tablespoons, and 1 teaspoon of shortening. Mix the corn flour and salt together; meanwhile, melt the shortening into the hot water in a separate bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix with a fork, then let the dough cool and mix it with your hands, adding more hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until it no longer crumbles. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes. Split the dough into golf ball-sized pieces, flatten, and cook as above.

You can also make specialty tortillas, the flavored kind you might find at a health food store. From sun-dried tomato pasta mixes to red bell pepper pesto to regular pesto, you can mix in flavorful ingredients. These will often be moist ingredients, so be careful that you adjust the amount of water in the recipes so that the dough doesn't become runny.

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