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How to Make Flour Tortillas

Why this recipe works Supple and flavorful, homemade flour tortillas far surpass store-bought versions, and the dough requires just a few ingredients (flour, salt, fat, and water) that are in most pantries. Traditionally, you’d need a tortilla press, but we wanted to develop a dough that didn’t require any special equipment—just a rolling pin and a skillet. We learned that too little fat produced brittle results that made rolling with a pin impossible; a generous 6 tablespoons of fat was just right. While tortillas are often made with lard, we preferred vegetable shortening as it’s already a pantry staple for many cooks. As we continued our testing, we found that too little salt yielded tasteless tortillas, so we upped the amount; baking powder, which is used in some recipes, made tortillas that were doughy and thick, so we omitted it. All-purpose flour performed better than bread flour or cake flour, which produced tortillas that were tough and crumbly, respectively. Most important, though, how we combined the ingredients turned out to be the secret to truly great flour tortillas. Adding warm water to the dough melted the shortening, which then coated the flour and prevented it from absorbing excess moisture. This resulted in less gluten development and yielded more tender tortillas. The tortillas cooked quickly—just 1 minute per side in a preheated skillet. To make ten 10-inch tortillas, double the recipe, divide the dough evenly into 10 pieces, and roll each into a 10-inch round; cook as directed. Cooled tortillas can be layered between sheets of parchment paper, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated for up to 3 days. To reheat, place the tortillas on a plate, invert a second plate on top, and microwave until warm and soft, 60 to 90 seconds.

  • makes twelve 8-inch tortillas
  • resting time 30 minutes
  • cooking time 24 minutes
  • total time 1½ hours
  • key equipment rolling pin, 12-inch nonstick skillet

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  • 2¾ cups (13¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 6 tablespoons (2½ ounces) vegetable shortening, cut into 6 pieces
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (7 ounces) warm tap water
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1). Whisk flour and salt together in large bowl. Using your hands, rub shortening into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal.

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2). Stir warm water into flour mixture with wooden spoon until incorporated and dough comes together. Transfer dough to clean counter and knead by hand to form smooth, cohesive ball, about 30 seconds.

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3). Divide dough into quarters and cut each quarter into 3 equal pieces (about 2 ounces each). Roll each piece into ball and transfer to plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days.

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4). Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), roll into 8-inch-round tortilla between two 12-inch squares of greased parchment paper.

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5). Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Meanwhile, remove top parchment from 1 tortilla and gently reshape edges. Using paper towels, carefully wipe out skillet, leaving thin film of oil on bottom. Flip tortilla onto your palm, then remove second piece of parchment and lay tortilla in skillet.

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6). Cook until surface begins to bubble, about 1 minute. Flip tortilla and cook until puffed and bottom is spotty brown, about 1 minute. Transfer to plate and cover with dish towel. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Serve.

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