For a couple years now, I’ve been taking jabs at creating the perfect flour tortillas.
Now, any conversation evoking the word “perfect” ought to be subject to a clearer definition, doesn’t it? So here is mine. The perfect flour tortilla, in my view, should be unleavened (otherwise it’s just a thin pita), translucent, thin but elastic, flavorful enough to be a standalone enjoyment, and above all else, embodying a soft chewiness that you could feel in between bites.
It’s safe to say that the recipes I used over the years didn’t stray far from the typical ones floating around the internet, more or less, kneading flour, warm water (often ambiguous on the exact temperature), some sort of animal fat all together which is rolled out and toasted on a skillet. Simple, yes, and those aren’t horrible either. Anything containing that amount of lard just can’t be. But in the end… lifeless, doughy, and without flare.
Well that ends today.
You see, there is a place in Mexico called Sonora. Legend has it, that as far as flour tortilla goes, they’ve got the best. Large in diameter, tailored for burritos, their flour tortilla is stretched paper thin by hands and toasted only for a few moments on an inverted hot iron wok, resulting in delicate, see-through tortillas that had famed this region. People swear by it. And if there were a better flour tortilla in Mexico, it hasn’t been discovered. Perfect? As close as it’s gonna get.
So, It gave me ideas.
I took a couple weeks to really sift through the steps of what makes an optimal flour tortilla dough, with enough gluten in strength to be so thin yet chewy, carrying enough flavors that it runs the risk of being snacked away before anything can be wrapped with. Then for those of us who has not mastered the art of stretching a dough out to the extent of paper-thinness by hands, I have an ingenious solution – a classic technique of making Peking duck crepes.
Instead of rolling a single dough out as thinly as humanly capable, I stacked two on top of each other, separated by fat/oil, then roll them out as thinly as humanly capable. What happens is that when they cook, they puff and separate from each other, and what you get is two tortillas that are only 1/2 the thickness of what you normally could pull off!
Can you blame me for feeling clever? As you are peeling these translucently thin and elastic tortillas away from each other and marveling at their supple chewiness and savory aroma, and go on to ecstatically wrap them with everything in sight, well, you’d thank me.