It was the mid-’90s; I was in a band. We all lived in San Francisco, in the Mission District. My bandmates and I, we’d eat in the same two taquerias almost every night, then head to the Toronado to drink beer until 2 a.m. When we did cook at home all I remember are my girlfriend Aurora’s perfect flour tortillas. In the past two weeks I’ve tried to re-create the flavor and texture of those tortillas four times. My first attempts were terrible: dry, brittle, not chewy the way I remember them. Then, Chowhound Antilope shared this recipe from Rick Bayless’s Mexico: One Plate at a Time. It’s really close to Aurora’s, a little bit of the ’90s back in my kitchen. Thanks, Antilope!
Makes 1 dozen 6- to 7-inch tortillas
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup cold water
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1/3 cup shortening
You’ll need a cast-iron skillet and a food processor for this recipe
Step 1: Stir the salt into the water.
Step 2: Put the measured flour and shortening into a food processor fitted with the dough attachment. Pulse until well mixed.
Step 3: The texture of the flour-shortening mixture will be rough and clumpy. Use a spoon to even it out.
Step 4: Gradually add the water while pulsing for about 30 seconds. It will look like a shaggy mess. Pulse for another 30 seconds, then dump out onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a ball.
Step 5: On your floured work surface, roll the dough into a thick cylinder.
Step 6: Cut it into two equal pieces.
Step 7: Slice each half into 6 pieces, to make 12 pieces total.
Step 8: Roll the pieces into balls.
Step 9: Arrange the dough balls on a plate and cover with plastic wrap; allow to rest for 15 minutes. After 10 minutes, place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
Step 10: Let the cooking begin! On a lightly floured surface, take one ball at a time and flatten it with the palm of your hand.
Step 11: Roll it back and forth a couple of times with a rolling pin.
Step 12: Flip the dough, reverse the angle, and roll again. Flip and roll again if necessary—your tortillas should measure 6 to 7 inches in diameter.
Step 13: Cook the tortillas in the hot skillet for 1 minute—bubbles should form on the uncooked surface. Flip, cook another 5 seconds, and remove from the pan. Collect the cooked tortillas in a dishtowel-lined basket. Keep cooking and stacking the tortillas in the basket until all 12 are done. They’ll steam in the towel and become soft! Serve at once.
Photos and animated GIFs by Chris Rochelle