Sunday, March 7, 2010

How to actually use a tortilla maker successfully!

Okay, I owe you an apology - it was very mean of me to mention flatbread without telling you in detail how to actually make it. Apparently that left some of you hungry and headed to Panera Bread for dinner. I will try not to give you ideas without instructions in the future!

Now, I did just pass on the information to you in the same way that it was passed on to friend literally only left me a voice mail that basically said, "Hi it's me! Wow, my sister said that she tried making flatbread in her tortilla-maker by putting her bread dough in there and I tried it and it's awesome and I knew you'd want to try it, too! Talk to you later!" Yes, I did have to call her back and get a little clarification. I realize, however, that many of you may not be in the habit of whipping out tortillas once or twice a week, so I'm going to slow down and tell you how to git'r'dun.

I have also noticed that the particular tortilla maker that I, my friend, and her sister all own, use constantly, and love, has some scathing reviews online. Upon reading a good number of these, I believe the problem lies in the dough and the methodology, so let's get a tutorial put down here and now so no more of you have to suffer the fate of struggling for hours to make tortillas and creating only crackers. That does you no good at all (unless you like crackers with tuna - yum!), and to give up all together will cause you to miss out on some seriously yummy and nutritious food options.

First of all, the tortilla maker in question is the Villaware 10" Tortilla Press. As far as I know, it is not currently being manufactured. And as I mentioned above, the reviews on Amazon were scathing. I scored mine for a great price used on Amazon from an unhappy consumer, and if I were basing my purchase on the reviews I probably wouldn't have bought one. But I already had these 2 friends successfully using theirs, and I'd eaten their tacos, and I knew they would show me the ropes if need be. It's all about doing it correctly!

If you're not fortunate enough to score a used Villaware, the next closest thing would be the Chef Pro version. I heard through the grapevine that some other companies are launching tortilla makers this year, too, so if you keep an eye out I'm sure that you can find one that will work.

Of course, pressing it in a pan on the stove top always works, too. The results just won't be as uniform.

Okay, let's walk through the process with my favorite tortilla recipe:

1 cup warm water
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp salt
2 Tb chili powder
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
pinch of cayenne pepper, if you like a little kick
2 Tb lecithin (optional)**
1/4 tsp baking powder
2-3 cups freshly milled wheat flour* (usually closer to 2 cups, depends on humidity)

  1. Measure liquids into mixing bowl. 
  2. Add dry ingredients, adding flour 1/2 cup at a time, kneading in the flour until the dough is workable but not too stiff. Let stand 10 minutes. 
  3. Divide the dough into balls a little larger than a ping pong ball. It helps to oil your hands, and the board on which you are placing the balls, when you are shaping them. 
  4. Baste the balls with olive oil. Let them rest while the tortilla maker/press preheats. 
  5. Using the tortilla maker, place the ball of dough slightly off center on the bottom plate (slightly towards the hinge), close the lid and using the large handle, give one firm fluid press until you hear the air just start to squeak (My hubbie prefers his tortillas a bit thicker, so I've learned how it feels just before is squeaks, and that is when I stop). 
  6. Once you hear the squeak, release the pressure and open the lid
  7. Allow the tortilla to cook for about 30-40 seconds, then flip and cook for 20-30 seconds on the other side.

The 2 main tricks here are:
  1. Don't put too much flour in your dough - stiff dough does not turn into soft tortillas. AND
  2. Open the lid after you press the tortilla! I don't know if people just don't read the directions, or if they are trying to cook the tortilla 30 seconds faster, or what, but if you want a tortilla, you have to open the lid! A closed lid will make you a cracker. Especially if your dough is stiff! 
Most of the scathing reviews involved cracker-creators. I haven't accidentally created a cracker yet, and I always keep these 2 rules of thumb in mind.

*Freshly milled whole wheat flour?? Yes, I grind my own flour. It’s really not that big of a deal. When I want to bake something, instead of walking to my pantry and pulling out my bag of Gold Metal, I add about 8 extra minutes, walk to my pantry and get out a scoop of grain, walk to my mill and dump it in, flip the switch, make myself a cup of coffee and add a couple items to the grocery list, turn off the mill and retrieve my bowl of freshly ground flour. In the days to come, I’ll explain to you why I take the extra effort and few minutes to do that - let me just say that the health benefits and taste/quality benefits far outweigh the “inconvenience.” If you are not a grinder, never fear! You can use store-bought flour and make fantastic-tasting tortillas. Honestly though, if you’re not going to grind your own, don’t bother with "whole wheat" flour. Most of the vitamins have already oxidized or been removed to extend shelf life by the time you buy it - even if you get it from the health food store. If you do use store wheat flour, you’ll want to combine it half/half with white flour in order to get a tasty product. For 2-3 cups of freshly ground flour called for in the recipe, reduce the amount of all-purpose or store-bought flour by 1/4-1/2 cup.

Side note: If you are interested in learning more about grinding your own flour, is the place to go! They have information, and all the supplies you need. They also have a fantastic recipe collection book with all sorts of helpful how-to's to get your bread and other goodies to turn out perfectly every time - and it's only 6 bucks!

**Leci-what? Lecithin (Les-uh-thin) is an emulsifier. It gives yeast breads, tortillas, flatbreads, and pizza doughs that "store bought" soft, smooth texture. It also makes the dough less sticky and easier to handle. You can find it at baking supply companies and health food stores. It's a powdery yellow substance that resembles crumbled hard-cooked egg yolks. Seemed weird to me the first time I heard of it, but boy does it make a difference in your finished product! It's make from soybeans, so if you have soy allergies, steer clear.


I keep these tortillas around most of the time for snacks. My boys like to eat them with peanut butter and sliced fruit (especially strawberries!), with cream cheese & honey, as a wrap with leftover chicken, and topped with cheese melted in the microwave. Cook up a batch, and watch 'em smile!

So, that's the story on making fan-tabulous tortillas with your, that is...tortilla maker. =)

Next week I'll explain how to make fabulous flatbread!  

1 comment:

  1. Wow ~ That sounds absolutely fantastic! I never even considered milling my own flour, but I'll read that link you posted & see what I think. Thanks.