There are plenty of halfway decent flour tortillas available at supermarkets these days, but eating a freshly rolled one right out of the skillet is a pleasure reserved for the home cook. Nothing about the process is difficult. You don’t even need a tortilla press, although if you have one, here’s a chance to use it; if you want to make big ones, a rolling pin is the way to go.
Makes: 8 to 12 tortillas
Time: About 1 1/2 hours, partially unattended
1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons neutral oil (like grapeseed or corn), olive oil, softened butter, or lard
About 1/2 cup boiling water, or more as needed
1. In a bowl or food processor, mix together the flour and salt. Stir or pulse in the oil. Add the water slowly — a tablespoon or two at a time if you’re mixing by hand or in a thin stream with the food processor running — until the dough holds together in a ball.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it becomes smooth and elastic: 4 to 5 minutes if you’re mixing by hand and about 1 minute if you’re using a food processor. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to a couple hours (or in the fridge for up to a few days; bring it back to room temperature before proceeding).
3. Divide the dough into 8 pieces if you’re rolling by hand. On a lightly floured surface, slightly flatten each piece into a disk, then cover and let rest for a few minutes. When you’re ready to cook the tortillas, use a heavy rolling pin to roll each disk as thin as possible into a circle at least 8 inches in diameter, stacking them between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper as you work. To save time, you can continue to roll out the dough while the first pieces cook.
4. If you’re using a tortilla press, divide the dough into 12 pieces (you need less dough because it will get thinner). Shape each into a slightly flattened disk and let rest for a few minutes. Put a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper on the inside of the press, add the dough, top with another piece of plastic, and close the press. Squeeze the clamp as hard as you can; if you’d like it thinner, rotate the dough and repeat.
5. Put a large skillet or griddle (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Cook the tortillas one at a time until brown spots begin to appear on the bottom, about a minute; turn and cook the other side for a minute. Wrap the finished tortillas in a towel to keep them warm while you cook the rest. Serve immediately or let them cool, wrap tightly, and store in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to a few months.
Mostly Whole Wheat Tortillas
Substitute 1 cup whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose flour.
Boil 8 ounces spinach until wilted, shock in ice water (or rinse in cold water) to stop the cooking, and squeeze dry. Chop the spinach as finely as you can (or purée it) and add it to the dough along with the oil. Start with less water here, adding only as much as you need for the dough to pull together.
Dried Tomato and Garlic Tortillas
Cover 1/3 cup dried tomatoes with boiling water and set aside to rehydrate for 10 minutes or so. Drain and then mince (or purée) them with 1 tablespoon garlic. Add the mixture to the dough along with the oil; you’ll need less than the full 1/2 cup additional boiling water.