When I first had to go gluten free, I learned quickly that the easiest way to survive this change in diet was to choose corn tortillas over flour. I live in Texas. My town is predominately hispanic. If we go out to eat, about 75% of the time it is for Tex-Mex food. I have learned to love corn tortillas over the past nine months, but my first love is really for flour tortillas. Those chewy flatbreads seasoned with their time cooked on well-used cast iron. I knew my favorite restaurant flour tortillas, and I could always tell when a restaurant served store-bought. There is no comparison.
Since I’m a self-proclaimed snob about flour tortillas, I took it upon myself to start making them from scratch in my own kitchen. My college years left me with lots of trial and error. My webmaster, John, was living with my husband (then boyfriend) in their first apartment when I first (to my recollection) took a shot at them. It was late at night, as the majority of our culinary experimentation and frivolity was, and I was tossing flour all over the place and over-kneading dough while John was earnestly applying all his body weight on the rolling pin trying to press out the tortillas thinly. The pieces would always seize back up into a rubbery ball, and the resulting cooked bread was thick and impliable!
Thankfully, I learned the key to perfect flour tortillas when I first used HOT liquid in my recipe. Suddenly, my dough transformed into a play-dough texture and easily rolled out into thin sheets of dough. These were tortillas that you could fold fajitas into and they wouldn’t break! They were thin, flexible, and chewy, rather than the hardtack from my college experiments!
But going gluten free last year officially threw a wrench into things. Simply substituting my whole wheat pastry flour with some other whole grain gluten free flour did not work. At all. And adding xanthan gum did not help either. But after reading about the baking properties of sweet rice flour, I decided to do some experimentation with my original recipe made for wheat flour and finally found success!
But here’s the warning you’re all waiting for: these are STARCHY. Sweet rice flour really functions more as a starch than a regular flour in gluten free baking. But flour tortillas aren’t about being good for the body, anyway. They’re good for the spirit.
Gluten Free Flour Tortillas
Makes about 8 tortillas
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup millet flour (I’ve successfully omitted the millet and doubled the sorghum before, but I think the millet adds a little more depth of flavor)
1 1/3 cup sweet rice flour (do not use regular white or brown rice flour!)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 – 3/4 cup HOT water
In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and salt together. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk quickly. Pour 1/2 cup of VERY HOT water into the bowl. My tap water gets very hot, so I used that, but the temperature you are shooting for is “too hot to touch, but lower than bowling.” Stir with a spoon to mix will. If the mix is too crumbly and is not easily coming together in a ball, add a little bit of water one tablespoon at a time until it does.
The texture will be like play dough. Or a thick cookie dough. You should be able to roll pieces into a ball without leaving a bunch of residue on your hands. But it shouldn’t crumble apart either. This is probably the trickiest part about making tortillas. Failure happens easily when the dough is either too dry or too wet. But if you have to lean one way or another… go a little wet.
I invested in a tortilla press last year after I realized that using a rolling pin was a time consuming pain with the great frequency that I make tortillas, but a rolling pin does work well. This cast iron model I picked up from the local hispanic grocery store was only about $10.
Line a tortilla press with plastic wrap and place a ball of dough in the middle of the plate and press down. Or omit the tortilla press and using a rolling pin. It doesn’t have to be perfectly round!
Now gently lift one side of the plastic wrap off the dough. Then flip the exposed side down on your hand and with the other hand lift the other side of plastic wrap gently off the tortilla.
Quickly turn the tortilla onto a dry, seasoned cast iron pan that has been heated to the point of sizzling if you spritz water onto it (medium to medium-high). I use a nifty comal I picked up from a local antique store for $12!
Now here’s another important trick. Tortillas dry out VERY quickly and lose their elasticity, gluten or not. The very MOMENT that you can nudge the tortilla around the pan, FLIP IT.
Leave the tortilla on for only about 20-30 seconds on the second side. Then move the tortilla onto a plate covered with a damp towel. What I do is dampen one towel with warm water, lay it out and place a dry towel on top. I then fold the layers in half and rest the tortillas inside.
Soft, pillowy, chewy tortillas perfect for breakfast tacos, fajitas, or slathering with honey and snacking on!