Butter Tortillas.

I'm sure you've heard we are once again living in the golden age of butter.  Butter makes everything better, and I can't tell you how liberating it is to just use it without the guilt of the low-fat '90's plaguing me.  My whole outlook on fat has obviously changed for the better over the past several  years, and strangely I not gained a single pound in the process (well, not counting the gains and loss of baby weight...).  While eating more fat, I have also never purchased less prepared food in my life: in part due to our economic status, but even more because whenever I read a label, I lose my appetite.

There are quite a few "convenience" foods that I haven't bought it ages and canned beans and tortillas top the list.  For years, I quietly made my own corn tortillas using Maseca and an aluminum tortilla press that someone gave me years ago.  I never made flour tortillas; my Mom always made them without a recipe, and hers were untouchable good.  Then two things happened.  My aluminum press broke, and Deena posted about some whole wheat flour tortillas that I tried and loved.  They were made with a ratio, not by feel and I could handle that.

I used her post as my only recipe for a long time, probably exclusively for about a year after my tortilla press bit the dust.  Then by chance, I was leafing through Peter Reinhart's Crust and Crumb - still one of my favorite bread books ever.  How had I never seen there was a tortilla recipe there?  How could a tortilla made with softened butter be bad?  I had to experiment.


Not only are these consistently good, I found that I could use virtually any flour and have them turn out wonderfully.  I've used all whole wheat and part whole wheat, high-protein bread flour, or spelt, or whatever I've had ground and needing to be used up.  I remember to take out some butter early in the day and by the time I'm ready to mix up the dough it's soft and ready to go.

Before being forced to master the flour tortilla, I never let my cast iron heat up long enough.  Awhile back, my Mom bought me a double burner cast iron comal when we were shopping at our favorite "junk shop".  It was like new, and took very little reseasoning to get it conditioned.  This allows me to make tortillas twice as fast.  A batch of 8 can be done in about 20 minutes if I let the iron heat for about 10 minutes before I'm ready to start griddling them.  And 20 minutes standing over my stove tending to the rest of the meal simultaneously makes me feel like the best kind of multitasker. 

I like to mix up the tortilla dough several hours before using it.  It seems to hydrate the dough - and somehow makes the whole process feel like less work.  Many times, I'll cook the tortillas before I even start the rest of the dinner - nestling them in blankets of tea towels to keep them warm and pliable.  I used to try to roll them too thin, now I aim for a slightly more substantial feel.  I'm also lucky to have a Roul'Pat for my counter, which lets me use less flour when rolling too.  I use that for all of my breadmaking as well, so I'd recommend it as a good investment if you do a lot of baking, or as a gift for someone you know who does.

I form the dough into balls, and then let them sit up to several hours until I'm ready to griddle them.

I find this makes the perfect amount for one meal with perhaps a few leftover depending on our appetites.  Double the recipe easily if you'd like more. They do hold well for a few days in the refrigerator, but then I like to steam them in some sort of creative stovetop contraption before serving them.  If toasted, they become nicely brittle: make them into homemade chips or tostada shells easily by baking them for 10 minutes or so at 350.

Flour Tortillas made with Butter (Peter Reinhart's ratio)
8 tortillas
  • 8 oz. (1 3/4 c.) bread flour (I like half whole wheat and half AP flour most of the time)
  • big pinch of salt
  • 2 oz. (half a stick or 1/4 c.) room temperature butter
  • 4 oz. (1/2 c.) warm water
Combine flour, salt, and butter in a large bowl and use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until it is evenly coated and no large pieces of butter remain.  (I usually taste the dough to see if the salt is to my liking.)  Pour the warm water over and use your hand or a wooden spoon to form a rough dough.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead a few times to form into a smooth round ball.  (Because I like to let the dough sit for so long, I don't spend too much time kneading it as time is my ally in hydrating and developing the gluten.  If you are going to use the dough soon after making, knead for 2-3 minutes to form a better dough.)

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a tight round.  Cover with a bowl (the same one used for mixing works) or plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.  Heat iron skillet over medium to medium-high for 10 minutes before cooking them (a drop of water should sizzle and evaporate quickly - you'll need to reduce the heat then because the cast iron retains heat so well).  Roll out each ball of dough to about an 8 inch circle using a bit of flour.  Try not to have an excess of flour as you transfer them to the pan or they can burn on the griddle.  Cook on the first side until large bubbles start to form, then flip and cook the on the opposite side.  Once browned, flip over if needed to finish cooking on the first side.  Meanwhile, you can roll your next tortilla and have it ready to go by the time the first one is finished cooking.

Stack the just cooked tortillas in a stack of tea towels to keep them warm.


So just why haven't I bought another tortilla press yet?  In part because flour tortillas are just so good.  I also really do not want to waste money on another cheaply made aluminum press.  I have my eye on this $75 beauty, but better I want to have my brother make one for me.  With wooden plates more than an inch thick, it won't warp and will always press a tortilla perfectly flat... not to mention it will be something I'll have forever.  I'm actually glad I don't have one yet because in the time frame since I've been missing it, Mexico went corn-GMO free - so the Maseca of the future will be better for all of us.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and in my case, the mother of mastery since I no longer am phobic of making sub-par flour tortillas.  They still aren't my Mom's, but they are very good and I can make them almost as fast as corn tortillas.  I generally make something involving the tortilla once a week, so this past year I might have made as many as 30 dozen tortillas, and I am now completely sold on them made with butter. 

Just this week I saw that America's Test Kitchen released a tortilla making video, not using butter but also using warm water.  Give it a look for some science behind that - and for another recipe to try.

Sprouted Grain Flour

I have wanted to sprout grains and make flour for quite awhile. I tend to read a lot of different things around the Internet and in books, and then mentally compile them into a rational reason for doing something. Certainly, it's easier to open a bag of flour and make a baked good, but the more I read about flours, chemicals, digestion, and nutrition, the more sprouting seems to make good sense to me.

Obviously, I am the type who often makes more work for herself than needed - and the truth of that is that I have the time and I enjoy it. As I read frequently by electronic means, I consider how I'd make a good Amishwoman excepting of this technology thing. Oh, and the dresses - not too sure I could swing that either. A few things withstanding, the Amish way of life is close to what I'd like if I could choose anything. The idea of making whatever I need, bartering with others, and country living all appeal to me greatly. I may lose a Husband if I ever felt I needed to act on this urge, but truly I am happy being urban-ish "amish" for now. Especially if I can make, barter, and discover on a whim, and with the aid of a computer.

soft wheat berries.

The Amish are in a time freeze somewhere around 1860, probably before the smooth mechanization and distribution of flour. From all of my readings on sprouting wheat (and other grains), I take away that sprouting wheat increases both digestibility and food enzymes and decreases phytic acid: the acid found in nuts, seeds, and grains that is undigestible to humans. When the grain is soaked and allowed to begin germination, the phytic acid breaks down, allowing the nutrition in the grain itself to enter our systems.

I think of the Amish, because every Fall, I witness the sheaves of corn and occasionally wheat dotting the countryside near my Parent's farm. I figure that even though most of that grain is likely going to livestock and is not for human consumption, it is most likely healthier for those ruminants because essentially it is sprouted. The sheaves are left standing in the elements, even the rain, and then allowed to dry - the way our ancestors likely treated their grains by necessity. When demand and modernization caught up with us, the grains and flours were able to be processed quickly, more efficiently. The once nutritional flour powerhouse we are left with is basically plain and white, devoid of life-giving, healthful properties.


I won't lie. It takes time to sprout. Largely unattended time, but time nonetheless. Purchasing sprouted flour is costly, and really I have never considered it. My curiosity for most things culinary, and my new VitaMix that can actually grind wheat into flour, led me down the road of sprouted flour. I have to say it will be hard to turn around. After my first batch of soft wheat berries was ground up into flour, it bore no resemblance to anything I ever thought of as flour.

sprouted to tiniest tails.

The smell, and taste for that matter, of the freshly ground, sprouted and dried grain is incredible. I can't describe it, it's just wholesome and clean. I have no dehydrator so I dried the sprouted berries in the oven at my lowest temperature, 170 degrees. I left the oven door open with a wooden spoon, and frequently put my hands in to toss the grains around on the baking sheet. It took about 3 hours until the grains were dried, a much shorter time than I was expecting after reading around... but I chomped on a few and confirmed that they were fully dried.

After they cooled, I stored them in the freezer until yesterday when I decided I couldn't wait anymore to grind them. Since I sprouted the only wheat berries I had on hand, I didn't know if they were hard wheat (suitable for bread making) or soft. Yesterday when I visited the bulk bins at my co-op, I knew by sight that they were soft wheat, probably purchased for salad making. My dreams of making my first homemade, sprouted wheat flour into bread was gone, but a healthy baked good could result. I picked up some more hard wheat berries and some spelt berries to experiment with and headed home to figure out what to make.

sprouted, dehydrated wheat berries.

sprouted wheat flour.

I have to gear up to make my Daring Baker challenge, so I didn't want to make a cake. I settled quickly on making some cookies, which are wholesome enough to showcase the brilliance of this new sprouted flour. (And, the Boy-O devoured them too!) They were delicious, and I should have made a whole batch instead of a half... since these aren't going to last too long. For the half batch, I used 2 eggs, which worked out fine.

Sprouted Wheat Cookies (from GNOWFLINS)

(this is the whole batch amount, about 4 1/2 - 5 dozen)
  • 1 cup unrefined, virgin coconut oil, softened
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 3 eggs (or they recommend 1/4 cup flax seed meal + 3/4 cup pure water)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2-1/4 cups sprouted wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (soaking recommended, but I did not do that)

Cream together room temperature coconut oil and honey in large mixing bowl.

Add eggs to mixing bowl (or the flax seed/water mixture that has been mixed and allowed to stand for 5 minutes) along with vanilla and beat.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt in a medium size bowl, and add to wet ingredients in mixing bowl. Mix until just combined.

Add chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, and oats to mixing bowl. Mix gently until just incorporated.

Drop by tablespoons full onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.

Be sure to drop by the GNOWFGLINS website, as there is an enormous amount of information and great looking "traditional foods" recipes!

We do live in a "gluten-centric" culture here in America, and I have to wonder if that may account for the seeming increase in gluten allergy. My Husband's box of highly colored and sugared cereal even touts "whole grain" and "high in vitamin D", the buzz words that cause and reinforce consumer purchase. But what is whole grain? From now on, my whole grain is going to be an actual whole grain berry if I can swing it. The cost differential isn't that great, and if I am half as happy with the bread as I was with my cookies, it will be well worth it.

I'm sure this will not be the end of my sprouted grain tinkering. Here is a (partial) list of things I've been reading lately on sprouting: