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Mar 1, 2013 12:57 PM

Keeping wheat tortillas soft

As I mentioned in another thread, I'm planning to have some people over for tacos. I want to make wheat tortillas. I've tested and verified that the tortillas can be rolled out and kept in plastic in the fridge over night, then cooked the day after. Saves lots of time.

The problem now is that these tortillas seem to go hard very quickly. When testing today, I warmed a ceramic bowl, then stored the tortillas in a kitchen towel in the bowl. Tortillas stay warm-ish and soft in the towel - so far, so good. However, when grabbing one and filling it, it starts to get stiff before I get to start eating it. What can I do to improve on the situation? Keep them hotter? More fat?

For completeness, here's the recipe I'm using:

5 tbsp lard
2 2/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup warm water

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  1. Maybe dampen the towel slightly and then put a lid on top? Or perhaps just the lid? I like to put warm tortillas of all sorts in a lidded, towel-lined casserole dish. Generally when things become stiff or dry, it's good old moisture that's lacking, in my experience. Your dry towel and no lid might be sucking out moisture.

    Now, someone who really knows the right answer should please chime in ;-)

    1 Reply
    1. re: sandylc

      Ah, of course, dampening the towel will definitely help. I forgot to add that I did stick a plate on top as a lid :)

    2. Heat before eat!

      Alton Brown does it in the microwave. " Microwave for 1 minute in the damp tea towel to reheat." at: and can compare your recipe to his. If do an internet search for "flour tortilla recipe" you can find other if want further recipe comparison.

      Under a damp towel on a damp towel in the oven at about 225 in a closed container will steam them. I usually fold the damp towel in half to be both on the top and the bottom.

      My Spanish friends prefer a cast iron pan (one or a few at a time). If your pan is well seasoned go for it without oil. If need to use lard, bacon grease, olive oil, ... so the pan does not stick use only a little at a time or will make them greasy. The trick is to use only enough so that just one side gets oily with the other mostly dry. You will get the hang of it after do a few. Put the more wet side inside (if have one) so your hands do not get oily as consume.

      3 Replies
      1. re: smaki

        Yup, that's what I do - reheat the tortillas just before serving.

        Also, you could try milk or yoghurt in the place of water in your dough. Milk products make dough softer. My go-to naan recipe uses water buffalo curd (similar in texture to thick yoghurt), which has even more fat in it than full fat cows milk, and that naan is sooooft.

        1. re: smaki

          I will be cooking them just before eating them, I just need to keep them warm enough to not go stiff.

          1. re: cjohansen

            Keep warm in the oven after make fresh between a folded damp towel. Yours are not warm enough if get stiff when eating them or too dry somehow. Heat softens them. So does a little moisture. 225 degrees F would do it. Above the boiling point a towel steams to add enough moisture they do not dry out in the oven. TIP: Do not get too wet or will be gummy and nasty.

            It appears you want everyone to eat together - not one at a time directly after each tortilla cooks. The problem is by the time you get them all made the first ones will be too cold (maybe dry) so become stiff.

            Heat before eat is my suggestion to improve your situation, or have hard tortillas. They must be hot enough (and moist) when consume to not 'get stiff'.

        2. Go ahead and flame me for this, but tacos are made with corn tortillas, so are enchiladas. If you use wheat flour, you're making burritos.
          Having said that, good for you for trying out flour tortillas from scratch!

          8 Replies
          1. re: EWSflash

            Yes...I wasn't sure if I should mention that.

            1. re: EWSflash

              I would never flame you for that but I do respectfully and firmly disagree, at least and especially with regard to tacos.

              It is not uncommon in Mexico to be offered a choice of corn or flour tortillas. Flour tortillas are more common in the north of the country whereas corn is the default from the center and down, roughly speaking. But whatever the tortilla is made of, it's still a taco.

              As for enchiladas, that's a question I once wondered: Are they ever made with flour tortillas? I managed to find a number of Mexican recipes that called for flour tortillas, so yes, that beast does exist. However it seems to me extremely rare, and with good reason. Flour tortillas get rather gummy when coated in a chile sauce. Corn tortillas don't have that problem. I'm pretty sure the vast majority of the time enchiladas are made with corn tortillas.

              And just FWIW, on the subject of enchiladas, "enchilada" in Mexico does not necessarily mean rolling tortillas around a filling and covering with sauce, and it certainly does not imply baking. A tortilla simply coated in a chile sauce, folded over once or twice, and possibly topped with some crumbled cheese, maybe some sliced onion -- that's an enchilada.

              1. re: EWSflash

                I was under the impression that a taco was any filling folded (as opposed to rolled) in a tortilla (corn or wheat). I just checked Rick Bayless' book, and I'm not sure where I got that from. According to him, wheat flour tacos may sometimes be called "tacos de harina".

                In any case, my tortilla press recently broke, and seeing as they're not readily available where I live (Norway), I'm still waiting for my replacement to get here.

                1. re: cjohansen

                  You don't need a press to make corn tortillas. Just use a heavy pan and two sides of a freezer bag.

                  Cut the bag in half, so you have two full sides. Place a ball of dough on the first half. Place the second half over the dough, then press on top with a heavy pan. The tortilla dough peels right off and then you put in on your griddle.

                  Do you use a press for flour tortillas as well? I've never heard of anyone doing that but I guess that probably makes it easier. Most people that I know just roll them out with a pin.

                  1. re: thymetobake

                    I used to make them by hand, but never got them thin enough. For some reason it never struck me to use my cast iron pan to squeeze'em, thanks for the tip :)

                    I use a rolling pin when making wheat tortillas, hence making wheat tortillas in lieu of a tortilla press :) Anyway, for soft tacos (or burritos...) I usually prefer wheat to masa.

                    1. re: thymetobake

                      There was some argument about pressing flour tortillas on another thread. I am firmly in the camp that corn tortillas are patted or pressed, and flour tortillas are rolled out. Some people are under the (mis)impression that flour tortillas are made by pressing.

                      1. re: sandylc

                        Flour tortillas can certainly be made by pressing. A kitchenware store near where I live in Mexico City has large presses for making burrito tortillas and I've seen combination press-griddles for making large flour tortillas.

                    2. re: cjohansen

                      Tacos can be rolled. It's common when the filling is juicy. Sometimes they're rolled and fried, resulting in what's known as a taco dorado, taquito, or flauta, depending on the style and region.

                  2. I buy great traditionally made tortillas from a local restaurant. Store in plastic in the freezer. Thaw, run under water from the faucet, throw on a hot cast iron griddle to heat. Perfect every time as long as I don't overcook them on the griddle. The extra water is key... I also put a tiny bit of bacon grease on the griddle to get that more 'authentic' (here in texas) flavor.

                    When I first read the title I thought you were talking about whole wheat tortillas. Are you? Or just regular white wheat ones?

                    1 Reply
                    1. An inexpensive tortilla warmer is about $12. Flour tortillas really need to be in an enclosed container until the moment they are eaten, as they begin to dry out in seconds in the open air.