Quiet House, Pita Bread and Flour Tortillas

On Saturday Brian took the girls to the park. It was just below freezing and there was no way I was going. This has been an unusually cold winter for us and I ache for the mild Carolina weather I’m used too. I’ll never take it for granted again. Can’t I just hibernate until spring? Anyway, I had plans in the kitchen (the nice, warm kitchen). I’m in a bit of a funk, so being in the house alone, quiet and peaceful and cooking, felt a bit like meditation. I was cooking from my soul.

Pita Bread and flour tortillas are so similar. The differences are yeast (for the pita bread) and thickness. I  made the dough for the pitas first, since it needed to rise for an hour and half. It was too easy – warm water, flour, salt, oil, sugar and yeast. Click here for the actual recipe. I made my usual substitutions. I used half all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour and instant dry yeast so I didn’t have to proof it. In case you’ve never made yeast bread, “proofing the yeast” is basically letting it sit in some warm water for 10 minutes first. Instant yeast might be a little hard to find, but I got it, for a great price, at BJ’s. I keep it in my freezer since I don’t use if often. I also used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. Click here if you care to know why. I don’t have a bread machine, so I just heated a cup of water in the microwave for a couple of minutes to create some moist heat. I covered the bowl of dough with a damp towel and let it rest in the microwave.

I had tried making homemade flour tortillas once before. They were crumbly and oily. That recipe called for olive oil, which (at the time) sounded better than the vegetable shortening or lard many recipes called for. Since then I’ve learned that lard is a good fat (vegetable shortening is not) and it’s perfect for cooking and baking. It’s no surprise that tortillas are traditionally made with lard. Why mess with an authentic recipe? I’d been wanting to try again (with lard) ever since I discovered this.

So, while the pita bread was resting, I finally had my chance. Now I know why lard is traditionally used to make tortillas.  The dough was perfect and easy to work with. It made the dough more pliable, and it held together so well (this is why lard is also great for pie crusts). I was able to roll it out really thin and round, which was difficult the last time. Click here for the recipe. I also substituted half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, so I had to knead the dough a bit little longer. I split the dough into 24 balls and covered them with a damp cloth to keep them moist while I worked.

I did find that the first few didn’t turn out as well. They were harder to roll out and a little more crumbly (though nothing like the olive oil version), so next time I’ll let the dough balls rest for 5 or 10 minutes before starting. We used them to make fajitas on Monday (with chorizo, onion and peppers sauteed together, then topped with plain yogurt, raw jack style cheese, lettuce and green onions). The warmed tortillas were soft and folded nicely. I took a chance and made the girls fajitas with the onions and peppers mixed in this time. To my delight they asked for seconds!

Let me take a second to talk about this chorizo. This one is a ground pork sausage (without casing) that I buy at the farmers market, from Grateful Growers Farm.  It’s so flavorful and has the perfect blend of spices – sweet, savory and spicy. I don’t need to add any seasonings to the pan, even after adding a whole sweet onion and two whole sweet peppers to just one pound of chorizo. I’ve tried to duplicate the flavor of restaurant fajitas and have never been able to come this close – not with prepackaged seasoning mixes or my own. I absolutely love this sausage, but to be honest I am quite surprised that my kids like this sausage so much. As soon as they smell it cooking, they come running. They can barely stand waiting for dinner. I love that they love it.

The tortilla recipe was so simple. I was literally a tortilla machine – running back and forth between flipping or putting on a new tortilla and rolling the next one out. The timing is nearly perfect. Once I was about halfway finished rolling out a tortilla, it was time to flip the one in the skillet. And by the time I finished rolling it out completely, the one in the skillet was done. Take that one out, put the new one in and repeat… 22 times. I was constantly moving, but it was not difficult work. I will offer this hint. It helps to turn the dough over a couple of times while you’re rolling it out. After a while on one side, the dough seems to stop stretching (easily, at least). Flipping it was the only way I could get it rolled out thin enough. When I finished cooking them all, I put the warm tortillas in a plastic bag to keep them moist.

Making the pita bread was a piece of cake after making 24 tortillas. It felt a little like a lazy mans tortilla. Instead of 24 thin tortillas, I made 8 thick pitas with nearly the same amount of dough. The recipe recommended baking them in the oven, but since my skillet was still warm I didn’t bother. When I was done, I closed them up in a paper bag. Even though I was going to cut them into triangles and dip them in hummus, I still wanted to see if they’d split down the middle like proper pita bread. So before I cut them, I checked and sure enough, they split. It wasn’t quite as easy as store bought, but still only a took a few seconds. They may have split more easily if I’d followed the directions and put them in the oven. However, I don’t know if I’ll ever bother since the oven uses so much energy and the skillet worked so well.


About Michele
Wife and Mom of three girls doing her best to lead the family into a healthier lifestyle and evolve gracefully.

4 Responses to Quiet House, Pita Bread and Flour Tortillas

  1. Pingback: A Year on Real Food « HealthyMamma's Blog

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