Young Baker's Apprentice Lab: Homemade Tortillas
Updated: May 21
Are you new to baking? Are you teaching a school baking lab of beginners? This is our newest addition to the Formulation Lab section here on the Panhandle Milling website. This Young Baker's Apprentice series is going to be full of basic lessons for beginning bakers. We hope it will give you all the expertise you need to become a great baker.
In this lab we'll be covering:
How do you measure flour.
How to measure butter.
How to measure water.
What is a Tablespoon?
What is a teaspoon?
Gather the equipment and ingredients for tortillas:
Electric stand mixer with metal bowl
Liquid measuring cup
Rolling pin or dowel
14 inch griddle
12 inch deep frying pan with a lid or Tortilla Warmer
5 cups (2-3 lbs) Panhandle milling tortilla flour or All Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 shortening cube (1 cup)
1 Tbsp. salt
2 cup water
Measuring cups are not the same as drinking cups.
Use only measuring cups designed for baking. They will be specific with the actual measurements printed on the handles.
Dry Volume Measuring cups come in various sizes. There's usually 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup, and 1/3 cup. To make 3/4 cup, you will need to measure one 1/2 cup and add 1/4 cup.
Dry volume measuring spoons are not the same as cereal or soup spoons. Always look for the measuring spoons and use them to measure the smaller ingredients.
Measuring spoons will have the spoon measurement written on the handle of the spoon and vary in size.
The larger spoon is called Tablespoons and will be abbreviated in recipes as Tbsp. Be careful. Some measuring spoons will sometimes be tricky and have a half Tablespoon measuring spoon!
The smaller spoon is called a teaspoon. It will be abbreviated as tsp. or Tsp. You can remember it easier if you think of a dollhouse tea set being small like a "tea-spoon".
You should know that 3 teaspoons are equal to 1 Tablespoon. How many teaspoons would be in 2 Tablespoons?
You should know that there are 16 Tablespoons in 1 Cup. How many Tablespoons would be in 1/2 cup? How many Tablespoons would be in 1/4 cup?
There are 5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon in 1/3 cup.
To measure baking soda and salt, make sure the surface of the ingredient is level to the edge of the spoon.
U.S. Volume measurement of Flour should be measured light and fluffy and not packed into the cup.
The best way to do this is to lightly scoop the flour into the measuring cup using a large spoon until it is full.
Then, level the top with the flat edge of a knife. Butter knives are usually curved on one side. If the curved side is used to try and level the flour, it will not give you a true measurement, since some of the flour will get scooped out of the cup.
Shortening and Butter Measurement
Shortening comes in several forms. Usually, it can be found in a can or in a cube, as you'd see with a cube of butter or margarine.
Recipes will be specific about using shortening or butter. They are not the same thing. Shortening does not contain any liquid or moisture. In this tortilla recipe, you can use shortening, or full-fat butter.
Butter and margarine have various amounts of liquid in them. If a recipe asks for shortening, you cannot use a tub of butter spread or margarine spread instead. The liquid in those spreads will not give you the same results in your baking.
In recipes calling for butter, use the markings on the side of the package to tell you exactly where to cut the cube to get the perfect measurement. There is usually 1/2 cup of butter in a cube. Shortening sometimes comes in a 1 cup cube. That's what we used in the lab with our students.
All liquid ingredients should be measured in a clear liquid measuring cup.
Usually the liquid measuring cups are glass in home kitchens.
When you fill the liquid, make sure your cup is on a flat surface.
Look at the cup from the side to verify that it is filled correctly.
If a recipe calls for heating the liquid, as does our tortilla recipe, only heat the water in a microwave if the measuring cup is microwave safe.
Blending Shortening into flour mixture
Many bakers refer to this style of recipe blending when the fat is mixed with the dry ingredients as "Biscuit Method" or "Pastry Method".The shortening or fat is mixed with the flour mixture. In so doing, the fat coats the flour particles, making it more difficult for the proteins in flour to connect and be stiff. It makes the flakes and layers that are seen in biscuits and pie crusts. This process is also what allows tortillas to soft and tender. In this recipe we will be using an electric mixer to combine the shortening with the flour.
Later we'll be adding boiling water to the flour and shortening mixture. Using a mixer ensures that your hands will not get burned. When making these, please have the supervision of an adult during the boiling water stage. Using the boiling water partially cooks the natural starch in the flour, allowing the dough to be easier to mold into tortillas and eliminating the need to use flour on the counter when rolling out the tortillas.
Our Chef’s Homemade Tortillas
5 cups Panhandle Milling Tortilla Flour or All-Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 cup shortening or butter
2 cup water
In a 5 quart electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment measure the flour, salt and baking powder.
Measure the shortening. In this recipe we used the 1 cup cube of butter flavored shortening.
Cut shortening into flour, baking powder, salt, and seasoning with the paddle in an electric mixer and mix until the shortening is in fine pieces smaller than peas.
This can be done using the lowest speed setting on the mixer and allowing it go mix for 2-3 minutes.
With adult supervision, boil the water in a small saucepan on the stove or heat for 2 minutes on the highest power setting of the microwave.
Carefully pour the boiling water into the flour mixture.
Combine with paddle or spoon about 3 minute.
Using the boiling water partially cooks the natural starch in the flour, allowing the dough to be easier to mold into tortillas and eliminating the need to use flour on the counter when rolling out the tortillas.
Remove dough from the bowl and form into 18-24 balls, depending on the size of the tortillas you want. 18 will make 8-10-inch tortillas, 24 will make 4-6-inch tortillas.
Roll the tortillas into rounds.
Cook on a moderate skillet (medium-high heat) until done (about 2 minutes on each side).
It should bubble up.
Put cooked tortillas in a deep covered pan with a lid to keep tender.
Serve warm. Serve immediately.
We especially love them with taco meat, cheese and tomatoes. What are your favorite toppings for tacos?