Homemade flour taco shells, or tortillas, are a delicious staple of Mexican cuisine. A good homemade tortilla is airy and pliable, used as an accompaniment for traditional Mexican dishes and stews. While the ingredients for making tortillas from scratch are simple, the process requires precision and patience. The flavour of a hot tortilla as it comes out of the pan, however, makes the effort well worthwhile. By following a few tips you can make your own beautifully blistered and soft tortillas that are perfect as soft taco shells.
Making the dough
Mix 256 g (2 cups) of the flour and the salt together. Add the shortening or lard and mix with your hands until the dough resembles course crumbs.
Carefully pour 415 ml (1 3/4 cup) of boiling water into mixture. Stir with a spoon.
When the dough is cool enough to handle, begin mixing it with your hands, gradually adding flour, 2 tbsp at a time, until the dough is soft, light and pliable. Adding too much flour will make the dough hard and unyielding. Incorporate the last 128 g (1 cup) of flour slowly. Add just enough so the dough is not sticky.
Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until it is smooth and malleable.
Form the dough into a ball and cover with a bowl. Let rest for 30 minutes.
Making the tortillas
Knead the dough again for five minutes then break it apart into balls that are about 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter. Set the balls aside. Meanwhile, warm the greased frying pan over low heat while you roll out the tortillas.
Roll one ball out at time, working from the centre to the edges. Be sure to smooth the dough systematically up, down, left and right to form round tortillas. Roll the tortillas until they are about 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) in diameter.
Drape the rolled tortillas on the edge of a mixing bowl until you have them all rolled out. When you have about five more tortillas to flatten, Increase the heat of your pan to medium high.
Gently place a tortilla onto the hot frying pan. Cook for one minute or until large bubbles appear on the surface of the tortilla. Flip and cook the other side for about 20 seconds, then remove to a plate and cover to keep warm. Repeat this process for the rest of the tortillas.
Fill the warm tortillas with meat, cheese, lettuce and salsa. And serve the soft tacos.
Depending on altitude and climate, you may need to alter the ratio of water to flour to make sure the dough is pliable. If your tortillas do not turn out quite right, do not get discouraged. Think about what went wrong. If they were brittle, add more water next time. If they fall apart when put into the pan, add less shortening or lard. Making tortillas takes practice so continue to try until they turn out right.