True confessions: I have a love-hate relationship with tortillas. I do not have a single drop of Mexican blood in me – my apologies to the real Mexican cooks who may be reading this webpage. If you are looking for information about authentic Mexican cooking, go to Google right now and find another website to look at. My only qualification for writing about tortillas is that they were a large part of my life for the few years that I spent near starvation.
The “love” part of my relationship with tortillas includes memories of eating lunch at a fantastic Mexican restaurant with my co-workers several times in my pre-food-allergy days. It also includes making Mexican foods for my jalapeno-loving son. I must admit, however, that I usually use store-bought tortillas when cooking for my son. There are many good, additive-free wheat and corn tortillas in the grocery store, they’re just as good or better than my homemade wheat and corn tortillas, and it saves a lot of time to start with them when making dinner. If you can eat spelt, health food stores carry both whole spelt and white spelt tortillas. Click here to order Rudi’s Bakery spelt tortillas or have your health food store stock them for you.
The “hate” part of my relationship with tortillas comes from memories of eating very little besides exotic fish and breads and tortillas made with malanga, true yam, white sweet potato, and other Special Foods™ tuber flours when my food allergies were at their worst (and reacting to even those foods). If you need to eat these types of flour, an electric tortilla maker will make things much easier. The now rarely-used tortilla maker which I currently own is my second Vitantonio machine. I made so many tortillas that I wore the first one out. This machine is no longer on the market, and (true confessions, again) I cannot bring myself to buy a VillaWare electric tortilla maker and make a malanga tortilla with it. If your diet has been reduced to the level mine was at during the tortilla years, click here to read about a way out.
Tortillas are yeast-free bread products that are made with flour, water, and usually a little salt. Spelt and wheat tortillas also usually contain a little oil to make them more tender. Tortillas can be made with a wide variety of flours, some of which cannot be made into almost any other kind of baked product.
The dough for tortillas is easily mixed by hand, but rolling and cooking them can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Tortillas made from wheat and spelt flours hold together well and can be rolled on a floured board with a rolling pin. The other types of tortillas must be rolled between two pieces of waxed or parchment paper. (This paper is peeled off before cooking them). Mexican cooks use tortilla presses to simplify the rolling process. Rather than using a rolling pin, the ball of dough is placed between pieces of waxed paper and placed in the press near the hinge. Then the handle is pressed down to create a very round tortilla in an instant.
To make tortillas by hand, make the dough and form it into balls 1 to 1½ inches in diameter, or about the size of a small plum. Flatten each ball slightly. If you are making wheat or spelt tortillas, you may roll the balls out on a floured surface to about 1⁄8 inch thickness. For all other types of tortillas, place the flattened ball of dough between two pieces of wax or parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to roll it out to about 6 or 7 inches in diameter.
Preheat an ungreased skillet or heavy griddle over medium-high heat. If you have used waxed paper to roll the tortilla, carefully peel the paper off of one side. Put the tortilla on the pan with dough side down and cook it for about 30 seconds to one minute; then peel off the second piece of waxed paper from the top of the tortilla. Continue cooking it until it is dry around the edge, one to two minutes more. Turn the tortilla with a spatula and cook the second side for another two to three minutes.
An electric tortilla maker simplifies the process of making and cooking tortillas tremendously. To use an electric tortilla maker, first open it, plug it in, and begin preheating it. Mix the tortilla dough as directed in the recipe. Divide the dough into balls about 1 to 1½ inches in diameter, or about the size of a small plum.
When the iron has finished preheating, flatten a ball of dough slightly and place it on the bottom plate of the tortilla maker about halfway between the center and the edge nearest the hinge of the press. Press down the handle in one quick movement. (Wheat, spelt and kamut tortillas can be re-pressed if they are not large enough, but this does not work well with the other types of tortillas. They may blow apart into many pieces if you repress them). After a few tortillas, you will know how much to press to form a tortilla of the desired size without pressing so hard that the edges become lacy. Open the iron immediately after pressing and allow the tortilla to cook until it becomes dry on the bottom side, or for the time directed in your tortilla maker’s instruction booklet. Turn it over using a spatula that is safe for non-stick surfaces. Cook the second side until it is also done. As in making hand-cooked tortillas, for most types of tortillas “done” means dry. For spelt tortillas, cook them until the blisters just begin to brown on both sides.
After cooking your tortillas, remove them from the tortilla maker, griddle, or skillet to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely. Then stack them and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. If you want to eat them hot, wrap them in aluminum foil and heat them in a 350° oven for ten to fifteen minutes or microwave them on high for six to seven seconds per tortilla.
Tortilla recipes made with 15 types of flour are found in Easy Breadmaking for Special Diets. Included are recipes using corn, whole wheat, and unbleached or all purpose wheat flour, so 12 of the recipes are wheat- and corn-free. The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide contains a recipe with ingredient lists for 18 wheat- and corn-free types of tortillas. Allergy Cooking with Ease has a tortilla recipe with 5 wheat- and corn-free varieties of tortillas. Both Easy Breadmaking for Special Diets and Allergy Cooking with Ease contain Mexican-type recipes that you can make using your homemade tortillas.
If you take low dose immunotherapy, cassava and white sweet potato tortillas can be a filling addition to the shot time diet. These recipes are found in The Low Dose Immunotherapy Handbook. Also, if you need to use the very mixed diet after or around the time of your shots, this book contains a VMD tortilla recipe.
Come to think of it, I do have some pleasant memories of tortillas. I remember eating some great spinach salads on top of an amaranth tortilla between the early “love” tortilla years and the “hate” tortilla years. I should make myself a salad like that soon!
The information on this page is abridged from
Easy Breadmaking for Special Diets ($19.95 eBook $10) © 2007
The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide ($24.95, eBook $13) © 2007
Allergy Cooking with Ease ($19.95, eBook $10) © 2007
The Low Dose Immunotherapy Handbook ($9.95 eBook $6) © 2003
For more information about these books, click on the book's title above.
To order any of the books mentioned on this page, click here