I sometimes feel a bit like the Indian girl who is nagged by her mother to make her chapatis round. Let’s face it, for several reasons, I would make a very bad Indian bride. However, when it comes to tortillas, I really don’t care what shape they are; I just want to be able to wrap things up in them or tear bits off them and for them to look really appetising. In Mexico, they make their tortillas quite small, whereas in the USA they tend to make them, well, American size. I tend to aim for the latter simply because they look more impressive on the table. But if you want to keep your girth manageable, the Mexicans have probably got this basic bread right.
For this you will need a good size pan – preferably a heavy iron one or a large round flat griddle. Oh, and don’t oil it – these are meant to be heated, not fried! These are MUCH better than shop bought ones and dead easy.
Add the salt and baking powder to the flour and mix well.
Add the lard and either shove it in your mixer with a pastry beater (the K beater if you have a Kenwood Chef), or crumble by hand. (Trust me, having a Kenwood Chef is a joy - save up now!)
Once you have it to a fine crumb, start adding the warm water while stirring with a large fork – it must be warm, by the way. What you are aiming for is a smooth, elastic dough. I find that people often forget all their bread making lessons when they are not using yeast or proving the dough, but this is still bread; it will come out best if it has been needed for a good length of time.
Once you got it like a nice small pillow, cover it and leave it for half an hour.
Give your dough a final knead and then divide it into 8 pieces (for huge tortillas) or 12 to 16 for more sensible ones. It is down to the size of your pan, really. I have a big one!
Roll them out on a floured surface with a large wooden rolling pin. Large rolling pins will tend to produce a more even result, especially if you keep your hand towards the end of the pin, but not right at the end! Get them to around 3 millimetres thick or so – nice and thin, anyway.
Cook them on a dry, medium hot pan so they are just cooked but still soft. Wrap them in a tea towel. I often do them in advance, then bung them in the microwave for a few seconds to soften before use, if I am using them as wraps! Sacrilege, probably.