Once at a school party in about 5th or 6th grade, the mother of a classmate brought homemade tortillas. Everyone was excited, but I didn’t even try them. I didn’t like tortillas, so why bother? I would eat them wrapped around a burrito, but when I got to folded up end that was more tortilla than burrito filling, I just ate the filling.
I have since repented of my indifference to homemade tortillas. There is a world of difference between a homemade tortilla and a store-bought tortilla, just like there is a difference between store-bought bread and homemade. For several years I’ve tried intermittently to master the homemade tortilla. I can’t say I’ve mastered it, but I can make an acceptable tortilla now.
Part of the problem is that when you ask the women who have been making them all their lives how to make tortillas, they can’t give you a recipe, because they don’t measure anything. Part of it is just that like most bread products, you have to get a feel for the dough.
About a year ago I had a Hispanic lady who attended our church show me, in person, how to make tortillas. That gave me an idea of what I’m looking for with the dough, but I still had quite uneven results because I was guessing at all the ingredient amounts.
Then I found this tortilla recipe. I’m sure if I had persevered at learning to make them without measuring, I would have eventually gotten it down, but the recipe saved me the trouble.
If you really object to lard you can use shortening, or I’ve even seen a recipe that used olive oil, but lard makes the best tortillas. It’s a simple fact of life.
I wish I had a lot of good tips on making tortillas, but I’m still working on figuring it all out, so my best tip is, keep trying if the first batch or two don’t turn out right.
Also, don’t get hung up on making them perfectly round. The woman who showed me how to make them ended up with some pretty non-standard shapes, and she’d been doing it almost daily for years. Her shapes were not as non-standard as mine, though. I had one that was sort of heart-shaped.
I also don’t flour the table where I’m rolling them out, like I would with bread dough. If the dough isn’t too sticky (from too much water), they won’t stick to the table.
I use a cast iron skillet for cooking mine, since the cast iron heats more evenly. I don’t grease it, because it is seasoned. Using the cast iron skillet limits the size of the tortillas I can make, though. A cast iron griddle is better, if you have one.
I start heating the griddle on about medium heat and let it heat up while I am mixing the dough. Then it is good and hot when the first tortilla is ready to cook. If you heat it too high the first tortilla will burn, though.
Watch the tortillas pretty closely, in any case. It doesn’t take long for each side to get done.