Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fat-Free Whole-Wheat Tortillas, aka Chapati Bread

JG made lentils for dinner this weekend and decided to try his hand at chapati bread, which are thin round flatbreads usually made with at least some whole-wheat flour.  He'd planned to have it all done when I got home from work (my hero) but the cookbook he used just isn't a good one (the flavors are great but the liquid ratios or the cooking times are _always_ way off, but never the same way twice) and the lentils weren't ready when they were supposed to be, so I helped with chapati while he finished up the dal. [Plus I wanted to tinker with the recipe, using all whole-wheat and some salt... I think the salt was an omission.]  It's a super simple process and they turned out great for scooping up the lentils, but they inspired JG in another way.

"These taste like flour tortillas"
"Well, they kinda are, but without the lard. They won't keep."
"But these right now are flour tortillas.  It makes me want to make fajitas."

I had to agree.  I've always shunned flour tortillas because they're made with lard or butter and refined flour, whereas corn tortillas are made from whole grains with no fat.  You can get whole-wheat versions now, but they've still got some kind of fat to keep them soft... but classic Tex-Mex fajitas really do require some type of flour tortilla.  I don't know why, but they're my only exception to the corn tortilla rule... but I've never been really okay with that until now.

A few days later we made more hot, fresh chapati tortillas and cooked up some flank steak (no skirt up here), onions, and peppers on the cast iron.  We still need to perfect the cast iron recipe before it goes public, but the tortillas were spot on.

Recipe: Fat-Free Whole-Wheat Tortillas or Chapati Bread
Just like good corn tortillas, they're best fresh off the griddle and aren't as tasty reheated. You can knead the dough by hand ~10 minutes, adding flour as needed to keep from sticking, but the end product will be a little stiffer and a little less like a tortilla.

Makes 8 medium or 6 large tortillas

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt

additional 1/4 cup flour, for rolling

Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer* fitted with the beater attachment (not enough volume for the dough hook) and beat for 5 minutes.  Dough should form a slightly tacky but cohesive ball.  Cover with plastic and let sit at least 10 minutes.

On the stove, preheat a dry (un-oiled) cast iron or steel griddle (I use a comal) over medium heat.

Liberally dust a countertop or pastry cloth with reserve flour [keep tmore for rolling nearby]. Divide dough into six or eight equal pieces, roll each into a ball, flatten, and roll out with a rolling pin (dusting as needed) until they are tortilla-thin.  You can roll out all of them at once or toss the first tortilla on the griddle while you begin to roll the next one, but you'll need to keep an eye on the griddle while you're rolling.  Either way, as soon as the edges of the tortilla dry out and begin to curl up, (~45-60 seconds?) flip it to cook the other side.  [The first side should be spotty golden brown, if it's not, turn your heat up a little.  If it's spotty black, turn the heat down].  Cook on the second side for another ~45-60 seconds, then flip it back to the first side.*  The tortilla _should_ start to fill with air, but if you've singed any holes, it won't.  After ~ 30 more seconds on the first side, puffed or not, transfer it to a tortilla warmer lined with [paper] towel or a plate lined with [paper] towel topped with an upside down plate.  Once all of the tortillas have been cooked, flip the stack so that the first one cooked is at the top of the pile and re-cover. [They soften as they sit and keeping the hottest at the bottom keeps all of them warmer longer.]

*Instead of flipping it back to the first side, you can instead hold it directly over the flame of a gas burner, which should also make it fill like a balloon.  This step, while fun, requires you roll out all the dough before you begin cooking, or have a partner to mind then flame while you mind the other tortillas.


  1. these look great! also, the healthy tex-mex subject reminded me and i thought i'd share...i don't know if you like/miss/make tamales, but bara's mom has started making hers using vegetable oil in lieu of the lard and they turn out great. just thought you might like to try it, if you haven't already. :)

  2. Cool post! Its so good here!

  3. I LOVE eating (and making tamales)! I've been making them with olive oil for a few years now based on a recipe I found in The Border Cookbook (a great resource) but I've never posted the recipe because the filling is always some leftover pork shoulder I roasted 6 months before with god knows what spice ratios... but I really should since someone asked me about it a while ago... May once I finish the ones we have in the freezer from christmas.

  4. I like butter

  5. I like butter, too... but I also like to be selective in my consumption of it.

  6. In the recipe, where it says (after 5 minutes in the mixer), to cover with plastic & let sit for at least 10 min. Does that mean the dough itself is in a ball outside of the mixer, covered in plastic wrap? Or does that mean to just cover the mixer bowl after the 5 min, with plastic wrap?

  7. Either way will work. You're just letting the flour soak up the water, so you could wrap up the dough ball in plastic wrap and clean your mixing bowl during your 5 minutes, or just cover the bowl and clean everything later :)

  8. Another question - I'd like to double this. Has anyone tried that? Can I literally just double all the ingredients? I know some recipes work that way, and some don't..

  9. you can definitely double, triple, or quadruple this one, just give it a final stir by hand before you let it rest to make sure you don't have any pockets of dry flour at the bottom.

  10. is it okay if I kept the dough in the refrigerator for a few days? (because I'm the only one eating it and it's very unlikely that I'll be able to eat everything I make)

  11. I'm afraid they'd dry out and get weirdly crusty as they sat. I think you'd be better off making the whole batch, let them cool completely, and then freeze them in a ziploc with wax or parchment paper between each and as much air as possible removed. When you want one [and only one] it should be easy to pull out and reheat over the burner or in a toaster oven.

  12. When you say white whole wheat flour, do you mean pastry flour or

  13. I don't think pastry flour would have enough gluten. White whole wheat flour is ground from white wheat berries, which are a softer variety than the red wheat berry we generally think of when we think of whole wheat flour. In the UK and other parts of western Europe, white whole wheat is more common than red, and it's just become widely available here in the past ~5-10 years. It's milder in taste than red wheat, too, so your tortillas won't be too "healthy tasting." The recipe will also work with classic [red] whole wheat, but you might need another couple teaspoons of water.

    If you want to try white whole wheat, my favorite brand is King Arthur; Trader Joe's version used to be ground too coarse but it's acceptable now. The last time I was at the grocery store I noticed that Gold Medal now makes a white whole wheat, but I haven't tried it yet. When I lived in Texas I used the store brand [HEB] and loved it, though the KA is definitely the finest grind.

  14. AnonymousJune 12, 2014

    What temperature should the water be?

  15. Can I just mix by hand? I don't have a stand mixer...

  16. Anonymous: Room temp water will work just fine.

    Amy Ruth: As I say in the recipe header, you can definitely mix by hand, you just have to be careful to add as little flour as possible while kneading so they don't get too stiff. I haven't done it, but you might want to try just stirring with a spatula until it comes mostly together and knead it a little in the bowl instead of on a floured surface.

  17. Delicious; My husband loves them. I think he will never buy tortillas again, which means I'll be making them.