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What Is a Flour Tortilla?

Fajitas made with flour tortillas.
Tortillas.
Flour tortillas are commonly used to make enchiladas.
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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2014
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A flour tortilla is a type of flatbread that is commonly used in Mexican cooking. The ingredients used in this bread typically include flour, water, baking soda, and salt. The tortilla may be eaten alone or used as part of a larger recipe. Other types of tortillas often found in Mexican cuisine are wheat and corn.

Flatbread is the name given to any unleavened bread that generally does not use yeast or natural cultures to rise. Most recipes provide a variation of the foundational ingredients of these breads, which are flour, water, and salt. The dough, when mixed together, can be rolled flat to any desired thickness using a rolling pin. It is then baked in a hot oven or fried on a griddle until cooked through.

The traditional method for making a flour tortilla requires that it be fried in a hot skillet. This skillet is often referred to as a comal in many Mexican communities and is formed from cast iron. The cast iron comal may be seasoned with animal fats, salt, and spices before use. Once it has been used for cooking purposes, however, it is only wiped clean with a slightly damp cloth and never washed with soap, as this can affect the flavor of the food.

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As a side item, the flour tortilla may be served as a bread alongside a meal either hot or cold. It is a popular choice for dipping purposes when eaten with salsa and soup. Flour tortillas are often eaten plain when spread with butter and rolled into a cigar shape.

Burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, and tacos are among the most common traditional Mexican recipes made using the flour tortilla. Burritos and enchiladas are made by folding any type of cooked meat inside the tortilla and baking it in the oven. Any number of additional ingredients may be included as filling, like refried beans, rice, cheese, and sour cream. Fajitas and tacos similarly wrap meat and other side items inside a tortilla shell, but omit the baking process. Fajita ingredients are often grilled before serving, while tacos ingredients, apart from the meat, are served crisp and raw.

Tortilla chips are often made using a corn or flour tortilla. Cooked tortillas are cut into quarters using a rolling knife, such as a pizza cutter. The pieces are then submerged in cooking oil or fat for several minutes until crispy. A variety of spices, herbs, and extracts may be included in the tortilla recipe when making chips to create different flavors that combine uniquely with specific types of salsa.

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