Thursday, May 29, 2014

Soaked Whole Wheat Tortillas

chicken tacos with homemade pico de gallo and avocado

Before I left for my year in China, I was excited to get to know authentic Chinese food and sample the country's regional cuisines, but I also knew it would be challenging going a whole year without access to western food. After living here for nine months, I feel like I can really empathize with my fellow expats in that missing home largely means missing the comfort of the foods we grew up with.  What I did not anticipate was feeling grateful for the lack of these comforts.

First off, as with all things, with scarcity comes increased value -- so that when I do decide to splurge on cheese, or get pizza, or travel to a big city to eat Tex-Mex (erm.. I mean, to see pandas), it is truly a treat, something to be savored and most definitely not taken for granted. For example, it wasn't until I lived in China that I realized that Americans put cheese on almost everything! Seriously!! Sandwiches, pizzas, burgers, chili, soup, pasta, heck, we even pile it on our salads. Now, I love myself some cheese. But after going a year recreating a lot of American food in my own kitchen sans cheese, I feel like I've come to appreciate the other flavors that cheese sometimes covers up. I've really come to love pickled vegetables and I've especially gained a new appreciation for avocados which can provide richness where cheese is absent, hehe :)

That said, my first meal when I get back to the states is going to be a reuben sandwich. Loaded high with corned beef, sauerkraut and topped with ooey-gooey melted CHEESE.

Even more, not having these food items readily available has prompted me to do some experimenting in the my lil' kitchen to recreate them. This brings me to today's recipe. A few weeks ago, my friend Ayan was over and she showed me how she's been making some impromptu tortillas in her apartment when she gets her Mexican food cravings. It turns out tortillas are the quickest and simplest things to make! Her version involved tossing flour with water and adding a bit of pepper, garlic salt and cumin, tossing it all together until it forms a dough then rolling it out and throwing it on the frying pan. These were so easy and so delicious!

The version I am showing you today is a smidgen more involved, but that is only because I am using 100% whole wheat and the extra step helps to soften up the wheat and make it tastier and easier to digest :)

 I got the recipe from one of my new favorite blogs, Weed 'Em and Reap, written by a chick who owns goats and writes about urban farming and healthy living. Her content is really interesting and she has insanely cute pictures and stories about her animals (you might die from cuteness overload when you read this story about her baby goat

Anyway.. *ahem* back to the tortillas. These are really yummy and really good for you. I don't need to tell you what you can do with them because they're tortillas..
Although I will tell you that sometimes to curb my sweet tooth I will warm one up on the frying pan and drizzle on some honey and finish with some cinnamon. And man.. those two things combined with the slight tang of the soaked whole wheat fit together like a charm. Did not expect that combo to go over so well!

So without further ado, here is the recipe from Weed Em' and Reap. I included her recipe notes too so you can understand the whole soaking process. Yay for food knowledge!!

Homemade Soaked Tortillas (to blow your mind!)

  • By soaking the flour in water + an acidic medium (apple cider vinegar or whey) this breaks down the phytic acid, an anti-nutrient found in all grains, legumes, nuts, & seeds. It also makes the gluten more digestible, so bonus there. If you have trouble digesting wheat, then trust me, you’ll feel a huge difference with this recipe.
  • Something magical happens when soaking. Instead of whole-wheat being heavy and dense, by soaking the flour for 12-24 hours, you change the design of it, and it turns into a fabulously light product.
  • Traditional societies have prepared their grains properly by either soaking, sprouting, or sour leavening. It’s true, they’ve done it literally for THOUSANDS of years. The practice has since been ignored, around the time when the industrialization of food came about and our dependence on companies to make our food for us became the norm. 
  • It makes my life easier. I know it seems arduous to soak something for 12 hours before cooking it, but seriously you guys, it makes my life easier. I simply mix it up in the morning, and by dinner time I have dough waiting for me to roll out in tortillas and cook. All it takes is to train that ‘ol brain of yours to remember to start it soaking and you’ll be set!
Now, on to the recipe!

Homemade Soaked Tortillas (to blow your mind!)

Makes 8 delicious tortillas
2 c. whole-wheat flour
1/4 c. lard, tallow, coconut oil, olive oil, or butter
3/4 c. water + 1-2 tablespoons if it seems dry.
1 TBS. of an acidic medium (apple cider vinegar or whey works best in this recipe)
1 tsp. salt
Arrowroot powder, for rolling out your tortillas
1. Mix the flour with the fat/oil of choice by cutting it in with either a pastry cutter or a fork. You can even work it together with your hands. Mix until the fat/oil is well incorporated. and there are no large clumps.
2. Add water & acidic medium of choice. Mix together with a fork and make sure all the flour gets wet. You can use your hands and roll it around in the bowl to get all the flour.
3. Cover with saran wrap and leave on your counter for 12-24 hours. I know if you’re new to this, it could seem weird or gross. Get over it like I did! It won’t grow bacteria and make you sick, or grow legs and kill you in your sleep.
4. After 12-24 hours, add the salt and work it in the dough with your hands by kneading about 5-7 times. Don’t overwork it, just mix until the salt is incorporated. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
5. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and heat a pan over medium-high heat.
6. Dust your counter top with arrowroot starch and roll out a tortilla and then cook in an un-greased pan for about 30-40 seconds on each side. Slightly underdone is best.
7. Repeat for the remaining tortillas.
8. Eat warm or store in your fridge for up to 2 weeks. You can even freeze them for future use.

Now, making these tortillas is a weekly routine that I really look forward to. I make them every Sunday night so I can incorporate them into my meals or snacks throughout the week! My only tip would be to not stress over the rolling out portion. It's kind of difficult to get perfect circles. Or maybe I am just impatient? I get something resembling a circle maybe 30% of the time. The rest of the time they end up more square-ish or "splat-"shaped as you can see in my picture above. In my mind, if you can wrap it around some breakfast burrito fixings or fresh pico de gallo and avocados without all of it spilling out then there really is no problem.

After a few goes, this recipe takes maybe 4 minutes to throw together the night before, and then 10 minutes to roll out and cook the tortillas the next day. It's so easy and so cheap and you have complete control of the ingredients, so what are you waiting for?? If you aren't a crazy person with no soul I can bet you will start opting for homemade tortillas more often after you try these!! Let me know how it goes :)

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