Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ratio Rally! Gluten-Free, Vegan Flour Tortillas

This is easily one of my favorite recipes that I've shared to date.  

I honestly love each recipe I share with you here, but there are some that are just special, that have that extra little something, and take you by surprise.  Like these soft, pliable, and yet sturdy flour tortillas that just happen to be gluten-free, grain-free, and vegan.  Yup - you heard correct.

When I first moved to Texas 10 years ago, I discovered how delicious and endlessly versatile tortillas were.  Make quesadillas, layer them between guac, bean dip, cheese, and sour cream, roll 'em up or fold 'em for burritos, tacos, enchiladas, etc.  The ones I liked best were spelt tortillas that were made a few blocks from where I lived.  I would get them fresh and enjoy them at basically every meal.  

Bread who?

So when gluten left the picture 5 years ago, I was relieved to find gluten-free flour tortillas.  Well, relieved until I tried folding or rolling them. [cue sound of glass breaking]  And on top of that, many brands also tasted and/or smelled very un-flour tortilla-like. [cue sound of balloon deflating]  I decided I would rather do without and remember then have to grin and bear it.

That is until this past month's Gluten Free Ratio Rally Tortilla challenge, hosted by Brooke from B & the Boy!

If you're unfamiliar with the Rally, it's a monthly blogging event that focuses on unlocking the mystery that can surround gluten-free baking and cooking.  It started with Michael Ruhlman's book, Ratio, and the practice of communicating recipes in weight and proportions rather than cups, teaspoons, etc.  Then in February of 2011, Shauna James Ahern (aka gluten-free girl) decided it would be a grand idea to rally together culinary creatives from all corners of the blogosphere to test the ratios set forth in Ruhlman's book to see if they would hold or need modification given gluten-free ingredients.  Together, we've covered a lot of ground, from cookies, angel food cake, bread, popovers, to crepes, and today we're adding tortillas to the tally.

Since Ruhlman doesn't have a ratio for tortillas, I started by researching some favorite chefs and writers and comparing their recipes for basic flour tortillas.  I started with a recipe by Alton Brown from his show Good Eats.  It called for flour, salt, lard (which I subbed with organic vegetable shortening), and water.  I translated it into approximate metric measurements, added psyllium husk for structure, upped the water slightly since most gluten-free flours are more absorbent, and let the dough rest for an hour.  The result was delicious, but definitely not tortillas.  More like flatbread or pita and not very flexible at all.  

Still good eats, but not tortillas.

It had an almost pie-crust texture to it, so I figured that there was too much fat.  And sure enough, in actually digging into the archives of traditional flour tortillas, I found that a good number of them called for more flour and nearly half the amount of fat in Alton's recipe.  Making those changes, my next trial, adapted from a recipe from the Tasty Kitchen blog, was much more successful.  But the flexibility and softness of the tortillas still left something to be desired.  I figured that the shorter resting time called for in this recipe (30 minutes) was probably the reason.

2nd trial via Instagram: getting warmer...

So, for my third trial, I stuck to the basic ratio of the second trial, but I added a bit more protein in the form of quinoa flour, added flax in addition to the psyllium, used melted coconut oil instead of olive oil or shortening, and chilled the dough overnight.  And let me tell you - what a difference a night makes.  

 My final ratio was: 2 parts flour : 1 part water : 1/3 part fat

I've had numerous "proud papa" moments in the last year, but tasting these tortillas - soft, flexible, and delicious all on their own - literally made me want to sing and dance.  And when my roommate, who is usually very skeptical about my cooking, had only positive things to say in between healthy bites of a breakfast taco I made him, that really took the cake.

So if you've been yearning for a gluten-free flour tortilla that celebrates its lack of gluten rather than makes excuses for it, get ready to do a happy dance...

3rd trial: A-mazing...

Curried Flour Tortillas
Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, & Vegan / inspired by a Healthy Homemade Tortillas recipe found in the Tasty Kitchen 

Active Prep Time:  5-10 minutes (pre-chill); 5-10 minutes (pre-cook)
Inactive Prep Time: at least 4 hours, up to overnight
Cooking Time: 60-90 seconds per tortilla
Yield: (4) 6" tortillas

1/4 c (1 oz) garbanzo flour
6 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz)  arrowroot starch
2 tablespoons (1/2 oz) quinoa flour
1/2 teaspoon whole psyllium husks
1/4 teaspoon ground flax
1/8 teaspoon GF baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1 generous tablespoon (1/2 oz) melted coconut oil

scant 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) room temperature water

1.  Whisk all dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl.
2.  Slowly begin to drizzle melted coconut oil as you continue to whisk until you have a mixture that resembles coarse crumbs.  You may also use a fork for this step.
3.  Begin to add water slowly as you continue to mix until a soft, wet, and dare I say, slimy, dough comes together.  I usually switch to using my hands at this point.  You are aiming for a dough that will feel and look nearly too wet (see picture below).  Depending on your conditions, you may not need all three tablespoons of water, so add it gradually.
4.  Cover and chill for at least 4 hours, if not overnight.
5.  When ready to cook, allow dough to temper for at least 15 minutes on the counter.  Prepare two 10"x10" squares of parchment paper, a rolling pin, and a small non-stick skillet.
6.  Divide dough into four equal parts.  It will 'break' and seem almost brittle now.  Add a few drops of water to your hands and begin to squeeze the dough and work it into a ball.   You will notice that it will take on a soft, pliable, springy texture.
7.  Sandwich it between the parchment paper pieces and roll it until it is roughly 6" across and approximately 1/8" thick.  
8.  Heat your dry skillet to medium-high heat.  After adding a tortilla, you will notice small bubbles and a lightening in color as it cooks.  After 30-45 seconds and small brown blisters have appeared, flip and allow the other side to cook for another 30-45 seconds (usually less). 
9.  Cover finished tortillas with a lightly moist towel and serve warm. 

The stages of creating tortilla deliciousness.

Impressed by how easy it is to roll the dough.  Reminds me of fresh pasta.

Almost too beautiful to eat...

Even after I repeated the third trial for good measure, I was still surprised by how awesome the tortillas turned out.  From texture to flavor to aesthetics, they really checked all the boxes for me.  And the addition of curry really made my tastebuds sing, whether I was filling them with fresh vegetables and avocado or making dessert with almond butter and plumped raisins.  Naturally, if you're not a curry fan, feel free to substitute or omit it altogether.  But allow me to say that my roommate, who thinks most things I eat taste like bland cardboard, liked it, and he didn't even add salt or butter to it.  Just saying.

Just as suspected: even more delicious than it looks.

 As I approach my one-year anniversary of participation with the Gluten Free Ratio Rally, I am truly grateful.  Grateful to be included among such a talented and influential group and grateful for the opportunities to continue learning, growing, and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.


Big thanks to Brooke for hosting this month's challenge.  Please follow the links below for more awesome tortilla goodness from my fellow Ralliers. 

Brooke / B & the Boy! / Buckwheat Tortillas
Heather / Discovering the Extraordinary / Sundried Tomato & Basil Tortillas
Jenn / Jenn Cuisine / Corn Tortillas
Karen / Cooking Gluten Free! / Healthy Flours Tortillas
Meg / Gluten-Free Boulangerie / Lefse (Norwegian Potato Flatbread)
Pete and Kelli / No Gluten, No Problem / Flour Tortillas
T.R. / No One Likes Crumbley Cookies / Flour Tortillas - Quesadilla


  1. Oh my! Those are breathtaking, and your description make me want to reach in and grab one for eats. I think I will be playing with my recipe a bit and adding some flax. Love that idea!

    Thanks for participating!

    1. Thank you for the kind words and Thank YOU for hosting, Brooke!

  2. Thanks so much for all you do! Your are right about finding a gf flour tortilla that's soft, pliable, flavorful, yet has some bite to it is impossible. We found you through Ratio Rally & just wanted to say we love your site! What a wonderful thing you and all the participants in the Ratio Rally do to help, inspire, and teach us NOT be afraid to take the plunge. Eating something wonderful again is a true blessing! Once again thanks!
    Terri Davila

    1. I could not agree with you more about the blessing of eating wonderfully. Regardless of what we can or cannot eat, it's about having a positive relationship with food and learning to embrace it rather than keep it at an arm's length. I am truly humbled and grateful for your comment. Thank you, Terri!

  3. OK, you've got me curious...normally I'm not a huge garbanzo flour fan, but these look great :)

    1. They're actually not that 'beany' at all, Lisa. Even when I did trials without the curry powder, the garbanzo flour seemed quite subtle. I used it mainly for function, and on that end, it came through loud and clear. If you give these a try, I would love to hear what someone else's palate thinks. :)

  4. Good Job, kuya! =) I made some organic buckwheat flat breads the other day to eat with my homemade black bean hummus, yep I went to yummy nation. We should make these when we're on our trip, make a good batch of them for easy access. Did you try the 'keep' test? How long do they stay fresh in the fridge or freezer?

    1. I didn't do a thorough 'keep' test, as I've yet to see what happens when I freeze them. But the fridge didn't seem to do too much harm. I kept a couple wrapped tightly in the fridge for a couple days and then refreshed them with moist heat. They popped back to their pliable state. But with how delicious these are, that situation probably wouldn't even present itself. :) Thanks, ading!

  5. I really can't wait to try these. :D *does a happy dance*

    1. I can't wait for you to try them, too, Debi! [joining your happy dance]


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