The Flour Tortilla. With New And Improved Math!

I've been making quite a few flour tortillas as of late.  75 per week, to be exact.  A few months back the chefs at the restaurant I work front-of-house at came up with a great idea to once a week offer a classic plate of fajitas on the menu.  Basically everything you'd get a Chili's or some shitty Tex-Mex place, but made with quality ingredients and delicious in a way that isn't contingent on exceeding a certain level of intoxication (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course).  Upon hearing the idea, I immediately walked back into the kitchen and volunteered to make the tortillas.  My offer was initially met by a bland surprise, then quickly replaced by skepticism, which eventually morphed into a sort of reluctant acceptance shaded with a shoulder-shrugged doubt.  In other words, I was given the green light.  So now every Wednesday before my bartending shift, I show up and roll out 75 tortillas.  

I arrived for the first shift with my recipe of ratios that I originally published in the Bean, Rice, and Cheese Burrito of our Dreams... post, and immediately realized I was ill prepared.  The problem was that my recipe was a standard baker's percentage, meaning everything was measured in proportion to how much flour I would be using.  Problem was, I didn't know how much flour I'd be using.  I needed 75 tortillas, but had no idea how much flour made 75 tortillas.  What made it worse was that the only obvious way to figure out how to derive the flour needed from the total weight of 75 tortilla's worth of dough would be to use algebra, and I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO ALGEBRA!!  I was standing there in a kitchen, 15 years removed from the last time I had to solve for x, and now all of my snarky comments about "when am I ever going to use this??" came back to bite me in the ass.  

I grabbed a pen and paper and then spent the next 15 minutes going the long way around equations to come up with this: 

This is how you can find out the weight of each ingredient assuming you know the total weight of the dough.  This is actually 100 times more practical than using baker's percentages, because it allows you to calculate how much of each ingredient you'll need to make the number of tortillas you want.  

As an example, let's say that hypothetically you need to make 75 tortillas.  Each 10 inch tortilla comes from a 50g ball of dough (obviously you can increase or decrease this weight based on how big of a tortilla you want).  All you have to do is multiply 75 tortillas by 50g and you get 3,750g of total dough.  Then simply multiply your total by the numbers for each ingredient above.  

So then for 75 tortillas weighing 50g each you'll need: 

  • Flour = 2,205g (3,750 x .588)
  • Water = 1,058g (3,750 x .282)
  • Lard = 439g (3,750 x .117)
  • Salt = 41g (3,750 x .011)

Want larger tortillas but for less people?  Easy.  Simply replace the original numbers (let's say 10 tortillas at 75g each...750g total) but multiply by the same decimals.  Make sense?  Of course it does!

Another great option would be to learn how to do algebra again.  But until then, you're somewhat safe from past math-class-based snarky comments.  

Need a refresher on how to combine and roll out tortilla dough?  Watch this video (start at 1:20) from the brilliant and I-can-never-tell-if-you're-sincerely-that-happy-all-the-time-and-if-that's-how-you-really-talk-and-part-of-me-is-worried-that-you-actually-are-and-do, Rick Bayless.  Ignore the measurements here, of course, but the technique, as always, is spot on. 

Ditch math class and make some tortillas.