Wheat Tortillas (and why Whole Foods needs better bags)

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Last fall, I decided to try grinding my own wheat flour instead of purchasing store-bought flour. Supposedly, it’s healthier to use fresh-ground flour, and it tastes better. Plus, using my own grinder should allow me to store large amounts of wheat berries to grind as I need them. I read on several blogs that hard white wheat berries made the best flour for home use, so I was happy to find them in the bulk foods area of a grocery co-op in Vermont last fall. I bought a few pounds, trucked them back to Kansas, ground them and made the best wheat tortillas I’ve ever had.

This is my grain mill, which grinds fresh flour in less than a minute.

This is my grain mill, which grinds fresh flour in less than a minute.

The problem came when I tried to replenish my wheat berry supply. It’s ironic that here in Kansas, where I’m surrounded by wheat fields, my wheat berry selection is nonexistent. None of the stores in any city around here carry wheat berries. The health food store can special order them, but I’m not sure I want to buy 50 lbs at once without trying them first. I even tried online retailers like Azure Standard and Wheat Montana, but none had a drop-off point anywhere near here.

So, that’s how I happened to be in Whole Foods in Colorado Springs one day, looking at their wheat berries. They don’t have any hard white wheat, but they had hard “winter” wheat (which is acutally a red wheat) and soft white wheat. I thought I’d try getting a few pounds of each to experiment with. I pulled a thin plastic bag off the roll near the bulk bins — the kind of bag stores use for produce, though it was thinner and more brittle than any I remember seeing before. I poured about two pounds of wheat berries into the bag, sealed it with a twisty tie and placed it in my cart.

Eli was getting fussy about this time, so I moved the bag of berries to get something for him…and there they went. Every berry in that bag began running all over my cart and onto the floor, making little clicking sounds as it fell. I froze, then started grabbing at the berries as if I could somehow put them all back in the bag.

By the time the bag was empty, there were so many berries on the ground that I couldn’t even move my cart. I was so embarrassed! And, I couldn’t even sneak away anonymously because a store clerk happened to wander up at just that moment.

“It happens all the time,” he says to me.

I smiled and apologized for the mess, but inside I was thinking, “Well, if it happens all the time, why don’t you do something about it?!”

I double-bagged the rest of my bulk-food purchases.

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When I came home from that trip to Colorado Springs, I had three bags of wheat berries to try: hard winter wheat, soft white wheat and pastry blend. Last week, I tried the same tortilla recipe with all three types of wheat. Soft white wheat made the best tortillas, with hard winter wheat a close second. Pastry blend — whatever that is — did not make good tortillas at all. They had good flavor but were unwieldy and the dough was difficult to get into a round shape.

L to R: hard winter wheat, soft white wheat, pastry blend

L to R: hard winter wheat, soft white wheat, pastry blend

Ingredients

  • 2 c. wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 T oil
  • 2/3 c. warm water (more with freshly ground flour)

Method

Mix the flour and salt. Add oil and mix thoroughly, creating a cornmeal-like texture. Add water and mix. At this point, you should have a soft dough ball.

This is the dough with hard winter wheat. This is how it should look.

This is the dough with hard winter wheat. This is how it should look.

This is the dough with pastry blend. This is NOT how it's supposed to look!

This is the dough with pastry blend. This is NOT how it’s supposed to look!

Let rest 20 minutes under a moist towel. Knead for a few minutes, adding more water if necessary. (Necessary = your dough is too dry to stay together.) Divide into 8-10 balls and let rest again for 20 minutes under a moist towel.

Roll each into a round tortilla shape. I don’t like to roll them as thin as I can unless we’re planning to eat them right away; they just get too dry that way. Cook on a griddle for 1-2 minutes on each side.

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These are yummy hot off the griddle, but they freeze well, too.

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See more yummy recipes and simple living tips at www.littlehouseliving.com.

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