Wednesday Recipe: Abuela’s Tortillas

Snow on my balcony, April 18, 2020There’s something about snow in the middle of April that makes me want comfort food, and for me there’s no greater comfort than my abuela’s tortillas. It’s also a nice recipe to have in the middle of a pandemic if you’re running low on yeast. (Spoiler: I still have plenty of yeast, I buy it in bulk. I just really wanted tortillas.)

I remember helping Abuela make these in her kitchen. She’d hand me a chunk of dough and a rolling pin and let me roll to my heart’s content. She would roll hers perfectly round. Of course, my tortillas came out looking like houses or Alaska or the occasional deformed hippopotamus, but that doesn’t matter. They still taste wonderful.

For a long time, I didn’t have this recipe because there was none. Abuela would just shake some flour into a bowl until it looked right, grab a handful of baking powder and a few pinches of salt, and mix it all by hand. Finally, one of her neighbors forced her to measure all the ingredients as she went, and this recipe is the result.

Abuela’s Tortillas

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour plus additional flour for dusting
  • 1 heaping tablespoon baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • ~2 cups hot water

Combine dry ingredients thoroughly. Mix in shortening with your hands until you have a dry, crumbly, even consistency. Gradually add water and mix until dough becomes almost smooth. You may need more or less water depending on humidity levels. Knead the dough for about five minutes.

Tear off a chunk of dough and squeeze it through your thumb and forefinger, about the size of a golf ball. Then, digging your fingers into its base, flatten the ball into a disc about two inches across that’s slightly hollow underneath. Line these up on a floured board and cover with a cloth to keep moist.

Roll the discs into tortillas using a small rolling pin. Put flour on the rolling pin to keep it from sticking to the tortilla. I recommend giving the tortilla a quarter, rolling again, and repeating until you have a nice round tortilla.

 

Cook on an ungreased hot skillet or electric griddle at 400F until brown spots appear on bottom, then flip and repeat. Watch them carefully and turn frequently or they will burn, and the skillet will be hard to clean. Makes about 18 6-inch tortillas.

 

For lunch, I made myself a delicious fish taco with a mahi mahi patty, fresh tomato slices, colby jack cheese, baby kale, and green tomato relish.

Swedish Flatbread: When You’re Out of Bagels

Sandwich made with Swedish flatbread

I don’t know about you, but all the days of the week have been blurring together. Last Wednesday blew right past me, and I didn’t even notice until Friday, at which point Easter was upon us. So I’m sorry that I missed last week’s recipe. I remembered today!

My elder daughter loves bagels for breakfast. She would eat them for lunch and dinner, too, if I let her and often snacks on them. But bagels are hard to come by right now, when I’m trying to avoid going to the grocery store for as long as humanly possible. Fortunately, there’s a type of bread she loves even more than bagels. When we visited Sweden in the summer of 2018, my daughter fell in love with the flatbreads that most Swedes eat for breakfast with butter, cheese, and ham or other cold cuts. The bread is light and fluffy, even though it’s thin, rather like a very slender bun, and it’s slightly sweet. It forms the base for a simple, relatively healthy breakfast, and I resolved to try making this odd bread.

However, finding a recipe has been harder than I expected. Part of the problem is that I don’t remember what they’re called. Some searching turned up a bread called hönökaka, named for the island of Hönö from which it originates, but this bread is twelve inches in diameter, whereas the breakfast breads we remember were just six inches wide. I decided to try it anyway and adjust as best I could, rolling out nine flatbreads instead of six. These turned out to be too thick but otherwise quite acceptable and tasty. We just sliced them in half and used them as sandwich thins. I also had to use brown sugar instead of Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which was recommended in most hönökaka recipes, but I am hoping to acquire some for my next batch. I based this largely off of this recipe but made some obvious modifications. Here’s what I came up with:

Swedish Breakfast Flatbread

  • 1.5 tablespoons dry yeastSwedish flatbreads rising on a pizza peel
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup soft light brown sugar or 1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 2-3 cups rye flour
  • 3-4 cups white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • Optional: one tablespoon butter, melted
  1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix for a minute or so, then add the sugar/Lyle’s golden syrup and mix again to dissolve. Add two-thirds of each of the two flours, plus all the salt, and start mixing. You may not need all the flour, which is why you start with the amount indicated, then add more of each as you need it. Add the 7 tablespoons of softened butter and keep mixing until it is incorporated. Add more of the flours as needed. When the dough starts letting go of the sides of the bowl (after around 5 minutes of kneading in the machine and with enough flour added), cover the dough and leave to rest in a warm place for around an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead, then cut it into twelve equal-sized pieces. Roll each one out to a circle with a diameter of 6 in., then prick all over with a fork and place on baking parchment or a floured pizza peel. Leave to rise again under a tea towel/dish towel for around 40 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 475°F. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven. Otherwise, place baking sheets in the oven at this stage, as placing the hönökaka on a hot sheet or pizza stone speeds up the baking on the underside of the bread.
  4. Prick again with the fork just before you pop the bread into the oven (you may need to bake them in batches). Bake for around 8 minutes, but keep an eye on them, as they can go brown quickly due to the sugar content. You want them slightly golden but not overly brown.
  5. Remove from the oven and move to a cooling rack. If you want a softer crust, brush with the melted butter.

Swedish flatbread sandwichWhile the traditional method is to eat them with butter, cheese slices, and ham, I made myself a nice thick sandwich using leftover Easter ham, Swedish mustard and hot mustard, mashed avocado, green tomato relish, red tomato slices, and slices of Jarlsberg cheese. Delicious!

 

Wednesday Recipe: Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies

Chocolate Fibonacci Cookies

I’ve been meaning to try this recipe forever. It came with a set of copper gear cookie cutters I bought many years ago. I’d purchased Fibonacci cookie cutters for my (alas, cancelled) book launch, and I thought this recipe would be perfect to try them out on. They’re not incredibly tasty – not too sweet or nor very rich, but I think they’re meant as substrates for icing, in which case they work very well.

CHOCOLATE CUT-OUT-COOKIES

1-3/4 c butter (no substitutes)
2 large eggs
2 c brown sugar
2 t vanilla
1 t water
4-1/2 c flour
1/2 c cocoa powder

Cream together: butter, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and water. Gradually add cocoa powder and flour. Divide dough into 3 balls, wrap in wax paper, and chill.

When ready to bake cookies, let dough soften slightly, roll out onto floured board to 1/4″ thickness, and cut out with floured cutters. Place on lightly greased baking sheets (I totally forgot to grease the sheets, and they came off just fine), and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute (this is important – they fall apart otherwise) and then remove to cooling rack. Cool completely before you decorate.

Enjoy!

The Entire Series in All Its Glory

The entire Enchanted Kitchen series: A Witch's Kitchen, A Pixie's Promise, and An Elf's Equations

Well, keeping up with blog posts while coping with a stay-at-home order, restless kids, and no Internet connection for two days has made this a very interesting week. It also scotched all my clever plans for live Q&A sessions and clever activities. But there is a silver lining! Fabulous photographer Leah Cirker-Stark took this fantastic photo of my books for me. These are hard times for a photographer who usually does portraits, but if you have products that need to look fabulous, I highly recommend her work!

Most kids seem to be settling into a good schoolwork routine, so I’m going to stop posting activities, hunker down and get back to writing A Wizard’s Warning. I hope you all find great, fun, creative things to do at home, and that you all stay safe and well.

What to Do When You Have No Internet

We just regained internet access, so I’ve had no time to put together a blog post. Wrangling WordPress on your phone is nearly impossible! Also, our access is severely limited, and there are other people on our network who need the bandwidth for work and school, so I’m afraid I will not be doing a live Q&A tomorrow as planned. If you post questions in the comments below, I’ll do my best to write up the answers and post them tomorrow.
 
Sorry, everyone. Life is so crazy right now!!! Hope you are holding up well and still have your internet access! Meanwhile, if you’re wondering what we get up to with limited internet, this is our planned activity for this afternoon. Kids, please get an adult to help you do this. Stirring hot liquids on the stove is tricky, but it is SUCH a cool experiment.

Chocolate Fondue

Hi, everyone! Our internet is down due to a manhole fire somewhere in Boston, and we have no idea when it will come up again. So rather than doing my planned post on Scandinavian food, I’m just going to post a quick and yummy fondue recipe. It’s easy to make and has the advantage that you can dip whatever you have handy in it: fruit, pound cake, brownies, whatever won’t fall apart when you dip it.

1/3 cup whipping cream
1-1/2 teaspoons (packed) grated orange peel
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

Bring whipping cream and grated orange peel to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low. Add chopped chocolate and 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier; whisk until mixture is smooth. Remove fondue from heat and blend in remaining 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier. Transfer fondue to a fondue pot. Serve with cake pieces and fruit for dipping.

Note that you can play with this recipe A LOT as long as you keep the proportions roughly the same. For example, my family prefers milk chocolate, so I use that instead of bittersweet chocolate (even though I like that better). You can use other flavored liqueurs, such as kirschwasser or amaretto or brandy. But unlike cheese fondue, you don’t actually need alcohol for chocolate fondue, so you can leave it out altogether and just add flavorings as you prefer.

You can even make it in the microwave!

I’m making fondue this evening. Hopefully, I’ll be able to update this post with photos once our Internet connectivity comes back.