Sonora Style Wheat Tortillas

Click here to go to printable recipe:  Sonora Style Wheat Tortillas 

History Tidbit:  According to the website of Mexico’s CANIMOLT (Cámara Nacional de la Industria Molinera de trigo – National Chamber of Wheat-Milling Industry) wheat was introduced to the New World through the innovation of one of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés’s servants, a black Portuguese man named Juan Garrido, who found three grains of wheat mixed with rice in a sac, and decided to sow them.  The story goes that only one grain sprouted, first growing at a snail pace, but eventually prospered, generating 180 grains, and from those, wheat became a new crop and was well established in Texcoco (just outside Mexico City) and in Puebla (a central Mexican state) by 1534, some thirteen years after the establishment of the colonies (New Spain).

The history of the wheat tortilla is also interesting, because neither did it originate in Texcoco and Puebla, nor was it an adaptation of the corn tortilla, a pre-Hispanic staple from central Mexico.  In the territories corresponding to modern-day Sonora (a Mexican Northern state) and Arizona (a Southern US state), where Jesuit missions were established, the missionaries taught the natives how to cultivate wheat but, while proper mills and bakeries had been established in Mexico City, producing flour and using Spanish recipes for bread and sweet confections to suit the conquerors’ taste, the forthright people in the Northern regions had to make do with what they had available. Flat bread made from wheat coarsely ground by hand was the result, and from there, the more refined, thinner wheat tortilla was developed. Research – almost detective – work by some sources report that this flat bread might have been first made by Sephardic Jews who came to the Americas from Spain and Portugal, and were living in the Northern regions to avoid persecution; although most had converted to Catholicism (often by force), they were still discriminated.  It is believed that they probably modelled the flat bread as some variation of the Middle Eastern pita, or even with inspiration from their Jewish soft matzo.  According to Wikipedia, soft matzo is usually only homemade but “if it were commercially available, would essentially be a kosher [wheat] flour tortilla.” To reinforce this theory, the flat bread made in the Mexican state of Sonora with coarsely ground wheat was called “zaruki”, which is also a Jewish last name (sometimes spelled “Zarucki.”)

The Northern Mexican states including Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas, all favour wheat tortillas over corn, and each region has its own recipes, some closer to the original (wheat flour and water), while others call for extra ingredients, added much later – as recently as the 19th Century – such as fat, milk, or baking powder.  In another post, I shared my mom’s recipe, who was born in Agujita, Coahuila. Recipes from that state usually call for less fat than their counterparts from other states, and many include a little baking powder; my mom always used vegetable oil for the fat, which keeps the recipe vegetarian-friendly, and free of trans fats.  

In this post, I am sharing a recipe from the state of Sonora.  Most of the modern versions call for vegetable shortening, but I do not like using that product; for this batch, I am using pork lard, but if keeping the recipe vegetarian is necessary, butter may be used instead.

Sonora Style Wheat Tortillas – Tortillas de harina estilo Sonora

Printable recipe:  Sonora Style Wheat Tortillas 

Ingredients (for 10 tortillas)

2 cups all-purpose wheat flour, plus more, for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup lard, unsalted butter, or vegetable shortening
2/3 cup warm water, or as needed

Place flour in a mixing bowl, and add salt (photo below, left).  Mix together, then add fat, broken into small pieces; rub fat into powder with fingers or a spatula, to integrate (photo below, centre).  Once the mixture is sandy, without any fat chunks, add half a cup of warm water, and mix (photo below, right:

Continue adding water by the spoonful, kneading in between, until all the flour is hydrated, forming a sticky dough; transfer to working surface (photo below, left).  Continue kneading, without adding any more water or flour, until the dough does not stick to hands anymore, and may be formed into a smooth ball, approximately five minutes (photo below, centre).  Spread a little fat on the surface, return to the bowl, and cover with a damp towel (photo below, right):

Allow to rest for half an hour.  

Uncover and divide into ten portions, by squeezing the dough between one thumb and index finger, to form balls (photo below, left).  Take one ball at a time, flattening between hands, and sprinkling with flour on both sides; return disc to the bowl, and repeat with the rest of the balls (photo below, right): 

Cover and allow to rest for another ten to fifteen minutes.

Take one disc, and using a rolling pin, thin gradually to form a circle (photo below, left).  Sprinkle more flour as needed, and continue rolling, rotating the dough, to form a large circle, approximately 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter.  The dough should be very easy to work at this point, and it may be finished by stretching with hands, until almost see-through (photo below, right):

Place circle on the working surface, or propped over the edge of the bowl; continue with the rest of the discs:

Warm up a comal (Mexican flat grill) or an iron skillet over high heat for a couple of minutes, then reduce to medium.  Place one dough circle on the hot surface, and wait a few seconds, until it starts to form bubbles (photo below, left).  Flip and allow to cook for another few seconds, while it continues swelling (photo below, right):

If the cooking hot surface is at the right temperature, it should only take ten to fifteen seconds per side, as seen in this video:

Transfer tortilla to a clean kitchen towel, and repeat with each circle.   

I have mentioned before that when people buy freshly made corn tortillas in Mexico, it is hard to resist sprinkling one with salt and eat it in the spot, so much so, that some tortilla stores keep a salt shaker on their counter.  Likewise, Sonora style wheat tortillas are said to be irresistible, hot from the grill, with a little dab of butter:

A great feature of wheat tortillas is that they keep their flexibility and texture even when cold; there is an expression “si son de harina, ni me las calienten!” – “if they’re made with [wheat] flour, don’t bother heating them up!” They also keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks; before storing in a sealed container or plastic bag, allow to cool on the kitchen counter for a few minutes, as seen below:

Notice that there are only nine tortillas in the photo; I had to test one with the dab of butter, and I have to say that it is all true, it was deliciously irresistible!

For your convenience, click on the highlighted text below for products available on Amazon™.  DISCLAIMER: Any reviews included in this post are my own, for items I have purchased, not provided by any company; as an Amazon Associates Program affiliate, I might receive a commission for any purchases originated from the links below, at no extra cost to you.  Thank you to readers who have bought other products starting with a click from my links!

I am bringing my recipes to Full Plate Thursday #632 with Miz Helen @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.

I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #600, with Bev @ Eclectic Red BarnPam @ An Artful MomKatherine @ Katherine’s CornerAmber @ Follow the Yellow Brick HomeTheresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.

I am joining Fiesta Friday #476  with Angie @ Fiesta Friday.

I am sharing my recipe at What’s for Dinner? Sunday Link-Up #411 with Helen @ The Lazy Gastronome.


11 thoughts on “Sonora Style Wheat Tortillas

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s