Bean and Quinoa Tortillas and Pita

I think this may be my favorite tortilla recipe to date. It makes tortillas that are soft and chewy, and not too highly flavored. The mixture of flours (including the starch) gives us a protein content above that of wholewheat flour, and a fiber content somewhere between wholewheat and white.

A problem for me with all of the gluten free cooking has been that, in general, the greater the nutritional value of a flour, the greater its flavor, which in some cases is rather intrusive. However, I also think that if you mix your flours, then you can reduce the impact of any one pronounced flavor, and allowing the cooked products to cool also results in a mellower flavor. This is a good thing.

When I first made gluten free tortillas, I did so by kneading the dough by hand. It turns out that the xanthan gum needs to be worked in order to develop its stretch, just like gluten. The worked xanthan gum results in a less ragged edge to the tortilla, as the dough stretches better while being rolled, so if you do it by hand, make sure to work the dough for a minute or two before using, or employ a food processor.

If you happen to have a tortilla press knocking around your kitchen, this device is particularly useful for making both tortillas, and pita breads. I find this recipe requires a slightly thinner dough round than if you were making the corn tortillas (because of the leavening agent), so I leave 4 pieces of cardboard cereal box in my press when I press the dough between the two pieces of parchment paper or freezer bag. For tortillas, the dough ball should be about the size of a regular hen’s egg; for pita bread, the dough ball should be about an inch in diameter.

And finally, a note on cooking: I find that my griddle gets hotter towards the end of the cooking time and turn the temperature down to low when I notice the cooking time speeding up. Don’t get intimidated by all the chit-chat, once you’ve found your own rhythm, these are quick and easy to make.

3 oz (~7/8 cup) quinoa flour
3 oz (~ 1 cup) garbanzo bean flour
3 oz (1/2 cup) potato or tapioca starch
2 tsps xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp Earth Balance margarine or oil
6 fl. oz (3/4 cup) cold water

Combine all of the ingredients except for the water in a small food processor (or by hand in a bowl, using a pastry wire helps if you’re using margarine). Process briefly to incorporate the fat.

Bean and Quinoa Tortillas Cooking

If you make the dough by hand, sprinkle the water over the flours, then bring together with your hands and knead the dough for a minute or two.

Otherwise: With the processor still running, slowly (~10 seconds) add the water.
Process for a minute in order to activate the xanthan gum.
Heat a cast iron pan or griddle to medium heat.
Cut the dough into 6 – 8 equal sized pieces, and in your hands, form into flattened balls.
Sprinkle the work surface with gluten-free flour (I used cheap white rice flour), then roll the dough ball into a round disk about ⅛ inch thick. (Or use the tortilla press as outlined above.)
Cook the tortillas one at a time on the cast iron pan until the top surface bubbles.
Turn over once the first side has some brown flecks on it. The tortilla should still be soft and moist.
Cook the second side until it too has slightly browned – about a minute.
Turn the tortilla out onto a plate covered with a clean kitchen towel (or paper towel); it will become softer and milder in flavor while it waits.
Repeat until all the dough has been used.
I use these wrapped around re-fried beans or salad, or as the bottom layer in Tofu Rancheros. At least, I do if I haven’t eaten them straight off the plate!

I make pita breads pretty much the same way I make tortillas. Use the same recipe for making the dough; roll it out a little thicker than for tortillas, and then use a 2″ cookie cutter to cut shapes out from the rolled dough. The smaller shape encourages the air bubbles that develop inside the pita during cooking to join together and make the traditional pocket.

The pita breads puff up during cooking which makes the traditional pocket. They flatten out again once off the griddle.

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