Francelia's Tortillas- A Recipe

The running of Chaa Creek's wonderful little Macal River Camp is a family affair. Dulcio is the general go-to for just about everything with his son, Ariel, by his side! His wife, Francelia, does all of the cooking and manages to almost single-handedly feed anywhere in the range of 3 to 30 people twice a day! Her food is more than delicious…it is made with such care and expertise and I found myself on more than one occasion quite convinced that those of us down at the camp were eating the very best Chaa Creek had to offer, despite our more modest accommodations.

 Ariel, Dulcio, Francelia, Alan

Ariel, Dulcio, Francelia, Alan

Not only is Francelia an incredible cook, but she is warm and welcoming and was endlessly patient as I asked her question after question about the scrumptious food that showed up on my plate twice a day. I couldn't get enough. She would smile and humbly describe what she was making, always shrugging nonchalantly as I exclaimed at the effort she went to to cook everything from scratch with fresh, local ingredients.

 Dulcio helps Francelia sometimes, too!

Dulcio helps Francelia sometimes, too!

One morning I poked my head into her kitchen in search of another cup of coffee and found her making tortillas. My interest was piqued as I have an utter weakness  for chewy, fresh, homemade tortillas. By the end of the conversation, Francelia had agreed to pick up a comal (a flat metal pan that sits on the stovetop for cooking tortillas) for me to take home and to teach me to use it that evening after dinner. 

Without further ado…Francelia's tortilla recipe:

Ingredients

1lb flour*

3tsp baking powder

1/3tsp salt

1 1/2 tablespoon lard {shortening can be substituted}

Water*

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(1) Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together with a whisk

(2) Work in the lard/shortening until it has a cornmeal-like consistency

(3) Add water a little at a time, beginning to knead the dough as soon as it will stick together enough to knead; keep adding water a few teaspoons at a time until the consistency is similar to that of pizza dough

(4) Let dough rest for 10-15 minutes

(5) Grease your hands and countertop with additional lard/shortening- the grease rather than flour is key; keep more on hand for reapplication throughout the process

(6) Form dough into balls- Francelia recommended beginning with small tortillas and I generally form a ball that is between a golf-ball and racquetball in size

(7) Heat your flat surface (griddle, frying pan, comal) on a burner over medium heat- you may find that you need to adjust your heat slightly up or down depending on how long it takes your tortillas to cook or if they are burning

(8) Flatten the ball between the palms of your hand to form a disc and then place on the greased countertop and use your greased fingers to stretch the tortilla out in a circle taking care not to rip the dough; try to stretch the dough quite thin

(9) Taking care (this takes practice!), transfer the stretched tortilla to the cooking surface

(10) Flip the tortilla when the dough has bubbled and has begun to brown on the underside

(11) Eat hot and fresh, with eyes closed and in a state of pure bliss

* Francelia recommends Bebe Agua flour, a baker's flour, which seems to only be available in Belize; I've had good luck with just a basic organic unbleached white flour, but note that the amount of water you use depends on your flour!

 Metta, another guest at the camp, snapped this shot of Francelia teaching me and Dulcio laughing at my bumbling efforts!

Metta, another guest at the camp, snapped this shot of Francelia teaching me and Dulcio laughing at my bumbling efforts!