helpers

my attentive helpers

Happy 2016! After a hiatus from blogging, I’m eager to get back to it. I want to say a BIG thank you to my readers for hanging in there during my absence, and an equally big welcome to you newcomers. I’ve heard a lot of people say 2015 was a challenging year, and we’re all glad a new year is upon us. At some point I may share a bit more about why my year was so challenging yet so rewarding. For now, I’m excited to share a new recipe. I’ve recently become smitten with cassava flour tortillas, and discovered they are an excellent backcountry food option not only because they are super tasty, but because they are uber easy to make!

Cassava flour comes from the cassava root, also known as manioc, tapioca root, and yuca (‘yoo-kah’) root, not to be confused with yucca (‘yuck-uh’) root, which is a completely different plant (short rant: food bloggers and produce departments get the name wrong all the time).

Although from the same plant, cassava flour and tapioca flour are not the same thing. Tapioca flour is a starch extracted from cassava root via washing and pulping. The pulp is squeezed to extract a starchy liquid; once all the water evaporates from the liquid, the tapioca flour remains. Cassava flour is the whole root, peeled, dried and ground. It has more dietary fiber than tapioca flour. In effect, you could think of tapioca flour as the “white bread” flour version, and cassava flour as the “whole grain” version.

Cassava is a strong source of vitamin C and carbohydrates, with a whopping 38g carbs per 100g flour (¼ cup). For reference, it has double the calories and carbs as sweet potato. For those of you with insulin resistance issues, be prudent! In the backcountry, I’m all about gobbling carbs, but at home, these little suckers are so good fresh off the pan, it’s easy to go overboard and then wonder why your jeans are shrinking. Not that I’d know personally…

Why I Love Cassava Flour

Have you ever seen that bumper sticker that says, “Beer is proof that God loves us”? I want one that says, “Cassava flour is proof that God loves paleo folk”. Why?

Cassava flour makes amazing tortillas that:
• taste really great
• bend, and don’t break
• you can actually roll up with yummy food inside
• are easy to make from scratch in the backcountry

** soundtrack screeeeetches to a halt**

Did you say flexible and easy to make in the backcountry?

helpers2Yesss.

Let’s back up a step here. Are you aware how bloody uncommon it is to find a tasty and flexible tortilla made with gluten free flours? Hint: it’s really hard. And making tortillas in the backcountry is typically a hassle: messy flour, dough sticks to everything, rolling it out on your ground pad, cleaning up the mess. But…

Dough made with Cassava flour is not sticky. The flour has a fine, silky texture that does not bond with other surfaces. It’s easy to mix, roll out, cook with, and clean up. The first time I worked with it, I knew it would be easy to bring ingredients into the field to make fresh, delicious tortillas at camp. At home I use parchment paper, a tortilla press and a rolling pin (er, my water bottle) to roll them out. I was debating how to do it in the backcountry (pack in parchment paper? what surface to roll it out on? the mess?). And then I discovered a no-mess way to do it. It’s super simple: the ziploc bag. BOOM!

It’s all in the recipe below, but here’s the scoop: You mix the dry ingredients in a gallon sized ziploc and package the oil separately. In camp, you mix it all up in a pot, leaving the ziploc dry. Once the dough is mixed, you separate it into little balls, and roll them out inside the ziploc using a bottle. Then you simply stick your hand in the bag and pull the tortilla out.

With any other flour, this would be a messy, sticky disaster, and your tortilla would be married forevermore to the inside of the bag. But the cassava tortillas don’t stick to the plastic. Voilà, perfect tortillas ready to toss in the pan. The first time I tried this, I was so geeked out!

And yes, they are great for eating at home; I eat them almost daily! But remember they are fairly high carb. In my recipe of 6 tortillas, each one has roughly 25g carbs (plus whatever’s in the olive oil). If you make the dough into 4 tortillas, each has 38g carbs.

I make these on a stainless steel pan (I use the lid to this one). They also work well on a no-stick pan (or on cast iron at home). My instructions make 6” tortillas, which would fit most camping-style fry pan and lid sizes. Adjust yours as needed. These tortillas come out flexible and somewhat stretchy. That’s the nature of the cassava flour. They may have darker areas that appear ‘un-done’, but if your torts have lots of golden brown spots, they’re done. Use your judgment – if you cook them too long, they become less flexible. Wrap up your favorite ingredients, and chow down!

Cassava Tortilla Recipe

tortillapan

hot off the presses!

Makes six 6″ tortillas

Ingredients:
1 cup cassava flour
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
2 T olive oil (can sub coconut oil)
2/3 cup purified water
1Tbs coconut oil for cooking
(If making for eating at home, for fluffier tortillas, add ¼ tsp apple cider vinegar to activate the baking soda more effectively)

At-Home Instructions:
1. Place only the dry ingredients in a bowl.
2. Whisk together to mix well.
3. Place dry mix in a gallon sized ziploc (you need the large bag in order to roll out the tortillas inside it at camp).
4. Make sure to carefully squeeze out all extra air. This will make it less likely the bag will burst in your food sack, spilling flour everywhere.
5. Place the olive oil in a small, leakproof container (I use a wee little nalgene bottle).
6. If using coconut oil in the dough instead, place in a leakproof container separate from the mix.
I recommend you keep the coconut oil for dough and the coconut oil for mixing separated, so you don’t forget in camp and add all of it to the mix. Gooey.
7. Because you never remember instructions as well as you think you will, write/print the in-camp instructions offered below, and place in your food stuffsack.

Cassava Flour Tortillas
Author: 
 
Instructions
  1. In a lid or small pot, warm up ⅔ cup purified water, set aside.
  2. Pour the dry ingredients into a bowl or pot.
  3. Make a well in the middle of the dry mix, and add the water and oil (if using coconut oil, melt it first).
  4. Mix well with a spoon.
  5. Knead the dough a bit with your squeaky clean hands.
  6. Remove the dough from the pot and roll into a log.
  7. Cut dough into six equal pieces.
  8. Roll each piece into a smooth ball.
  9. Keep dough balls covered so they don't dry out.
  10. Preheat your pan to medium-hot, with just a dab of coconut oil.
  11. Place a ball of dough into the center of the ziploc.
  12. Gently press the ball flat with your hand.
  13. Using a fuel or water bottle (if you don’t use bottles, get creative), roll out the tortilla slowly until it’s really thin, about ⅛ inch thick. It will be about 6” in diameter.
  14. HINT: The edges will want crack. If you turn the bottle and roll along the edge, you can repair it.
  15. Open the zipoc, slide your hand in palm down between the top layer of bag and the tortilla.
  16. Flip the bag over so the tortilla is resting on your hand.
  17. Lift the plastic up away from the tortilla.
  18. Slide the tortilla out of the bag on your hand.
  19. Remark to your campmates how awesomely easy that was.
  20. Place the tortilla in the hot pan for cooking.
  21. Immediately flip it so both sides have oil.
  22. At medium to med-high heat, cook the tortilla until the bottom side has light golden brown spots.
  23. Flip the tortilla and cook till light golden brown.
  24. Remove from pan and eat asap – they are best when warm.
  25. Remember to put a dab of coconut oil in the pan for the next tortilla.
 

In-Camp Instructions:
Mixing and kneading:
1. In a lid or small pot, warm up 2/3 cup purified water, set aside.
2. Pour the dry ingredients into a bowl or pot.
3. Make a well in the middle of the dry mix, and add the water and oil (if using coconut oil, melt it first).
4. Mix well with a spoon.
5. Knead the dough a bit with your squeaky clean hands.
6. Remove the dough from the pot and roll into a log.
7. Cut dough into six equal pieces.
8. Roll each piece into a smooth ball.
9. Keep dough balls covered so they don’t dry out.
10. Preheat your pan to medium-hot, with just a dab of coconut oil.

Rolling out:
1. Place a ball of dough into the center of the ziploc.
2. Gently press the ball flat with your hand.

flatten

gently press flat with hand

roll

roll out

3. Using a fuel or water bottle (if you don’t use bottles, get creative), roll out the tortilla slowly until it’s really thin, about 1/8 inch thick. It will be about 6” in diameter.
HINT: The edges will want crack. If you turn the bottle and roll along the edge, you can repair it.

finger pointing at cracked edge

cracked edge near finger

cracked edge after repair

cracked edge after repair

4. Open the zipoc, slide your hand in palm down between the top layer of bag and the tortilla.

hand in bag between plastic and dough

hand between plastic and dough

5. Flip the bag over so the tortilla is resting on your hand.

flip

flip the whole thing

6. Lift the plastic up away from the tortilla.

7. Slide the tortilla out of the bag on your hand.

slide the tortilla out

slide the tortilla out

8. Remark to your campmates how awesomely easy that was.

Cooking:
1. Place the tortilla in the hot pan for cooking.
2. Immediately flip it so both sides have oil.
3. At medium to med-high heat, cook the tortilla until the bottom side has light golden brown spots.
4. Flip the tortilla and cook till light golden brown.
5. Remove from pan and eat asap – they are best when warm.
6. Remember to put a dab of coconut oil in the pan for the next tortilla.
Remember, stop cooking when they are just golden brown with spots.

Cassava Flour Tortillas
Author: 
 
Instructions
  1. In a lid or small pot, warm up ⅔ cup purified water, set aside.
  2. Pour the dry ingredients into a bowl or pot.
  3. Make a well in the middle of the dry mix, and add the water and oil (if using coconut oil, melt it first).
  4. Mix well with a spoon.
  5. Knead the dough a bit with your squeaky clean hands.
  6. Remove the dough from the pot and roll into a log.
  7. Cut dough into six equal pieces.
  8. Roll each piece into a smooth ball.
  9. Keep dough balls covered so they don't dry out.
  10. Preheat your pan to medium-hot, with just a dab of coconut oil.
  11. Place a ball of dough into the center of the ziploc.
  12. Gently press the ball flat with your hand.
  13. Using a fuel or water bottle (if you don’t use bottles, get creative), roll out the tortilla slowly until it’s really thin, about ⅛ inch thick. It will be about 6” in diameter.
  14. HINT: The edges will want crack. If you turn the bottle and roll along the edge, you can repair it.
  15. Open the zipoc, slide your hand in palm down between the top layer of bag and the tortilla.
  16. Flip the bag over so the tortilla is resting on your hand.
  17. Lift the plastic up away from the tortilla.
  18. Slide the tortilla out of the bag on your hand.
  19. Remark to your campmates how awesomely easy that was.
  20. Place the tortilla in the hot pan for cooking.
  21. Immediately flip it so both sides have oil.
  22. At medium to med-high heat, cook the tortilla until the bottom side has light golden brown spots.
  23. Flip the tortilla and cook till light golden brown.
  24. Remove from pan and eat asap – they are best when warm.
  25. Remember to put a dab of coconut oil in the pan for the next tortilla.
 

Making tortillas at home? Here’s how to save time and effort using a tortilla press

I love my tortilla press! Making tortillas is way faster and easier with it.

1. Place a ball of dough between 2 layers of parchment paper.
2. Press gently to flatten it a bit.
3. Use a tortilla press to flatten the tortilla evenly. A press makes the edges nice, and saves tons of time.
4. Take the tortilla and paper out of the press
5. Finish rolling out thin with a rolling pin or water bottle.
These tortillas store nicely in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days. They are best reheated.

press

press with hand

press2

smash

press3

the result

press5

still too thick

press4

finish by hand-rolling

size

for size: a tortilla next to a pint-sized bottle