Friday, March 9, 2012

Doritos: A Promise of Homemade Tortillas

I took the week off. I needed to put a presentation together for school. I had the most intense craving for lemon-flavored desserts. I bought a filing cabinet and spent an entire Sunday going through the stack of boxes and organizing the cabinet. I just couldn't fit making tortillas from scratch into my weekend.

But this weekend. I promise.

I'm going to stick with the traditional Dorito flavoring this time. For the next round I have something spectacular in mind!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Doritos: First Attempt

I've tasted success. And it tastes like Doritos.

Homemade Doritos using store-bought ingredients were a success. I'm actually pretty impressed with the result, but have some fine-tuning to do.


  • The flavoring was great! Yes, I used the powdered cheese from the store, which was super salty and tasted a lot like box mac n' cheese. I added a lot of other powdered seasonings based on the ingredients list from the real Doritos - or what I could make out of that list, a lot of it sounds like chemical-ville. 
  • The flavoring adhered to the chips better than I thought it would, and I didn't lose too much to the paper towel. 
  • The shape and size of the chips was accurate, and for the most part they were crunchy. 
  • I didn't burn my house down, burn myself, or make too big of a mess. 
  • They look and taste like Doritos!!!*
  • As we learned from reading the history of Doritos, when they redesigned the chips in 1994, they made them thinner. You can tell, because these, while looking and tasting very good, are quite a bit thicker than your average Dorito. 
  • While this is possible and quite easy with a pot full of oil, it would be easier with a proper deep fryer because the temperature would have been more consistent. Some of my chips could have cooked longer, and consequently came out chewy. 
  • I should have at least bought a deep fry basket. I eyed one today and ultimately didn't buy it (idiot) and so I had to use various implements to scoop little triangles of tortillas out of the 300 degree oil, meaning some cooker longer than others. 
  • My house smells like deep fry. 
Before leaving for the store today I made a list of ingredients that I thought would make up the powdered flavoring. Wikipedia conveniently provided the full ingredient list, and while I didn't recognize most of them, I was able to put together a list that sounded pretty close to what Doritos taste like.  

The first major success was that I found a packet of powdered cheese at the store. There is was, on a bulk spice rack, looking suspiciously like it had been liberated from a box of Kraft Mac n' Cheese. What can I say, it's the Midwest. It looks horrifying. The downside is that this was from the bulk spices and was distributed by my local grocery store. Is it available everywhere? I have no idea. It looks and tastes a LOT like the packet of cheese you get in a box of Mac n Cheese. Maybe that would be the alternative?  

The second big success was figuring out how to deal with an ingredient listed as 'tomato powder'. Tomato bouillon, of course! I have never actually cooked with tomato bouillon before, but I see it every time I look for vegetable bouillon. 

Other than those two, the tortillas, and some extra vegetable oil, I had the rest of the ingredients at home already. It's actually not a bad blend of spices.  

Among the ingredients listed on the real Doritos is sugar. I don't know whether that's the seasoning or the tortillas, but I like sweetness to bump up and contrast the other flavors, so I decided to add some. But then, even though it wasn't an ingredients, I wanted to add paprika for color, especially after I saw how bright orange that cheese powder was. Since I only had sweet Hungarian paprika, I nixed the sugar.  Good move.

The list of ingredients on the cheese powder included both onion and garlic powder, so I went easy on those.  I used chili powder because these are supposed to be nacho cheese (thoughts: cumin might have been nice), black pepper and cayenne pepper for color and kick, and about a quarter of a cube of the tomato bouillon, since they were the two cup kind. The brand that I bought is a lot softer and more moist than other types of bouillon that I've used, so it took a lot of crumbling to get it small enough. 

When I whisked them together, they actually took on the color, scent, and taste of what you find on your fingers after polishing off a bag of Doritos. I had to adjust and add quite a bit more chili powder than I was expecting to get it dark enough. And to get it to stop tasting like mac and cheese.  

Once I was satisfied with that, I poured a disturbing amount of vegetable oil into a pot. Could I have used a better oil? Probably. Was I prepared to figure out how to cook with one of these other, healthier oils? Not today. I know vegetable oil. I can handle it. We're just testing the waters today, guys. Next I cut a stack of tortillas into eighths. I started small and only put a few in. 

Again, the problem of not having a deep fryer was that it was hard to tell how hot the oil was, and my first small batch was a little dark. Then I discovered the dilemma of not having a deep fry basket, or any kind of big mesh scoop, which meant that while I frantically tried to scoop the chips out with my slotted spoon, the ones left behind were cooking away. The next batch I didn't leave in as long, resulting in the first chips I took out being under cooked and chewy, and the last chips being too dark. This is probably just a perfection of technique issue, and having the right tools would help. And you can still eat them; they just taste a little stale. No big deal, everyone's eaten stale chips. 

After I pulled these out, I put them on a big baking sheet lined with parchment and paper towels. I didn't let them drain/dry for too long, though, because I was afraid that the seasoning wouldn't stick. 

To season, I used my sifter - the one with the little crank handle - but I didn't put a lot of the seasoning in it. It fell right through and dumped straight onto just a few chips. 

I was too much of a coward to put all the seasoning in there because I had a lot more chips to cook, so I just kind of finessed it by tapping the side with a spoon until they were mostly coated. 

I took them from the tray and dumped them into a big mixing bowl. Partly to free up the tray for the next batch of chips, and partly so I could toss the chips and get them more evenly coated.  It kind of worked.  As more chips were added they got coated a little better. 

I kept repeating this process until I had used about 20 tortillas. I never put more than 4 tortillas in the pot at a time, and they definitely cook better with less in there. It's also easier to season them, so I think it's safe to say that it's worth it to take your time and not rush through this. 

*I should note that I did not actually buy a regular bag of Doritos for comparison purposes. Doritos are one of my favorite snacks, so I'm thinking that I've eaten enough in my lifetime that the memory comparison should be sufficient. 

Store Bought Homemade Doritos

1/4 cup Cheese powder, or dehydrated cheddar ground into fine powder
1/2 tsp Chili powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp paprika
1/4-1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, more if you want it hotter
A pinch of black pepper
1/2 cube of tomato bouillon

20 corn tortillas
oil for frying

Whisk all spice ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. Cover a baking sheet with paper towels.  

Pour oil into a wide heavy pot or deep fryer. I used my wider soup pot because it allowed more tortillas to fit without overlapping. I poured in about a half an inch worth of oil. I was hesitant to use more because I'm secretly terrified of burning my house down.  

Heat the oil over moderately high heat. The experts (and by that I mean the internet) recommend 300-330 degrees. My only cooking thermometer, the one for meat, only goes up to 220, so once I hit that, I waited another 5 minutes and figured it was good. Meanwhile, cut a stack of about 4 tortillas into 8 wedges. I used my pizza cutter. 

When the oil is hot, carefully add the tortillas. The oil will start to bubble up right away.  Try to move them around so that they are evenly layered over the top of the oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes until oil stops bubbling and chips have darkened slightly. Remove from oil.  If you don't have a basket or a large wire spoon, work as quickly as possible because the pieces left behind are still cooking.  Dump the chips onto the paper towels and let them cool for just a minute.  

While the chips are cooling, spoon some seasoning into a mesh strainer or sifter. Do this over the bowl so that you don't lose any, then carefully shake the seasoning over the chips to coat. Turn them into a large bowl while you make more chips.  

Repeat this process until you run out of either tortillas or seasoning.  When you are finished cooking, toss the remaining chips with any leftover seasoning.  

Sit down and enjoy... until your basketball team starts losing. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Doritos: An Interruption

Alert!  Alert!  My stove is broken!

And by 'broken' I mean 'working really really way too well' because it won't actually turn off.

Fortunately (well, from a cooking standpoint, extremely unfortunately) I have an electric range, so the quick fix for this is to just go down into the basement and throw the circuit. This means that, for the past week, any time I've wanted to cook something, I have to head down to the basement, flip the switch, and then go back down when I'm finished.  In the larger scheme of things, this isn't actually a big deal.  I should be able to proceed with my first test run of homemade Doritos this weekend.

However. I am still waiting for someone to come out and repair the stove. I don't actually think that they would come on a Saturday, but you never know.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Doritos: Dilemmas and Options

The way I see it, there are four options for creating these homemade Doritos:

  1. Make both the tortillas and the powdered cheese from scratch
  2. Make the tortillas from scratch, buy the powdered cheese
  3. Make the powdered cheese from scratch, buy the tortillas
  4. Buy both the tortillas and the powdered cheese
Obviously, the true spirit of the project dictates that I make everything from scratch. On looking into it, it seems like this is actually possible to make both the tortillas and the powdered cheese from scratch. I mean, obviously it is because someone, somewhere has to actually make these, but there is often quite a difference between the tools, ingredients and techniques available to commercial food producers, and what's available to you in your home. 

So first, the tortillas. I once watched a TV food show, I forget which one, where a lady makes her own tortillas. She had this round, flat press that shaped the meal into a tortilla and it was uniform in thickness and size. I obviously don't have one of these, so I rendered this task an impossibility. A little research, though, lead me to this website that has a recipe not only for homemade Doritos, but it include the recipe for the tortillas, too. It seems that you use the rolling pin to shape the tortillas, and that doesn't seem too hard. 

Now, the powdered cheese.  Apparently all it takes is about 10 hours in a dehydrator, then a spin through the food processor to turn the dried cheese into powder. And therein lies the problem. The food dehydrator.  I looked into this a bit further and, while it seems possible to use a basic oven like a dehydrator, it takes quite a bit more work and the end result isn't consistent. Some sites even recommend things like propping the oven door open and putting a fan in front of it. And running the oven for 10 hours? Count me out. 

But buying a dehydrator? I don't know. At this stage, it's sort of a level of commitment that I'm not quite prepared for. Not that I have any thing against buying additional cooking gadgets - not that at all! But a dehydrator has never even been on my list of somedays. Also, truthfully, I'm concerned about the possibility of making my own jerky, and what that would do to my world.  

So, for the time being, it looks like options 1 and 3 from the above list are off the table.  I think that, since we're at the very beginning stages of this project, I should maybe take the easy way out, just this once, and buy both the cheese, and the tortillas. If I manage to pull them off (including if I manage to find some form of powdered cheese), I'll try making the tortillas from scratch. And all the while, I will contemplate the idea of buying a food dehydrator. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Doritos: A Brief History

Some facts about Doritos (per the internet - I should state here that I tried to do some research on a Doritos factory tour, and this does not seem to be a thing, so the internet will have to suffice):
  • Created by Arch West in 1964 (fun fact about Arch: His family sprinkled Doritos over his gave when he died in 2011*)
  • Launched in the US in 1966
  • The first tortilla chip to be launched nationally in the US
  • Doritos made up 1/3 of total sales for Frito-Lay in 1993
  • The product line was "redesigned" in 1994 to make the chips larger, thinner, and to have a more powerful flavor
  • Someone sued the company because he cut his throat eating the chips (how about slowing down next time, guy?)
  • The first flavor was taco; nacho, the most popular flavor, was launched in 1972
  • Cool ranch was released in 1986 (fact: as a kid, I loved eating the cool ranch chips with extra sharp cheddar cheese)
  • Marketing for Doritos includes celebrity endorsements, Super Bowl ads, and sending chips out into space (seriously)
Today, Doritos offer a kind-of-absurd variety of flavors, many of them for a limited time only (90% marketing, 10% taste, right?). To their credit, they have completely removed trans fats from their recipe. The ingredients list still contains a host of things I can't pronounce, though, so in reality, who knows what's actually going on here. After all, they are a mass-produced snack food with an impressive shelf life. 

Now, let's deconstruct this a bit: 

Tortilla chips, the obvious basic component of Doritos, got their start in Los Angeles in the 1940s. They are kind of a spin-off of the Mexican tostada, though usually cut into triangular pieces from a corn tortilla. Credit for this goes to Rebecca Webb Carranza of the El Zarape Tortilla Factory, who was looking for a way to use the broken pieces that couldn't be sold. 

So Doritos combined the tortilla chip with the flavor into one convenient bag, making it tasty and accessible to Americans everywhere. This is exactly what I will attempt to do at home. As soon as I unlock the secret to powdered cheese... 

*I'm just cribbing off the internet, you guys. If any of this isn't accurate, blame Wikipedia.