A simple recipe for unleavened whole wheat Indian flatbread also known chapati and roti with a few tips on the process.
Sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself. I am a mess. Today I keep turning my head into believing that it is Friday. It is not Friday, a rather unfortunate truth. I also keep thinking that if I ignore the atrociousness of my house long enough that elves will come to take care of it for me. I have yet to see these house-elves appear, and so the disarray remains: A pair of discarded shoes and socks strewn through the living room, a pile of LEGO patiently waiting for me to step on it, dishes piled in the sink passing the time until the dishwasher is less occupied.
Then there is this business of bread, roti, and how I am not the right and proper source for the business of rolling and grilling chapati into soft flaky rounds of wheat. No, this business is best left to those with heritage, I tell myself, whose mothers and grandmothers made this, their hands sticky with flour and water, deftly turning out small rounds in mere minutes. Yet here I am, writing about this tortilla-like bread from India because I believe in branching out and in sharing.
Without the use of yeast, all the dough requires is a few minutes of kneading and then a few more to let it rest and soften as you prepare the rest of your dinner. (May I suggest a saag paneer to dip warm rounds in?) Chapati also make a good vehicle for lunch wraps filled with any variety of meats and vegetables.
- Chapati should be soft and pliable, not hard or stiff. I read a few things about clapping the rounds as they came off the griddle, but I have found that wrapping them in a warm towel works well.
- Whole wheat flour is traditionally used, or atta flour, which is made from semi-hard wheat berries. If you use whole wheat pastry flour, which is generally a soft white wheat berry, you are going to need a bit more flour to get the dough to come together. A total of 2 1/3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour will result in a similar dough consistency.
- Phulka is chapati or roti that has been inflated over the flame. You can do this by putting it over direct flame (just straight on the gas burner) or I achieved a similar puffing by using the wooden tongs or a clean towel to press the bread disc to the skillet, which allowed steam to build up inside. Be careful not to burn yourself on escaping steam, though.
- Chapati can be made on a griddle or in a pan. I use a cast iron pan for even heating and browning.
- You can store the dough for a day or two covered in the refrigerator, but you do need to let it come to room temperature before rolling and grilling.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water
2-3 tablespoons melted ghee, optional
Place 2 cups whole wheat flour in a medium bowl. Pour one tablespoon of oil into the center. Slowly drizzle in the water, using your opposite hand to mix the dough, running it through the flour in circles as the water is absorbed and the dough starts to form. Once the dough is a ball, turn it out onto the counter and knead for 5-7 minutes or until smooth.
Place the ball of dough back into the bowl and pour the remaining oil over the surface. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to sit for 30 minutes.
When you are ready to grill, start by preheating your cast iron skillet or grilled over a low heat. Separate the dough into 12 2″ balls. Place the balls in the bowl and cover again so they do not dry out. Remove one ball, flatten in your palm, and dip lightly in flour, shaking to remove any excess. Roll out the ball to 5-6″ in diameter.
Turn the heat on the griddle up to medium-high. Take the dough circle in between your hands and slap it back and forth lightly as you would with pizza dough to remove any extra flour from the surface. Place the circle on the griddle and cook until small bubbles appear on the surface and the side that is down on the griddle starts to brown in small areas across the entire circle. This will only take a few seconds.
Flip the chapati using a pair of wooden tongs or coated tongs to avoid puncturing the dough. Press the sides and center of the chapati down on the griddle. This will cause steam to expand inside the middle. Once the second side is brown, remove the chapati from the heat. Immediately brush with melted ghee, if desired, and move to a warm towel or basket. Repeat with all the remaining dough circles.
Makes 12 chapati.