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Friday, January 16, 2015

Chapati, aka Roti (Indian Flatbread)

Chapati, aka Roti (Indian Flatbread)
It never ceases to amaze me the amazing things that result from using only three simple ingredients: flour, salt, and water. That is exactly the case with this month's Bread Baking Babes challenge—Chapatis (Roti), issued by BBBabe Elizabeth. Elizabeth mentioned that "something nice and plain after all our excesses over the holidays" was in order. I had to agree. Even though I didn't make the gorgeous Nutella Brioche flowers that the BBBabes made last month, there was still excess.

As soon as I read through the instructions for making Chapatis, I realized that making them is basically like making flour tortillas. It's pretty amazing how so many different cultures make a very similar version of the same food, don't you think? Each may have a slightly different method, or use a slightly different technique or tool. Different, but not.

Elizabeth made a very helpful video (included after the recipe below) that actually helped me see the major difference between making tortillas and making chapatis. Of course, she uses an electric stove, and I use a gas stove, and that actually makes a difference, as well.

Where tortillas are a bit thinner and flatter, chapatis are the slightest bit thicker and puffier. And while I can make a tortilla puff like nobody's business without even trying, I had to work at getting the chapatis to even slightly expand. I had a couple do really nicely, but some started to crisp up on the edges before they'd puff, so I had to remove them from the flame. What I noticed was that the few that I did get to balloon nicely were larger (I'm notorious for not getting all the pieces of dough "even"). Even with the flame as low as I could get it, the smaller ones didn't seem to have enough time to do their things. So, if you are working with a gas stove (and don't have making chapati down flat), I recommend making 6 instead of the 8 originally called for.

I was thinking that maybe a rack set over the flame a good ways (similar to Elizabeth's electric method, but a bit higher) may do the trick, as well. But alas, I didn't have anything high enough to make that happen. I will be keeping my eyes peeled for something I can use, and updating in the future with my results, if so.

But guess what? Even if not perfectly puffed, they were perfectly delicious. I may or may not have polished off every last one as I scooped up thick, savory portions of cold Split Pea and Smoked Turkey Soup (it's a thick puree).

Chapati, aka Roti (Indian Flatbread)
Chapatis, also known as Rotis, are a delicate, wholewheat Indian flatbread made simply from flour, salt, and water.
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Chapati, aka Roti (Indian Flatbread)
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 45 to 75 minutes (largely unat
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Keywords: bread dairy-free vegan sugar-free nut-free soy-free flour Indian

Ingredients (6 to 8)
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup just-boiled water
Stir together the flours and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Gradually add in the hot water, stirring with a fork as you go along, until you have a soft dough (you may not need all of the water, so slow down after you've added 3/4 of a cup). Your dough should be tacky, but not sticky. However, if you wind up adding too much water and it does get sticky, add more flour to your work surface.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface (see above), and knead for 10 minutes, or until soft and silky.

Clean out the bowl, and set the dough back in it, then cover with a plate or damp cloth. Let sit at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes.

Place a tava (or nonstick skillet) over medium heat. Turn the flame on another burner to low. (If using electric, please see video that follows these instructions.)
chapati or roti dough
Divide dough into 6 equal pieces (or 8 pieces if you want smaller chapati). Roll dough out until it is just under 1/4-inch thick; you can either lightly oil or lightly flour your work surface while doing this. I found that using a tortilla press is the perfect shortcut here.

Transfer the disk to the hot, ungreased skillet. As soon as you see little bubbles form, flip it. If bubbles aren't forming in the bread, use your hand or a spatula to tap it; this should help coax it along. You want a few dark brown spots to form on each side. Transfer the bread to the burner with the open flame for a few seconds, just until it puffs (steam gets inside and opens up the center).

Transfer to a plate or bowl lined with a clean towel or cloth napkin, and cover. Repeat until all of the dough has been formed and cooked.

-based on "Flat Wholewheat Bread - Roti" in A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey

This recipe is written for using a gas stove, since that's what I have. Our host this month, BBBabe Elizabeth, uses an electric stove, and she made a fantastic video showing you just how to make Chapati using electric. Just look at that beautiful puff!

Bread Baking Babes - January 2015 Chapatis

The current Bread Baking Babes are:

The Bread Baking Buddies are: YOU!

So which Babe is the hosting kitchen this month?  That would be Elizabeth at blog from OUR kitchen, if you'd like to join in, simply make Chapati (Roti) (yes, you may adapt) - and then send Elizabeth your link (info in her announcement post).  Submissions are due by January 29th.  Once you've posted, you'll receive a Buddy badge for baking along.  I hope you'll join us this month!

Chapati, aka Roti (Indian Flatbread)
More great flatbreads you can make at home:
Aloo Paratha
Homemade Blue Corn Tortillas
Homemade Corn Tortillas
Homemade Flour Tortillas
Nan e Barbari (Persian Flatbread)
Rghaïf (Moroccan Flat Bread)