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Puff! Puff! Puff!! Chapatis (BBB January 2015)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Chapatis, based on a recipe in “A Taste of India” by Madhur Jaffery; cooking on an electric stove, including a how-to video; a Bread Baking Babes project; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) January 2015

I know; we JUST made Indian flatbread! But this one is different – not nearly as rich.

I have the honour of being the host kitchen for this January. And I really wanted to choose bread that is made with just flour, water and salt. Heaven knows that we need to have something plain and simple after all our excesses over the holidays….

The foods of my childhood can still be found in Delhi: many more have been layered on. Morning still start in a haze of familiar smoke sent skyward by millions of stoves and cookers. […] Chapatis, delicate wholewheat breads, are slapped on to cast-iron griddles – tavas. These chapatis will be buttered lovingly, stacked, and then together with the vegetables and a piece of green mango pickle, ensconced inside the compartments of a million tiffin-carriers.
 
– Madhur Jaffrey, A Taste of India, p. 20

chapatis

Recently, we have been thrilled with the chapatis we’ve been making. And while making chapatis for some people who make chapatis almost every day might be a little humdrum, for us, the thrill has not lessened. Not even remotely. :-)

Eons ago, when we visited India and were staying with friends, T suggested that I should be showed how to make chapatis. We were all very excited. And when we got home, I tried and tried to replicate the bread. Finally (and I can’t remember where I got the idea), we had major success – because I used very hot water to mix the dough.

Here is what we do to make chapatis: Chapatis (BBB January 2015)

BBB Chapati diary:

2 January 2015 08:17 I’m so excited. Today is Chapati Video day! The sun is shining; we have coriander leaf, green chillies and beautiful farm eggs. What could be better than green chilli omelettes and chapatis to counteract our recent excesses? Happy New Year indeed!!

2 January 2015 08:57 scoring I skipped down to the kitchen, put on the kettle and in no time was mixing and kneading the dough. It was a breeze.

I was so proud of myself for putting in exactly the right amount of water (I really didn’t want to go through the nightmare of a few months ago, when I added too much water and ended up with a soupy mess. Nor was I wanting to deal with dough that was so dry that it wouldn’t roll out….) I especially loved that the dough was so beautifully warm. Even though the sun is shining, the kitchen is quite chilly….

I covered the bowl (aren’t you jealous of our new lovely poppy shaped silicone bowl cover we got for Christmas?) and the dough is resting now.

10:58 In the past, we’ve used two burners to make the chapatis (actually three… one for keeping the cooked chapatis warm.) As I was taking the tava (carbon steel pan) off the wall, I suddenly remembered what we did last fall (I think it was last fall): scoring we devised the method of putting the tava on top of the rack placed over the burner. Once the first step in cooking was done, we slipped the chapatis off onto the grill to puff. This way, only one burner needed to be turned on (errmmm, two… the back burner on low with the chapati fluffer placed under a lidded pot to keep the cooked chapatis warm).

11:03 The camera’s ready; I’ve got my apron on! Here’s hoping that the chapatis are obedient and puff up nicely.

13:27 Well!! That really couldn’t have gone any better! Every chapati puffed up beautifully. We only had one deflate because of a hole when it was turned over. They tasted fabulous!

We didn’t butter or serve them with vegetables and a piece of green mango pickle, but I think Madhur Jaffrey would have approved anyway. Green chilli omelettes simply cry out for chapatis!

(If you cannot view the video, please try going directly to etherwork on YouTube: cooking chapatis on an electric stove (January 2015))

BBB Chapati Here is the BBB January 2015 Chapati recipe:

BBB Chapatis, aka Rotis (Indian Flatbread)
based on Flat Wholewheat Bread roti in “A Taste of India” by Madhur Jaffrey, p.192-193

After struggling for months trying to make these, I now understand why all the recipes I looked at seemed to be so vague. Here is how we have finally managed to make pretty good rotis, using an electric stove and North American flour. I apologize in advance for any vagueness and urge you to keep trying even if your rotis don’t turn out perfectly the first (second, third, fourth…) time(s). As Shehzad Husain says:

Do not get disheartened […] you will improve with practice.
 
-Shehzad Husain, Entertaining Indian Style

Equipment

  • stove
  • open wire rack (single burner open wire rack on feet that set the rack about an inch off the burner)
  • rolling pin
  • tava (heavy carbon steel shallow frying pan) ¹
  • tongs
  • lidded pot

Ingredients to make 8 rotis

  • 1 c (240ml) unbleached all purpose flour
  • ½ c (120ml) whole wheat flour ²
  • 1 tsp salt
  • up to 1 c (240ml) just-boiled water ³
  1. At least 45 minutes before cooking the bread: mix flours and salt in a medium sized bowl. Add hot water gradually, stirring with a fork until you have a soft dough. Please note that you don’t have to use all the water; the amount will vary drastically depending on air temperature and humidity. You just have to play with it. You are aiming for dough that resembles silly putty. (On regular non-humid days, I end up using about three quarters of a cup (180ml) and rarely use as much as a cup….)
  2. Using as little extra flour as possible, knead on a board or in the air for 10 minutes until the dough is soft and silky.
  3. Put the dough back in the bowl. Cover with a damp cloth or plate and let sit on the counter for 30 minutes to one or two hours.
  4. Put the tava on medium heat. Do not oil it. Put the wire rack on another burner at the highest heat possible. Alternatively, put the wire rack over the burner and place the tava on top of the rack.
  5. BBB chapatis Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Lightly flour each one and put 7 pieces back in the bowl. Cover the bowl. Form the piece of dough into a ball and flatten it. Roll it out into a round until it is quite thin but not too thin (this is again is one of those infuriating things where you will just have to practice to find out what thinness works best for you) – about 2 mm?? As you roll out the dough, make sure it is not sticking to the board and that there are no holes. Keep the rolling pin lightly dusted with as little flour as possible and the board the same way.
  6. BBB chapatis Place the round of dough on the hot tava (griddle). As soon as you see little bubbles form, carefully turn it over using tongs. As soon as there are little bubbles on the reverse side, lift the bread off the tava with the tongs and place it on the wire rack. It should puff up. Turn it over once or twice to ensure that it puffs up completely. Don’t be worried to see a few dark brown spots on it. (If you are lucky enough to have a gas stove, you don’t need the rack; you can hold the bread directly over the flame.)
  7. Put the finished bread into a pot and cover it with a lid. Keep it in a warm spot (oven or on a back burner). Roll out the next piece of dough and repeat until you have 8 rotis. As you put a new roti on the stack, turn the finished rotis over to keep the bottom ones from getting wet.

BBB chapatisBBB chapatisBBB chapatisBBB chapatisBBB chapatis

We love to have this bread with green chili omelettes or Palak Paneer (spinach and cheese).

Notes:

1.) Tava We went to our local India town to get the tava and footed wire rack. They are not very expensive items. You can probably use a flat heavy griddle in place of the tava and a cookie cooling rack works in place of an official chapati fluffer.

2.) Flour Traditionally, chapatis are made with atta (finely milled 100% whole wheat flour). If you have access to atta, do use it – measure for measure in place of the unbleached all-purpose and whole wheat flours listed above.

3.) Water I know you’re glazing as soon as you see this part. But I’ll pretend that you’re riveted. I’m pleading. Please do not use water from the hot water tap. Instead, heat the water in a kettle or microwave. Room temperature water can be used to mix the dough but we’ve found that using just-boiled water gives us better results.

chapati

Bread Baking Babes

As you already know, I am hosting of January 2015’s Bread Baking Babes’ challenge! And it’s a bit audacious of a foreigner like me to choose chapatis when one of the BBBabes is from India and can probably make chapatis in her sleep. She really should be the one telling us how to make the bread….

Happily, Aparna is magnanimous (of course she is; she’s a BBBabe!) and gracefully and gently gave us the following tips:

  • I would suggest using the Indian wheat flour called “atta”, if you can find it, to make chappathis. They give you the softest chapathis. There is a difference in the kind of wheat grown in India and the one in the US. Which is probably why Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe asks for all-purpose flour with the wholewheat flour. I personally find that using all-purpose flour in chapathis makes them chewier. :)
  • A ‘phulka’ is a chapathi that puffs up. ‘Phulna’ in Hindi means to puff up. Chapathis can made without their puffing up as well.
  • If you line your chapati container with a thin kitchen towel and then put your chapathis in them as you make them, the towel will absorb the moisture and prevent them (especially the bottom most one) from becoming soggy.

Aparna is probably right about the atta. We CAN get it here pretty easily. But I’m not entirely sure that a) it’s not loaded with preservatives b) fresh as it should be c) way more expensive. Some years ago, when I was still failing miserably with getting the chapatis to be anything but shoe leather, we did buy a bag of atta from IndiaTown (when atta wasn’t so easy to come by). I’m afraid it didn’t help with my shoe leather problem AND it went rancid rather quickly, so had to be thrown out. But I really should try it again, shouldn’t I? Next time!

We know you’ll want to make chapatis! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make chapatis in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 January 2015.

Here’s how to let us know:

edit: Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please email if you want to be included.

If you don’t have a blog or flickr-like account, no problem; we still want to see and hear about your bread! Please email me with the details, so your chapatis can be included in the roundup too.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ January 2015 bread:

 

chapati

Sigh… The malicious bots haven’t given up yet and I am still unable to turn on commenting. I hate to suggest FB as an alternate place to comment, if you are wanting to comment, that is. But, how about on the video? YouTube allows comments. :lalala:

 

edit 21 January: We made chapatis with atta and they’re so soft and pliable!! Please read more here.

chapati

edit 30 January: Please take a look at the BBBuddies’ Chapatis.

edit 25 February: I finally have commenting allowed again! Whoohooooo! (read more here about the hoops I jumped through)

 

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  • vkutwsqK3b

    Thanks for the walk through, especially the 2 in 1 cooking hint!!

    I’ve been wanting to try making chapati for ages, and today remembered to buy some flour on the way home from gym.

    Being somewhat worn out from the workout, I decided to try the mixing part using my breadmaker, (Panasonic SD257) which has a really good pizza dough cycle of 45 mins. Thing about the breadmaker is, you can’t get repeatable results with cup measures, so I used 350 grams atta and a teaspoon of salt, then added water slowly while it mixed, using 250ml water (not boiling, sorry!), to get a nice looking dough, well mixed and rested. The breadmaker adds a bit of heat, and also spends about 20 of the 45 minutes stirring, (effortlessly!), so I think this makes up for the not boiling water.

    …… Because the results were fantastic!
    I was prepared to write off this batch as education, but no way. My ten inch cast iron frypan over a 10 inch cake rack on a 9 inch ceramic cooktop worked a treat..

    Next stop, paratha?

  • Well, how cool is that?! I’m really glad your chapatis worked out well.

    As for what’s next, yes, paratha for sure!

    (I still urge you to try mixing by hand, using boiling water – just to do a taste test. We found that chapatis made from dough made with hot water really were much more tender.)

  • vkutwsqK3b

    Yes,yes,yes! The boiling water indeed made a big difference to the finish. Puffed up really quickly, and much softer than the 1st batch.
    I used the breadmaker again (workout day again!), and added another 20ml water after the 1st knead to get the dough texture right.
    Maybe heating water expands it enough to affect the water:flour ratio?