The generic name for bread in India is roti (chapatti, phulka, paratha, poori, and naan). Made from whole-wheat flour, water and salt, it is kneaded, baked, and quite different in taste from the Western oven-baked, leavened loaves.
The secret to preparing good chapatis is to knead the dough. The technique for preparing Indian breads is always the same: Mix and knead the dough thoroughly to a smooth consistency for 10 minutes manually or in a food processor. Set the dough aside and cover with a damp cheesecloth for 10 minutes before rolling and baking on a hot griddle.
Griddle-baked breads are the most popular breads and eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Unleavened Indian Whole-Wheat Bread (Pulka or Chapati)
3 cups whole wheat flour
Salt to taste
1 to 1¼ cups warm water
1 tablespoon ghee or corn oil
¼ cup whole-wheat flour for dusting
¼ cup ghee (optional)
In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, and water until a dough is formed. Mix in 1 tablespoon ghee and knead for 10 minutes to a smooth consistency, pressing and folding the dough.
Sprinkle the dough with a little cold water. Cover with damp cheesecloth, set aside at room temperature for 10 minutes, and then knead until smooth.
Divide the dough into twelve equal portions and form into smooth balls. Coat each ball with flour and flatten to form a patty.
Dust some flour on a clean, dry surface. Lightly dust the rolling pin and dough with flour and roll out each ball to make a 6-inch, flat, round pancake or tortilla.
Heat an iron griddle over high heat and then reduce the heat to medium. Place the bread on the griddle and bake for 20-30 seconds, until the top starts to puff a little.
With tongs, turn the bread over and bake for another 30-40 seconds.
Using soft cheesecloth, gently press the edges of the bread until the surface bread starts to puff. Lightly brush the bread with ghee on both sides and place in a covered dish.
Repeat this process until all the bread is baked and serve immediately with vegetables, legumes, and salad.
Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.