Chapatis served with green peas masala
Based on the grains grown and consumed traditionally, India could be divided into two regions. The upper northern part of the country is based on a wheat diet while the southern portion on a rice based diet. Times have changed now and the whole nation eats both rice and wheat. Breads are a speciality of Northern region, the traditional ones originating from the wheat growing regions obviously.
Rotis / chapatis / parathas / phulkas are all unleavened flat breads originating from India while kulchas and naans are the leavened kind. The latter ones being the speciality of restaurants since they need a tandoori oven to perfect them. Served along with a vegetable side dish and a dal (bean based dish), rotis / chapatis form the basic meal, eaten on a daily basis in millions of households in India.
The Indian breads are usually prepared using whole wheat flour and a good quality of wheat flour is the first step towards those perfect rotis . Like many Indian housewives, my mother till to this day buys wheat kernels and gets them ground finely at the local flour mill for a small price. The result is finely ground, whole wheat flour which in turn yields excellent, soft rotis. Indian grocers sell wheat flour bags as atta or chapathi flour here in USA and if you are planning to make rotis for the first time, it is good to invest in a bag available at an Indian grocery store instead of the whole wheat flour sold elsewhere in the supermarkets. The Pillsbury brand though expensive is really good. I have been using Aashirvaad brand recently and that one is good too.
The next thing towards the successful rotis is of course practice. The saying practice makes perfect holds good especially for roti making. No need to lose hope if you are trying for the first time and don't get the perfect shape, thickness or the softness. Many Indian novice cooks who have grown up seeing their elders cooking rotis, also find roti making daunting. Just keep on trying and one day you will master the art of roti making. :)
Ingredients: (yield 16 - 17 rotis)
3 cups wheat flour (atta) + extra for dusting
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
1-2 Tbsp oil (optional. I don't use it but highly recommend it.)
And extra oil for frying rotis
1. Combine flour, salt and oil if using in a bowl. Add water little by little and form a soft, pliable dough. Knead the dough for a minute or so and keep aside.
* Just for an idea, I would like to mention that I added about 1.5 cups of water to form the dough. Use your discretion however while adding water. The dough should not be sticky since it would be hard to roll later. I used a standard American cup to measure both dry ingredients and the water.
2. Cover and allow the dough to rest at least for a couple of hours. Don't skip this step. I have noticed that this step ensures that you get good rotis even if you have don't have a good quality flour.
* After the resting period, you can continue to make the rotis or refrigerate the dough covered for two days. When you want to use the dough, remove it from the refrigerator and just zap it in the microwave for 30 - 60 seconds, depending upon the quantity of the dough. However remember to cover the dough while microwaving. Otherwise the dough will dry up.
3. Pinch a golf ball sized dough, shape it into a ball, flatten it and dust it with flour.
4. Roll it into a thin circle of about 5 inches diameter. At this point, you can stop rolling and fry it. Or you can pour 1/2 tsp oil at the center of the rolled circle, spread it with the back of the spoon.
5. Fold it twice to form a triangle and roll it thinly. Use flour for dusting if needed.
* I usually make chapatis in large quantities and so avoid the steps 4 & 5. Instead I take the dough ball from the step 2, flatten it in my palm and just fold it twice to form a thick triangle and roll it. And so I will end with flaky chapati without the extra work. :)
* Heat a griddle or a shallow pan. Place the rolled out dough circle on the griddle. When the bubbles start to appear, flip it.
* Spread 1/2 tsp of oil around the edges and fry flipping in between, until brown spots appear on both sides. Remove and repeat the steps with the remaining dough. Serve them with any subzi / dal.
1. A standard American size cup flour yields about 5 chapatis.
2. Chapatis can be refrigerated in a closed box or can be left on the counter for a day or two. Or they can be frozen after packing them in a ziploc bag or covering in an aluminum foil. The chapatis need to be reheated on the griddle when needed.
3. If you stop at step 4, they are rotis. If you fold twice and roll again, they are called chapatis / plain parathas.
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