The science of baking is a real thing. That said, the very clever people of India have conjured up a two-ingredient flatbread called Chapati Roti that involves little or no science or exact measurements at that. You don’t even need to let the dough rest if you don’t want to, sounds pretty good, right? Quick, simple and delicious, which is perfect for when you’re in the field.
Even though Indian food is really regional, this bread is found in homes across the country, from the north, all the way down to the south – so breaking bread is a real thing.
Here is a step-by-step for how to make it:
Roti / makes 4 dough balls:
Fire or gas burner (or your regular stovetop at home)
A flat skillet or non-stick frying pan
A small mixing bowl
Rolling pin (a wine or water bottle would work too)
A chopping board or work surface to roll
A clean cloth or kitchen paper square
2 cups organic Canadian flour + extra for rolling – I like to use part all-purpose and part red fife, but you can use 100% whole wheat, too
Approximately 200ml lukewarm water – this depends on the humidity and the flour, so add bit-by-bit
This bread is all about feeling and trusting your gut.
In a small mixing bowl, add the flour and make a well.
Gradually add water bit-by-bit, until you’re able to shape the dough into a ball.
With your hand, knead for 2 minutes until smooth – you might need to add a drizzle of oil to your hand while you’re kneading to stop it from being so sticky.
Leave it to rest for 5 minutes – you want to keep it covered so a hard skin doesn’t form.
Heat your skillet on a medium-high flame.
Uncover your dough ball and briefly knead again – it should be soft and smooth.
Divide into 4 equal-sized balls.
Shape with your hand, dip both sides in some flour, and then flatten the ball against the counter or chopping board.
Roll a round roti, dusting with flour if it is sticking.
You want your roti to be even thickness all around.
Once you’re ready, remove any excess flour, and then place onto the hot skillet.
Note: there is no oil needed for cooking this, which makes it even more badass.
After a minute or so, you’ll notice the top of the roti will start turning brown. That’s when you do your first turn. Take the roti to the side of the skillet and flip over.
Exercise a little patience and wait for the side facing down on the skillet to create brown spots and bubbles on the topside. Don’t be scared to take the roti to the side of the skillet and check how it’s doing.
Once it’s shown it’s brown spots, flip it a second time for your second turn.
This is the fun part – with a clean cloth or paper towel square, start pressing down on the edges of the bread to distribute air and cook the sides.
It should start to puff up like a big science experiment. (Don’t be sad if it doesn’t puff up).
Carefully smack down the inflated roti (ok, my middle name is danger, so give it some).
Before you repeat the process with your next roti, give your skillet a little wipe to remove that excess flour – you don’t want it burning.
You can lash your roti with some butter (or animal fat) if you’d like.
Serve hot with whatever you’d like – from daal to pretty much any dish that needs a bread, or dishes that you didn’t think need a bread but do. They work well as wraps for your campfire scrambled eggs, as well. There are no rules now that the recipe has been passed on from my family to yours.
Make Rotis not riots, people.
Photo credit: The Paisley Notebook.