Friday, 3 August 2012

Fancy Chappatties

Tear off a bit and use it to pinch up the food on your plate.
Fancy Chappatties

Strangely enough, chappatties are considered a simple bread to make, for a light lunch for example.  When I make them, I find them to be a major production.  I’ll make them for lunch if I have guests, but otherwise, I reserve them for dinner on nights when I’m really in the mood to cook.

In the Western World, bread making is considered a labour intensive art, and I suppose that since we consider it that, that’s how it manifests.  ‘Tain’t easy, is all I’ll say.
Even so, they taste so amazing, they simply must be made.  Just be sure you have lots of time and patience, if you’re new to it, as I am. 

The flavours of these chappatties I’ve borrowed from the Annarasa,Essence of Food blog, but the method I’ve borrowed from my friend Urvashi’s layered chappatties.  

They’re probably not as challenging as I’m leading you to believe, although I will say it took Urvashi almost daily practice throughout most of her childhood before she could get them right.  Mine are probably not right.  However, they are pretty delicious!

2 cups whole wheat flour plus extra for rolling out
½ teaspoon coarse salt
several grates fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seed
20 chive stalks
3 fresh mint leaf tips
5 fresh cilantro stalks
2 chillies
less than 1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons (or less) melted ghee (clarified butter in liquid form)

Usually chappatties are made with Indian atta flour, which is easily bought here, but I read labels carefully, and guess what?  It’s white flour with bran added to it.  Yes, it makes for a softer dough, but I’d rather have the nutritious and organic whole wheat, so that’s what I’m sticking with. 
Take off the jewellery on your dominant hand.  Mine’s the right hand, so off come the rings and bangles, otherwise I spend forever with an old toothbrush, trying to clean out the sticky dough. 

Put the flour into a very large bowl, along with the salt, pepper and cumin.  Discard the mint and cilantro stalks, and using scissors, cut the herbs into  small pieces, right over the flour mixture.  You can use the scissors for the chillies, or a knife if you prefer.
Pour most of the hot water into the flour, and with your ringless hand, use your finger tips to stir in a circular motion, till the water is absorbed and you can begin to knead the dough in the bowl.  How much hot water you’ll need is determined by the humidity in your home, as well as in the flour, so be flexible here.

Somewhere I’ve heard that a young woman is considered a potentially good wife if she can do this neatly, without getting tons of dough stuck to her fingers.  If you’re getting a lot of dough stuck on your fingers, add more flour, and keep stirring and kneading.

My mother wasn’t one to make bread, so I didn’t learn my kneading skills from her.  In the first video, I use an Indian kneading style, which I do use for the first few minutes.  Then I lapse into a kneading style I learned from a potter when I took a university ceramics class.  Eventually I had to drop out of the class for fear of it causing my grade point average to plummet, but that’s another story.  At any rate,  I now wedge the dough like it’s clay.  I have no idea if this is normal behavior or not. 

At any rate, the dough should be kneaded, one way or another, for about ten minutes, to get it nice and elastic.  I shape it into a ball, cover it and let it rest while I’m working on the rest of the meal, although I’ve heard this isn’t necessary.
When you’re ready, heat an ungreased griddle to medium.  When drops of water splutter on it, it should be hot enough.  Many cooks use high heat, but I find the chappatties burn easily, and medium on my electric stove works for me.  Every stove is different, so experiment.

Meanwhile, give that dough one last need, and shape it into a roll with a diameter of about two inches, stretched out like a snake. 

Pinch off a piece about the size of a golf ball, about an inch and a half in diameter.  Shape that into a ball, then slightly flatten it, and dust it with a bit of flour.  Use a rolling pin to shape and flatten the dough into an 8 inch circle.  It should be about an eighth of an inch thick. 
Paint it with a thin skiff of melted ghee, then fold the circle over, and roll it out again.  If you can roll it back into a circle again, you are a magician, so a half circle will do.  You will need to flip it over several times, sprinkling more flour about, so it doesn’t stick to the counter top.  When it’s an eighth of an inch thick again, put it on the griddle.

Watch it carefully.  It will change colour, darkening.  Once the entire surface has changed colour, from a light beige to a darker beige, flip it over.  (I use my fingers, prying it up from a corner, but a spatula will do.)  Once flipped, quickly paint the surface with a scant coat of melted ghee.  The chapatti should start to puff up a bit once the ghee is painted on, but within a minute, flip it again, ghee side down on the griddle.  Now it should really puff up.  The best chappatties will puff up like little balloons, so if that actually happens, insist that one and all race into the kitchen to admire the sight!

Continue to paint a bit more ghee onto the surface, then remove the chapatti to an insulated dish, and start rolling out your next bit of dough.  In time, you may get into a rhythm where you can set one on a griddle, roll the next, flip the cooking one, paint them both, flip again, and so on.  All this takes practice.  If you have a helper to do the rolling while you’re managing the griddle, consider yourself very lucky. 
Some people give each chapatti a final coat of ghee, but it’s optional.  I’d say that a little ghee goes a long way, especially in the heart attack department.  As long as the chappaties are stacked and served quickly, they will stay soft.  I wouldn’t recommend leaving them around to get cold and hard.  If you have left overs, wrap them with a bit of paper towel and cover them well with plastic wrap.  You can reheat them if you like, or just have them at room temperature, but know that they won’t keep for very long.  Maybe a day at the most.

Chappatties are served with a main dish.  The idea is to break off a piece, and use it to pinch up a bit of the main dish, and pop that in your mouth.  If your pinching skills are weak, use a spoon to plop something on a bit of chapatti, then fold the bit over the food and pop it in.  Oh yum.
I find that every time I make these, they do get easier.  And they’re always worth it.  If you try these, please let me know how you faired! 


  1. They look wonderful--is there a potato flour version perhaps?

  2. Hi dear Mary two awards and an interesting game waiting for you at my space :) Please do collect it as a token of my love!!
    My 7th and 8th Award and An Interesting Game
    You Too Can Cook Indian Food Recipes

  3. Wow, thanks for comments, and especially thanks to Divya for the awards! I've been crazy busy this summer, but am finally back to the computer! Will post about the awards very soon!

  4. wow that looks so delicious. Hope it turns out delicious as well.