Roti is a generic term for Indian unleavened flatbreads and this roti recipe also covers chapati its commonest form (at least in the UK). Other words you may come across are phulka and rotli. Chapatis are a variant of rotis and are usually a bit thinner than roti, although to some people the terms are pretty interchangeable - you will quite possibly find chapati and roti recipes that are identical.
Rotis and chapatis are usually made from atta, a wheat flour although as you might expect there are many varieties of flatbreads (come on - India is a Big place!).
The dough can have other types of flour added such as Black Chickpea flour, Soya flour - the Sri Lankans like to mix shaved coconut with the flour and sometimes add chopped fresh green chillies and/or onions.
Although this is a basic roti recipe, I personally have experimented with adding some fresh seeds into the dough mix. I have tried cummin, fennel and mustard seed so far. I particularly like the cumin seeded roti, its like having little taste bombs going off at random intervals.
Traditional Indian roti recipes tell you to cook them on a tava which is a slightly concave or possibly flat griddle pan. I use a cast iron frying pan (which I only ever use as a tava).
Notes on ingredients
Flour. If you cannot get chapati flour (and it is now fairly widely available) or you have run out, you can use ½ wholemeal, ½ strong white flour. I sift the wholemeal into the white through a fine sieve as this gives a softer finish.
Salt. This is optional - some people have a big thing about to much salt, and they do have a point; we generally do eat far too much of it. I tend to use a little salt (maybe ¼ teaspoon or less in 8oz flour) as I personally think it can be a little bland without it, you can leave it out if you wish.
You will also find some roti recipes advising you to mix a little ghee or oil to the dough. You can do this, the end result will be a little crisper as the oil fries the dough from within. There is much confusion about the differences but to me this is almost a paratha (see recipe) another flatbread variant but you can do this if you wish.
Add salt to the flour if you wish and mix in
Add water to the flour a little at a time until you have a soft pliable dough
Knead the dough for at least 5 minutes preferably more
Divide the dough into balls - as I say probably about 10-12
Start heating up your tava or frying pan
For each ball of dough :-
With a little more flour for dusting, roll out into a nice round, thin bit of dough, probably aim for about 5-6ins diameter
Slap the dough into the pan cook for a couple of minutes
Turn it over and cook the other side for another couple of minutes
Now turn over again press down on the bread with a fish slice (or some other flat implement - preferably not your hand unless you are impervious to pain)
Do this on both sides - this will cause the bread to puff up nicely
Repeat for each dough ball
Notes on Method
If you read enough recipe books you will have undoubtedly come across things like '..make a little well in the dough and pour in the water..' I have never really figured the point of this, I just pour in some water mix with a spoon (a lot less sticky) pour in some more water if required until it is of a consistency that I can start kneading it without getting my fingers coated in goo.
Knead well! One thing that few roti recipes stress enough is how important kneading is, it will make the finished bread softer. Kneading forms gluten within the dough (from the proteins gliadin and glutenin - like you care) and this makes the dough springy and elastic. If you don't knead it enough the final product will be crumbly and hard and fall to bits easily.
It is also good to let the dough rest for a while before rolling it out. Some would suggest that you make the dough the day before, wrap it in cling film and put in the fridge overnight - well if you like. Make sure it is not drying out while it is resting.
When you have make you little balls of dough you need to stop them from drying out; covering them with a damp cloth is OK.
Your tava or pan should be really hot when you start to cook. If it isn't, you will be drying out your dough before it starts to cook properly.
Another way to make the rotis puff up nicely is to put them directly over a low gas flame for about 5 seconds a side. If you have an electric cooker, then a couple of seconds under a really hot grill will do the trick.
Don't worry if you make too much dough, wrap what you don't use in cling film and put in the fridge where it will keep for a couple of days. You can make little rotis and even stuff them with leftover curry or vegetables (see stuffed parathas )
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