Cultures around the world eat flat bread such as chapati along with a main meal and as a snack. A common flat bread of Indian cuisine, chapati also figures prominently on dinner tables throughout East Africa. Chapati dough can be mixed quickly, and the flat bread can be rolled and fried minutes before a meal. But chapati tastes best when you make the dough hours in advance.
Three Simple Ingredients
There are many ways to make chapati dough. The simplest recipe requires three basic ingredients: flour, salt and water. To make small batch, add a heaping cup or so of flour and a pinch of salt to a mixing bowl. Mix in about a cup of water -- you may need more or less -- until the dough gets thick; it should be sticky and wet, but not runny. You can melt a pat of butter and add it to the dough if you wish your chapati to have an extra buttery taste. If you have a stand mixer, save time and mix up the ingredients using a dough hook.
Make It Bounce
Kneading chapati dough gets rid of the flour lumps. Spread a generous handful of flour on the counter, coat your hands with flour and knead the dough into a balluality. Press your palm lightly on the dough ball to test its elasticity; it should bounce right back up. If it doesn't, knead in more flour. If you used white flour to make the dough, enhance the chapati's flavor and texture by kneading the dough in another type of flour, such as whole wheat.
Give it a Rest
Letting the dough rest results in a more tender chapati, a desirable quality whether you plan to serve the flat bread with stew or eat it plain. Simply cover the dough ball with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest right on the counter for 30 minutes to 1 hour before rolling it out. Dough tends to ferment and develop a hard crust if left at room temperature for long periods of time, so if you mix your chapati dough the night before, place it in the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature 1 hour before you roll it out.
Fry It Up
Once the dough has rested, break it up into balls measuring 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Dust more flour on the counter and roll out the balls of dough. Generally, you roll a ball flat, then roll it back up like a fruit roll-up, then coil it and roll it out again; this creates the chapati's signature layers. Spread a small amount of your oil of choice in the bottom of a skillet and fry the chapati on one side. When it puffs up, flip it over and let it puff up again. Chapati cooks very quickly, in about 3 to 5 minutes, tops.
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Maya Black has been covering business, food, travel, cultural topics and decorating since 1992. She has bachelor's degree in art and a master's degree in cultural studies from University of Texas, a culinary arts certificate and a real estate license. Her articles appear in magazines such as Virginia Living and Albemarle.