Making Flatbread On Your Stovetop

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Flatbreads are one of the simplest forms of bread to make at home. They make an all-purpose accompaniment to any meal, which is why most cultures around the world have their own version. Their uses range from sandwiches and wraps, to mopping up stews, soups, curries and sauces. Here are our 4 favourite varieties of flatbread from the Indian subcontinent!

Making Flatbread On Your Stovetop

Chapati

Chapati is common wholemeal flatbread cooked (often daily) in Indian homes. The term chapati is often used interchangeably with ‘roti’, another similar unleavened flatbread. Chapati’s can be used to wrap around vegetables and grains, or accompany dahl, curries and soups.

Naan

Naan is a leavened flatbread with a fluffy and tender consistency. Traditionally it’s cooked in an oven called a tandoor, which makes it popular at restaurants and special occasions. Naan is easily recognisable by its blackened pillowy bubbles that form from contact with the hot oven.

Roti 

Unlike naan, roti is not leavened and is made from whole wheat flour. Roti is customarily cooked on a large, flat or concave griddle called a tawa (think of a crepe pan or shallow wok).

Parathas

Parathas are pan-fried flatbreads which are crispy, flaky and delicious. They do take a few steps to make but are definitely worth the time. The more layers you create by folding the dough over itself, the flakier the flatbread will be. It crisps up from oiling and flipping the bread a few times in a hot pan. These are quite similar to the rich texture to the Malaysian and Thai version of roti.

Making Bread Flatbreads At Home

The Dough

  • If kneading dough by hand, start with a clean workspace. Take any unnecessary items off the bench to allow yourself more room. If using a stand mix with a dough hook attachment, ensure your equipment is clean and secured on a sturdy surface.
  • When kneading dough, you want to ensure all the flour is incorporated with the liquid properly. There should be no lumps, dry or crusty bits left. It should feel silky and soft. This can take 5-10 minutes to achieve and develop gluten (giving you a stronger bread structure). A sign the dough is kneaded enough is it will stop sticking to your hands and bench.
  • If you aren’t using an electric dough mixer, make sure your hand kneading technique is correct. Look at some videos online, they will show which part of your hands to use, folding and pushing procedures. Dusting a little flour on the bench as needed will help the dough stop sticking to the bench.
  • Resting your dough is vital! If you’re making an unleavened flatbread (without yeast), a minimum of 30min rest is required. Placing the dough in a bowl with a wet tea towel over the top or wrapping it in clingfilm/beeswax wrap will prevent it drying out. You can rest the dough for hours, but if you intend to use it the next day it is best to store in the fridge. Resting the dough makes it easier to roll out.
  • If making a yeasted (leavened) flatbread eg. Naan, you must rest it in a covered bowl in warm place (approx 40 degrees) until it’s doubled in size. This usually takes 1-2 hours. Do not wrap it in clingfilm as you want to leave room for the dough to expand.  
  • To divide the dough, use a knife or dough scraper to avoid any tearing or breaking. Think of how you’d cut a pizza into even pieces. You can use this method of wedges when dividing the dough to achieve uniform size.
  • When rolling the dough out into circular, flatbread shapes, dust the bench and rolling pin with flour. This stops any dough gluing itself to your equipment.

 The Cooking

  • First you have to make sure you grease your pan well. There should not be any excess oil in the pan, you want just enough to ensure that the bread doesn’t stick. This doesn’t apply when making parathas, which fry in extra oil to make the bread crispy.
  • Your frypan should be hot before you add in the uncooked dough. It can be a fine balance adjusting the heat, this skill will improve the more you practice. Medium- high heat is the general rule.
  • You also want to be sure that the flatbread dough makes large bubbles before attempting to flip it over. Trying to turn it with small bubbles won’t give that nice, charred look that naan and chapati is famous for. Use tongs or a spatula to do this.
  • When cooked on both sides, stack flatbreads up on a plate and cover with a tea towel to keep warm before serving.

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