Making bread from scratch is just about the most fulfilling act as far as cooking goes.
It’s also something which terrifies most people (including myself). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attempted to make yeast breads and the slightest yeast faux-pas has sent my unwitting victims into chewing misery when presented with rock-hard or bone dry bread. I’ve gotten the yeast thing down, more or less, but every time I begin the process I still feel like I’m gambling… with yeast. Anyway.
A little while ago I discovered a new kind of bread-making that feels just as satisfying and wholesome, is a little more unusual, and avoids the whole yeast conundrum/debacle altogether. The answer? Chapati!
Chapati is a skillet-fried bread that is popular both in India and East Africa. It’s delicious, and deliciously easy.
2 cups all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, or a mixture- plus extra for rolling out the dough
1 teaspoon salt
Warm Water, as needed
Oil, as needed
Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add warm water until the mixture reaches a sticky doughy consistency, and then add in about 1 tsp of oil. Knead the mixture with your hands (that’s right- this is the fulfilling part of making bread! Get your hands in there!) until it forms an even dough. Leave at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.
Prepare a clean surface for rolling out the dough- scatter some flour on it, find a rolling pin/old wine bottle/large glass/jar (yes, I have used all these things in lieu of a real rolling pin). Separate the dough into even pieces depending on the size of your frying pan. You can make the pieces as big as orange or as small as a golf ball. You should end up with 6-12, depending on the sizes. Roll out the pieces to an even thinness, adding more flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the “rolling pin.” They should be about as thin as…oh, I don’t know… the cover of a moleskine notebook/the earpiece of your sunglasses/a stack of about 7-10 pieces of paper.
Heat the pan with about 1/2 – 1 tsp of oil, and when it’s hot enough that a couple drops of water flicked into it sizzle, throw the first chapati in there. (That’s generally a good way to test if oil is hot enough- just make sure its a very small amount of water, or you’ll get splattered with oil.) The chapati will start to puff up in places, sort of like pizza crust. After a couple minutes flip it over, and after a couple more take it out. It should have some dark spots and still be malleable- we’re not going for crackers here.
I like to eat it with some sort of stew, anything with lentils, chicken or meat, and lots of spices, works really well! I’m sure it’s also great with hummus or any other dip.