Chapathis or Roti Bread
These wheaten breads are served all over India, particularly in the North--but they can be enjoyed anywhere in the world. For best flavor, make the dough with fresh ground flour and give it some time to itself before it is cooked; but if need be, the breads can be prepared with whatever whole grain flour you have, and very quickly. Even considering their perhaps unfamiliar shape, they are the best fast bread I know.
Serve with curries or with peanut butter and honey or cheese and tomato or simply butter. Super!
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Slowly add the water, working it into the flour until the dough comes together. It should not be wet, but it should be soft. You can make it slightly stiff at first, then add water as required while you work the dough. Knead until very soft and silky, about 20 minutes. If possible let the dough rest at room temperature for 4 hours or overnight: if you are in a hurry, make the chapthis right away.
Pinch the dough into about 12 balls, golf-ball size. Keep them covered with a damp cloth while you first round each one smooth, and then, one at a time, flatten them with a rolling pin on a floured board, making them approximately 7 inches across. Don't roll the pin off the edge of the round or the chapathi's rim will get too thin. Shape them all, and stack with a little flour and waxed paper in between. When you have only a couple to go, heat the griddle. It should be about pancake hot, a medium-high heat. If it is too hot, the chapathis will burn, but if too low, they won't puff up. Best of all is to work together with a friend, one rolling and the other baking.
Keep an inverted bowl over the uncooked breads while you back them one by one so that they do not dry out.
If your griddle is not well-seasoned, put a thin film of oil on it to keep each chapathi from sticking. The chapathis leave flour on the griddle that will burn, so wipe if off as you go along. You will use the dish towel for pressing on the chapathi to encourage them to puff up, and if it is white it stays cooler, form it into a smooth wad that is easy to hold.
Place the first chapathi on the hot griddle and let it sit there for one second, then turn it over. Use the cloth to apply gentle but firm pressure to the top of the cooking chapathi. Concentrate most of your pressing on the area just inside, but not on, the edge. Press down hard, but don't let the cloth stick to the dough. The object is to help the chapathi form steam pockets: ideally it puffs up like a balloon, filled with its own steam. At first the bread may blister in just a few places. By pressing, you can enlarge these small bubbles. Turn the chapathis over as soon as the bottom browns lightly. It won't brown evenly, especially if it has made the steam pockets, but will be a pretty pattern of brown and beige. It is done when it is browned nicely on both sides, with no wet-pinkish areas.
If you have a gas stove that has a high flame, you could try a second cooking method that works better for some people. Instead of pressing the dough on the griddle, let the chapathi cook a few seconds on each side to set the surfaces, and then with tongs pick up the chapathi and hold it over the high open flame. If you are deft, it will ballon without burning.
These wonderful breads are best served immediatly, but you can wrap them in towels and keep them warm in the oven until it is time to eat; don't let them dry out though.
PLEASE BE CAREFUL: In India, even the youngest cook can make chapathis, but we who did not learn these skills at our mother's knee will have some experimenting to do before we get the knack. Protect your hands with mitts and your arms with long sleeves, and go slowly at first.