A friend who was visiting the United States once asked me to cook Indian dinner for her and you know me…I love to cook and I love to have friends come over so this was a win-win situation. I remember she had asked to cook everything in front of her so that she can see how it is done. One of the first thing that we did together was to get the atta or whole wheat dough ready for making Indian flat breads or Roti. I still vividly recall her surprised expression when a roti puffed up on the cast iron griddle that I was cooking it on. She told me that she failed to understand that how a bread made with a dough that had no yeast or any other leavening agent in it could make such a soft flat bread.
Rotis are with this earthy tasting unleavened whole wheat dough mostly made just with two ingredients – whole wheat flour and room temperature water, though I have seen some families adding little bit oil to their whole wheat dough. I don’t. Not for making rotis or phulkas at least. So there is no recipe really. All it takes is to mix water and flour and knead till the dough is smooth and you feel comfortable with the consistency or ‘tightness’ of the dough. I have seen the consistency of atta vary a lot. My grandmother (my dad’s mom), I recall, would always work with a very tight dough, may be less water to flour ratio – so to speak. And my other grandma (my mom’s mom) would always have a soft, almost fluffy dough – similar to pizza dough consistency. I admit that I am more of soft dough kind of a person. Though it might be initially hard to shape perfect round rotis with this atta but I promise practice makes perfect in this case. Also it takes less effort to roll this dough out. And a round circular roti tastes no different than a roti in the shape of a country’s map..:P.
So just like life is not one size fits all, follow this recipe as a guideline and make it your own. I have also come to realize that the volume of water to quantity of flour ratio also depends on the weather or moisture in the air, kind of flour you use, and the method you use to knead that is if you knead it with hands or using a stand mixer.
Nutrition: Whole grains are good for you ..period. Make sure to buy whole wheat flour – check the ingredient list on the bag and it should say – Whole Wheat. Yes – just that. Better than any refined, processed, enriched flours that are flooding the shelves of your grocery store. The 100% whole wheat flour has the bran and germ parts of wheat grain intact and is a great source of fiber, manganese and magnesium.
Whole wheat flour – 4 cups
Water – 2 cups ( room temperature)
If using stand mixer – fit your mixer with the dough hook and add flour to the mixing bowl. At low speed, start adding water – about 1 cup and then gradually increase the speed. Add more water, may be a tablespoon at a time, till the dough starts to come together. Once all the flour has become wet, increase the speed of you stand mixer to high and continue mixing for a minute or so. At this point, turn the mixer off and touch the dough to feel if it is at your desired consistency. Then let it sit for 5 minutes to let the gluten develop and do its magic. You can skip this resting period and continue mixing if you like. After 5 minutes, start mixing at high speed and continue till the dough leaves the sides of the mixing bowl and is smooth (See picture).
If kneading with hand – In a wide, shallow mixing bowl, add the flour and make a well in the center. Add a cup of water and start mixing. Keep adding water, till all the flour is just wet, but not sticky. At this point start kneading with the palms of your hands, applying some pressure. Add more water if the dough seems dry. Let the dough rest for a few minutes. This step is more important if you are following this method as compared to stand mixer method. Letting the dough rest will make your life easier. After the dough is rested, knead it some more till you get a smooth ball of dough (See picture).
Store the dough in a container with a lid and store n the refrigerator till ready to use. Remember to take the dough out of the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before you set out to make flat breads as the dough stiffens a bit when it’s cold and bringing it to room temperature makes it easier to roll out rotis. The atta stays in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. If you feel you won’t be needing as much dough, start with 2 cups flour/1 cup water recipe and see how long it lasts for you. This recipe is enough to make flat breads for a family of 4 for at least 2 days..:P.
Love – Vaishali.
Stand mixer (optional)