The Simplest Indian-Style Flatbread

Chapati

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: At least 1 hour

True chapatis are made with a finely ground whole wheat flour (called atta or chapati flour) and then quickly twice-cooked first on a dry griddle and then over an open flame so that the dough traps steam and puffs up dramatically. If you have a gas stove or can combine the main recipe with the grilled variation, you can duplicate this technique with just a little extra work. But fortunately, the straight recipe here still makes a bread that is unbelievably simple, nutritious, and delicious.

You can mix the dough in advance, but chapatis must be eaten immediately after a batch is cooked. Line a basket or plate with a cloth napkin before starting, and as the chapatis come off the griddle, pile them up and wrap loosely. This will keep them warm while you cook the rest.

Eat chapati with any food, Indian or not. They’re best with stews and soups, especially bean dishes and their traditional accompaniment, dals.

21/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon salt

Set a fine-mesh strainer or a flour sifter over the bowl of a food processor, add the flours, and sift. Discard the coarse bran or save for another use.

Add the salt to the flour mixture and, with the machine running, pour in 1 cup of warm water. Process for about 30 seconds, then remove the cover. The dough should be in a well-defined, barely sticky, easy-to-handle ball. If it’s too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time and process for 5 or 10 seconds after each addition. If too wet, which is unlikely, add a tablespoon or two of flour and process briefly. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, cover, and let rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. (The dough may be made ahead to this point, wrapped tightly in plastic, and refrigerated for up to a day; bring to room temperature before proceeding.)

Pinch off pieces of dough; the recipe will make 8 to 12 chapatis. Using flour as necessary, pat each piece into a 4-inch disk. Dust lightly with flour to keep them from sticking and cover them with plastic or a damp cloth while you pat out the others and set aside until you finish all the pieces. (It’s okay to overlap them a bit, but don’t stack them.)

Put a griddle or cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, roll out a disk until it’s fairly thin, about 1/8 inch, dusting as necessary with flour; the shape doesn’t matter (as long as it fits on the griddle or pan). Pat off the excess flour and put the chapati on the griddle or pan, count to 15 or so, then use a spatula to flip and cook the other side until it starts to blister, char, and puff up a bit, about a minute. (Use this time to finish rolling out the next disk.) Turn and cook the first side again, until dark and toasty smelling. Transfer to the cloth-lined basket and repeat until all are cooked. Serve immediately.

Variation

Grilled Chapati. Rustic, smoky, and puffy. Perfect for when you’ve already got a fire going and have some room on the grill: Heat a charcoal or gas grill until moderately hot and put the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. Oil the grates well. If you have the space, take the disks outside for the final rolling. If not, roll all the chapatis out, flour them well, and stack between layers of wax or parchment paper. Cook the chapatis, several at a time, as described in Step 4, only directly on the grill grates instead of the griddle.

4 Ways to Vary Chapati Dough

  1. Replace up to 1/2 cup of the whole wheat flour with cornmeal, brown rice flour, or chickpea flour (see besan).
  2. Replace the all-purpose flour with whole wheat; the dough will be slightly more difficult to handle, but the results are delicious.
  3. Reduce the water to 1/2 to 3/4 cup and add 1/2 cup yogurt to the flour at the same time.
  4. Brush the chapati with oil, coconut milk, or melted butter during cooking.