Chapati (Whole Wheat Flat Bread)

Chapati is an essential Indian flat bread/ griddle bread (looks like Tortilla) made with whole wheat flour. This simple and hearty low gluten, low calorie bread is healthy and appeasing. 'How to make soft chapatis?' Google and you'll find umteen recipes, youtube videos and related articles. I have done this several times before mastering the chapati making technique. Most of the recipes seem so simple with few sentences of instruction. I wish it was that easy. It wasn't for me. After many trial and error preps and producing leathery, shapeless, amoeba like chapathis, I finally figured out what works best for me. And if you ask people who make soft chapathis, they repeat the same method that you tried countless times with no avail. If you are one of those who can make soft rotis (chapatis) by flattening the dough between your palms using  just flour and water, don't bother reading further. This recipe is for 'Roti Newbies'.

I never thought of posting something as simple as this because I thought it was just me with BAD chapati making episodes. For years, I was buying frozen chapathis from the Indian grocers. Cook on the skillet or microwave and there you go, something called as 'Chapati' was on your plate for a meal. Easy- peasy, right? It was okay after a tiring 'Scrubs' graveyard shift. Now with time in hand, my household demands making  fresh chapatis at least  4-5 times a week. Frozen ones were not feasible. So, I had no choice but to make soft and fresh chapathis.

Before we proceed, a brief note on Roti, Chapati and Phulkas. These terms are used interchangeably. But, there is a small degree of difference between these Indian flat breads.

  • 'Roti' is the generic term used for whole wheat flat breads (called as 'rotti' in South India and 'rotli' in Gujarati). Gluten free flat breads made with millet, corn, maize, rice, buckwheat are also called rotis.
  • 'Chapati'  is unleavened flat bread/roti made with wholewheat flour. It can be thick or thin round disc, about 6 or 7 inches in diameter. This flat bread may or may not be brushed with oil on the sides. East African chapatis are made with white/ AP flour.
  • 'Phulka' is unleavened as well, but grease free and prepared using  just whole wheat flour and water. It is smaller and thinner with no salt added. One side cooked on a skillet and later over naked flame, it puffs up true to it's name meaning 'swollen' or 'puff up'.
This recipe can be prepared by approximated measurement of ingredients, few spoonful more or less is acceptable. I've provided pictorial explanation for each step along with how each ingredient contributes to the final product. If one understands the rationale behind doing a step, then you can determine it's need for the outturn and tweak accordingly.

Things needed

1. Flat circular rolling board with legs made of wood/marble or stainless steel (also called Chakla/ Adni). If you don't have one, use your kitchen counter top (can be a hassle to clean) or a pastry board.* I used the flat side of a steel plate before owning a steel rolling board.

2. Long cylindrical tapered wooden/ marble/ steel rolling pin (also called Belan/ Latna). It is narrow than the western dough-rolling pins. You even find rolling pins with carvings on. Few of my friends swear that the carved ones produce softer rotis. I use a regular wooden one and sometimes a steel rolling pin. The large dough rolling pin will work just fine.

3. Roti press/ roti fluffer/ wooden datta for  pressing chapathi on the griddle. Wooden press protects your fingers from burns as it does not conduct heat. I bought this one from India for Rs.30 (less than a $). Alternately, wad up a clean dish towel to press the chapatis. Take care not to burn your fingers as your hand is at close proximity to the hot surface.

4. Tawa/ Griddle/ Flat skillet. Traditionally, chapati is cooked on a flat or slightly concave cast iron skillet called tawa. Sometimes, it has a wooden handle which makes removal from the stove easy. I use a big non-stick skillet which serves the purpose.

5. Spatula or Turner (also called Palta) made of wood,steel,iron,aluminium for flipping the chapathis

6. A big/ shallow mixing bowl.

7. Cup measure. You can use any cup, but use the same for measuring water for mixing the dough. I use the cup measure (approximately 180 ml) that comes with the electric rice cooker.

Makes 8 chapathis ( about 6 inches each)

2 cup measure Chapati flour/ Atta/ Wholewheat flour * Chapati flour is finely ground wholewheat flour. Wholewheat flour found in the supermarkets have a slightly coarse texture and brownish appearance as the whole berry is milled

approximately 3/4-1 cup measure of Hot water (not boiling water) * Use filtered water. Chlorinated water will interfere with the softening process

2 tablespoons of unflavored Yogurt/ Dahi (Indian yogurt) * I use non-fat greek yogurt

2 teaspoon Oil * I use grapeseed or olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Salt

Oil/ Ghee/ Butter for brushing the chapathi (optional) *As I add oil to the dough, I omit brushing oil on the chapathi. I like 'sukha' (dry) rotis. No oil = less calories.

Plain flour for dusting * I use unbleached AP flour.

Click HERE for the Recipe

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