It is amazing, the popularity naan has gained, especially in the Western world today. It has not just taken the place of the quintessential bread across Indian restaurants in the world but dishes like naan pizza, naan chips, and naan wraps have almost become a household name. But will you believe it if I told you that naan is not an “everyday bread” in Indian homes?
Naan is something we either enjoy at a celebratory gathering or in restaurants. The day-to-day bread in most Indian homes is roti or chapati. A simple flatbread typically made with whole wheat flour and served with pretty much any kind of lentil soup, curry, stir fry, or dips.
Roti is a staple Indian bread, made fresh in Indian homes every day, sometimes for 2 to 3 meals. So, it is a common practice to make them during the week as well as the weekend.
Having said that, for someone who is not familiar with the process of making roti and is just starting, it may seem cumbersome. In that case, it should be reserved for a weekend cooking project until you get the hang of it.
This recipe provides a step-by-step tutorial so you can start making your own roti at home.
What is Roti?
Roti (also known as chapati or phulka) is a circular flatbread, made with ground whole wheat flour or “atta.” Flour is simply mixed with water, sometimes salt, and ghee or oil is added too.
The dough is prepared fresh by kneading (traditionally with your hands) the dough into a smooth, soft consistency, similar to playdough.
How to Cook Roti
The prepared dough is then divided into equal parts and rolled into circular flatbreads very much like tortillas. Similar to tortillas, these circular discs are then cooked over a skillet and roasted over open flame, until they puff and are cooked through.
There is nothing better than freshly cooked, hot roti. They are thin, soft, with one surface thinner than the other. Typically, the surface that touches the hot skillet first is the one that can be peeled as a thinner layer.
Roti/chapati/phulka is made with whole wheat flour and you can actually taste the whole wheat in the bread. It is soft when served warm, yet chewy.
What Kind of Flour is Used to Make Roti?
In its humblest form, roti dough is made with just wheat flour and water but using the ingredients and following the recipe provided here will yield a softer bread.
The wheat flour used to make roti in Indian homes is called Atta in Hindi. It is a whole grain flour with a high gluten content. It is typically stone ground and as result, Indian breads like roti, although made with whole wheat flour, are lighter in color and softer in texture.
Just search for Atta and you can easily find various brands on Amazon. If that’s not an option for you then check with your local Indian or ethnic grocery store. Golden Temple and 24 Mantra Organic are two brands I like to use.
The Best Substitute for Atta
If you can’t find Atta you can do one of two things: use white whole wheat flour or combine equal amounts of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour.
But please bear in mind, if you use a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour, the texture of your roti will be slightly different.
Tips and Tricks for Making Roti
Roti is one of the first things you learn to cook in an Indian home kitchen. Still many people take years to master the skill. The consistency of dough is the key. The dough should be soft enough that when pressed with the index finger, it should leave an impression without sticking.
So, if you are a roti novice all you need is practice, some patience, and some of these tips and tricks to get started.
- The secret of getting a perfect roti is the dough. Soft dough makes soft roti. Warm water can help with getting the dough soft.
- If the dough is a bit sticky, use some extra flour for dusting.
- Depending on the brand or variety of flour you use the amount of water needed for your dough may vary. So, to be safe, add water in small portions and work the dough while it slowly absorbs water.
- Allowing the dough to rest for 5-10 minutes (covered with a soft muslin cloth) at room temperature, makes rolling the dough easier.
- Do not sweat too much over the shape! Try to get that circle, but if you cannot (which you will not in the first few tries), just cut a perfect circle using a paring knife or pizza cutter using a circular lid of 5-6 inches in diameter as a guide. You can also cook it in whatever shape you end up rolling it out in though!
How to Serve Roti
When serving fresh roti you should keep them stored in a hot pot which will help keep them soft. Do not leave them uncovered in open air after cooking. That will make them hard and dry.
Pretty much all Indian curries, lentil soups, or stews go great with warm roti. Here are a few dishes you can enjoy with it:
How to Store Leftover Roti
To freeze rotis, separate hot fresh rotis with sheets of parchment paper, stack them, wrap in a foil, and pack in zip top bags. Freeze when they are still hot.
When ready to eat, reheat them and they will be soft like fresh. Take the defrosted rotis out of the fridge. One at a time heat them on a skillet over medium heat, until they are warm enough.
Alternatively, you can also heat them on open flame or wrap them in damp paper towel and microwave for 15 seconds on high.
Roti (Whole Wheat Indian Flat Bread)
The brand of atta flour I typically use to make roti is 24 Mantra Organic. You can purchase a bag online.
To knead the dough: You can use an electric mixer or knead with your hands.
- 2 1/2 cups atta flour, divided
- 1 teaspoon ghee, plus more for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups water (room temperature)
Prepare a baking sheet and plate:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside for later use. Line a plate with clean muslin cloth or a paper towel and set aside for later use.
Combine the flour, oil, and salt:
In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 2 cups of flour, ghee, and salt. Stir to combine (It might be easier to do this with a spoon then place it in on the mixing stand.)
With the mixer on low, add the water to the flour mixture in small quantities (approx. 1/4 cup at a time). After about 2 minutes you will see the dough take shape.
The dough should be soft and pliable. At this point the dough would be a little loose but not very sticky. If it is too loose and sticky, add more dry flour to it. If it is too hard and tough, add more water to it.
Knead the dough:
Once the dough comes together, continue kneading with the dough hook for another 2-3 minutes to make it smooth and pliable. Lift the dough hook out of the mixer and press the dough down with one finger, it should leave an impression without sticking to your finger.
Let the dough rest:
Shape the dough into a ball, and place it back in the mixing bowl. Cover the dough with clean kitchen cloth. Let the dough rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
Once the dough is rested, knead it again for a minute. Shape it into a ball again. In the end the dough should look soft, pliable, and smooth.
Divide the dough:
Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Work with one piece at a time, leaving the remaining dough covered, to keep it from drying out.
Roll out the dough:
Roll the dough into a smooth ball and press gently between the palms to flatten.
Use the remaining 1/2 cup of flour to lightly dust your workstation as needed. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a circular disk, approximately 5-6 inches wide and approximately 1/4 inch thick.
Run the rolling pin along the length, pressing gently as you roll. Keep turning the roti in a circular motion while rolling and dust the work station and roti if the dough begins to stick. Add rolled out roti to the prepared baking sheet and cover with a clean kitchen towel.
Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Be sure to space your roti out so they are not touching on the baking sheet. You may have to do this in batches.
Cook the roti:
Heat a large skillet on medium high heat. Place the rolled disk in the dry hot pan. When bubbles start to form on the surface, use tongs to flip the roti to cook the other side. The exposed surface should be puffed in places and have light brown spots. Cook the other side for 15-20 seconds.
At this stage, if cooking on a gas burner, use tongs to lift roti from the skillet and gently place on an open flame. In 4-5 seconds, the roti should gently puff, and look like an inflated ball. Flip and cook the other side for another 3-5 seconds.
Gently lift from the flame with the help of the tongs and transfer to the plate lined with clean muslin cloth or a paper towel. Spread 1/4 teaspoon ghee on the surface.
Repeat the process with the rest of the dough.
Serve warm with your choice of curry or simply sprinkle some sugar on a hot, ghee laced roti and enjoy!