Chapatis create a sense of bounty at any meal.
The perfect flat bread with soup, kitchari or even larger meals as an added bonus—but equally suited to an afternoon snack with fruit spread and a cup of tea.
Chapatis are worth the (little) effort required to create them. I’ve gotten mine down to an (almost) gluten free science.
I’ve had friends ask me to come visit them—hoping I’d make my chapatis for them! They are addictive after all and quite delicious.
Chapatis are a mixture of both exact science and an intuitive process that only gets better and more predictable with practice. You will get a feel for your perfect chapati and will get better at cooking them with each batch.
Note: Chapatis are best made fresh at each meal and don’t store well (Ayurveda isn’t in to leftovers anyway). However, if desired, you can keep your dough on hand for quick and perfect chapatis.
The small portion of whole wheat flour is necessary for nice elasticity in the dough. It’s possible to make chapatis entirely gluten free, however, the texture will be a bit different.
Also, if you want to leave out the yogurt, you can add a bit more hot water to the flour instead. A cast iron skillet is the best tool I’ve found for perfect chapatis and I prefer a chapati rolling pin.
I keep a canister of 1/2 white rice flour and 1/2 tapioca flour on hand at all times. Tapioca is used extensively in Shaka Vansya Ayurveda because it is considered a “binder”; it binds to toxins in the gut and helps eliminate them. It also creates a lovely dough for chapatis. This is my go to flour mixture for chapatis:
1 Cup rice/tapioca flour mix
1/4 Cup whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
Toss the flours together in a bowl. Fill your kettle and turn it on so the water is hot in the final step. (I use a glass Pyrex bowl that has a sealing lid so that I can easily cover and refrigerate the remaining dough for later meals). Put your cast iron skillet on the stove and turn the burner to medium/high. Next, you will need:
2 Tablespoons ghee
1-2 Tablespoons yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 Tablespoons boiling water
Use a fork to toss ghee, yogurt and salt into the flour mix. Then use your hands to work the dry and wet ingredients together making doughy crumbles. Add the boiling water to the mix. Start slow and dribble it over the flour. Use your fork to toss all the ingredients together. Add a bit more water if necessary. You want a doughy consistency that is neither too wet, nor too dry. Using your hands to do the final mixing is necessary and will help you feel your perfect dough.
Clean off a flat rolling surface and sprinkle some whole wheat flour on it. Use a chapati rolling pin (sold at Indian grocery stores) or a pastry rolling pin. Tear off a two inch ball of dough and flatten it on the counter making sure there is ample flour underneath. Roll and flatten, then flip and roll again. You want a thin, round shape. Too thin, and your chapati will be unmanageable. Too thick and it won’t crisp up correctly. (Go for a tortilla thickness if you haven’t eaten chapatis before).
If your skillet is nice and hot, your chapatis will brown up easily within a minute or so on each side. Look for bubbles and golden brown spots as clues. If your chapatis are burning, your heat is too high or you’re leaving them on the griddle too long. For extra decadent chapatis, grease your skillet with a bit of ghee.
Stack your chapatis on a plate for serving, cover with a towel to keep them warm.
A word of caution: you and your guests will be asking for more!
*Depending on the size of your chapatis, this recipe will make roughly six flat breads.
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Provided by author