Pita bread

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With winter came a long period of inactivity on my blog. While, I have not been able to write about it much, it has been fun. Almost every other weekend, either we were hosting friends or getting invited to their places. Food was an integral part of this socializing. So I got several opportunities to experiment. Sometimes, it was a matter of recreating and perfecting an old special item. Sometimes, I dabbled in new cooking style. Sometimes, it was an effort to make something at home that I have often enjoyed eating outside.

Today’s post falls in that third category. I have immensely enjoyed Mediterranean food, since I first tasted it in various ‘Türkische Imbiss’ in Berlin. Thankfully, Michigan has not disappointed me either. Now and then, my husband and I go to the nearest middle-eastern eatery to enjoy shawarma, kebabs, falafel, and of course… a basket full of piping hot pita breads.

I really wanted to be able to make these breads from the mixed grain wheat flour I have at home, which I use for making Indian flatbreads of roti and parantha. After a few mistrials, I finally decided to try making those with the ‘boule’ master recipe, which I had used last year to bake bread loaves. I got this recipe in the book ‘Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day‘ by Jeff Hertzberg  and Zoë François. While it calls for unbleached, unsifted, all-purpose white flour, it has worked with my usual whole wheat/ multi-grain flours. So here is my way to pillowy and pliant pita flatbreads.

PITA FLATBREAD (WITH MULTIGRAIN WHEAT FLOUR)

Yields about 8-12 breads, depending on the size you roll.

Ingredients:

3 1/4 cups of multi-grain wheat flour, plus some more for dusting
1.5 cups of lukewarm water (only a tad more that body temperature)
1 sachet of yeast (roughly about 1 heap full of a tablespoon)
A pinch or two of salt
Method:

  1. Mix the yeast and salt in water. Let it proof for five minutes.
  2. Add the flour to this water and mix the dough with a spatula.
  3. If needed, with wet fingers, lightly mix the dough so that there are no dry patches. No kneading is necessary any further. It makes a rather shaggy loose kind of a dough, but that is what we want.
  4. Cover the dough with a loosely-fitted lid and let it rise for two hours.
  5. After the first rise, the dough can be used to make bread. Though, I like to refrigerate it overnight to make it more manageable.
  6.  To make pita, dust your platform and fingers with some dry  flour. Form a ball by pulling the top of dough to bottom repeatedly for about a minute or two.
  7. Divide it in smaller balls/ patties to make pitas.
  8. Dust a patty with dry flour and roll lightly to make a circle (width of which should never go less than 1/8th inch). Sprinkle with flour while rolling, whenever necessary.
  9. Heat a cooking pan/ griddle to medium-high heat and place a freshly rolled pita onto it.
  10. Wait till you see bubbles on the surface, and then flip it to another side.
  11. Now it will start puffing up. Lightly press bulging pita on all sides to make sure it gets baked uniformly.
  12. Flip more than once to get those nice brown spots on both the sides of flatbread.
  13. Remove from the pan and let it cool on rack
  14. Now, conquering the temptation to devour this soft bread right away, turn your attention to rest of the pitas to roll and bake 🙂

After cracking this perfect recipe for homemade pitas, the possibilities to use it are endless. We have so far enjoyed these with hummus, herbed yogurt dips, grilled tempeh, sautéed vegetables, and curries… oh and even, guacamole once. So go ahead and make your combos, with no further doubts!

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Radish Parantha/ Stuffed flatbread

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Happiness is… You must have come across this series of web-comics which enumerates the little things in life that bring happiness. My today’s addition to it would be- Happiness is learning to make the food you like. Thankfully, I like lots of food from different places, so learning to make it (one at a time) means happiness abounds 🙂

Parantha or the stuffed flatbread is one of the most popular foods of North India. It is made and served across homes, fancy restaurant chains, and street food joints. It becomes a part of breakfasts, dinners, travel tiffins. Although I have always liked it, it was after coming to Delhi, my love for parantha blossomed. While I even enjoyed paranthas in our University canteen, I knew that the best ones were made by the home cooks, courtesy to kind local friends, who treated me with these delicacies…

However, learning to make parantha seemed daunting at first. I was fairly new in the field of cooking and the idea of rolling a flatbread with stuffing within seemed too difficult. Might I add, that I had hardly made even a regular flatbread, such as roti, before. Thankfully, my cravings for parantha made me overcome my fears. As usual, the practice helps and now I am pretty confident to plan paranthas on the menu, whenever my partner or I fancy it.

This time, I used the stuffing of white radish. But really, the choices for parantha stuffing are plenty, such as potatoes, cauliflower, paneer (cottage cheese), or minced meats.

RADDISH PARANTHA/ STUFFED FLATBREAD

Makes 6 paranthas

Ingredients:

1 medium sized white radish
2 cups of whole wheat flour, plus some more for rolling the flatbreads
2 tbspoons of oil, plus some more for roasting
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon of carom seeds
1/2 teaspoon of sumac (optional)
1 cup water (if required)
Pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Cut radish into thin shreds, using mandolin/ slicer.
  2. Sprinkle salt over it, mix, and keep aside for about 15 minutes.
  3. After 15 minutes, squeeze the shredded radish and transfer it into another bowl.
  4. You can use the salty water of the radish to knead the dough. Measure it to 1 cup (add water, if required).
  5. In this water, add flour and oil.
  6. Knead to make a soft but non-sticky and pliant ball of dough. Cover and keep aside for 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, fluff the squeezed radish with a fork. Add turmeric, chilli powder, carom seeds, sumac, asafoetida to it. Adjust salt, if necessary. Mix properly. This would make the stuffing into the parantha.
  8. After standing time, divide the dough into 6 equally sized balls.
  9. Take a dough ball onto the platform. Sprinkle it with the loose flour.
  10. Roll into a small disk of about 3-4 inches diameter.
  11. Place about a tablespoon full of stuffing into the center.
  12. Bring all the sides of bread disk together above the center (thus, enclosing the stuffing into a pouch) and seal them by applying pressure with your fingers.
  13. Now hold this pouch and shape it back into a shape of ball, that could be rolled further.
  14. Sprinkle this again with a flour and start rolling gently with pin, applying equal pressure everywhere.
  15. As you roll on, you would start noticing the stuffing from within the dough covering that is getting thinner. Roll alternatively from both the sides. Intermittent sprinkling with loose flour (onto the parantha, as well as on the platform) will help handling the parantha.
  16. Try to roll in such a way that the stuffing spreads equally along the entire parantha. If while doing this, you achieve a perfect round shape, pat yourself. But if you don’t, then there is no need to despair. Uniform spreading of the parantha is more important for its taste. Roll till the parantha is about of width 1/8 inch.
  17. Heat a non-stick/ cast-iron griddle on a medium heat. Coat it with oil.
  18. Transfer the parantha onto the griddle. Roast from one side, till the light brown spots appear. Apply a thin coat of oil onto the parantha, and flip it to be roasted from another side.
  19. You can repeat the  above step to make sure that the parantha is roasted properly from both the sides.
  20. Serve the hot parantha with any vegetable side or pickles or yogurt, or with a fresh tangy salad of tomato and onion, as we did.

Jwarichi Bhakari / Sorghum Flatbread

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As a child, I was predominantly a rice eater and would try my best to avoid chapati/ roti bread made of wheat. My usual rant used to be- “see, how easily one can take a morsel of rice and gulp it down. Whereas with chapati, you have to break it, take some sabzi in it, then chew it a lot before you eat it… So much work”. 🙂 However, this argument would be forgotten whenever I was offered flatbreads or pancakes made from flours other than wheat, such as rice, sorghum, or millet. Ironically, these are much harder than the soft wheat flour and require more chewing. But I just have liked those flavors much more than that of wheat.

That’s why, making a successful bhakari, a form of unleavened flatbread that is specialty of Western regions of India (from where I come) was one of the major culinary ambitions of mine. At first, when I tried it, the result was ok but not too great. Since sorghum does not have gluten like wheat, it is difficult to knead its dough into a pliable ball like that of wheat flour. More often than not, these breads are rolled not by the bread roller but by hands. That’s why some people mix wheat flour along with sorghum. But I was rather keen on mastering sorghum bhakari as it should be- gluten-free. So the second time I made it, I tweaked my recipe a bit and added some sesame oil. The resulting dough was much easier to handle and to make into bhakaris. Here is how I make it now.

JWARICHI BHAKARI / SORGHUM FLATBREAD

Gluten-free & Unleavened

Makes 4 flatbreads

Ingredients:

2 cups Sorghum flour, plus some more for shaping the flatbread
1 cup water, plus some more for shaping the flatbread
2 tbspoon oil (I used sesame, though olive/ sunflower/ groundnut oil can also be used. Avoid oils with strong aroma such as mustard)
Salt to taste
2-3 tbspoons of dried fenugreek leaves (Optional; you can use any herb of your choice)

Method:

  1. Heat a cup of water, roughly to the temperature of tea. Boiling hot water would make it too difficult to work with the dough.
  2. Mix the flour, fenugreek leaves, and salt in a large bowl. Add oil to it.
  3. Add the warm water bit by bit to the flour and knead to form a soft but pliable dough ball.
  4. Make four portions of the dough.
  5. Make each portion into a ball. Sprinkle with some more flour over it and on the counter.
  6. Now, dip your fingers in water, and with those wet fingers, flatten the dough ball into a round disk.
  7. You would see that, unlike the regular wheat dough, the sorghum dough would crack at the edges as you go on flattening it. With some waters, try to seal those as much as possible as you go on. Though, it would never be as smooth as the wheat flatbreads. That is a characteristic of sorghum flatbreads, so do not worry too much about it.
  8. Once the disk is about 1/8 inches of thickness, transfer it onto the hot pan.
  9. Coat the upper side of flatbread with water, using a basting brush.
  10. Once the water evaporates, turn the flatbread to bake it from the other side.
  11. Transfer onto the cooling rack once it is properly baked from both the sides.

I really like the flavor of sorghum bhakari flatbreads. It goes well with anything. Vegetable or meat stews, stir-fries sides, or chutneys. This time, we had it with Black peas gravy and a side of garlicky kale, the recipes of which I would post some time soon.