Wednesday, July 12, 2006

New and Improved Parathas, aka Whack A Mole

Okay, at my house we call parathas chapatis. Don't be confused. It'll be alright. Daniel grew up on parathas, so I make those for him. They call them chapatis, though. I'll put recipes from the pink book for both chapatis and parathas, though I'll only include our notes on parathas. (These recipes are from that same pink book I introduced you to in the black eye peas recipe--"greatest ever indian: easy and delicious step-by-step recipes",parragon publishing. I'm quoting the book in pink.)

serves five-six

generous 1 1/3 cups whole-wheat flour (urid dal flour [ata] or chapati flour), plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
generous 3/4 cup water

1. Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the salt and mix well.
2. Make a well in the center of the flour and gradually pour in the water, mixing well with your fingers to form a supple dough.
3. Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes. Ideally, let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes, but if time is short roll out the dough straightaway. Divide the dough into 10-12 equal-size portions. Roll out each piece of dough on a well floured counter.
4. Place a heavy-bottom skillet on a high heat. When steam begins to rise from the skillet, reduce the heat to medium.
5. Place a chapati in the skillet and when the chapati begins to bubble turn it over. Carefully press down on the chapati with a clean dish towel or a wooden spatula and turn the chapati over once again. Remove the chapati from the skillet and keep warm while you make the others.
6. Repeat the process until all of the chapatis are cooked.

Cook's Tip
Ideally, chapatis should be eaten as they come out of the skillet, but if that is not practical keep them warm after cooking by wrapping them up in foil. In India, chapatis are sometimes cooked on a naked flame, which makes them puff up. Allow about 2 per person.

makes twelve

generous 2 cups whole-wheat flour (urid dal flour [ata] or chapati flour), plus extra for dusting
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp ghee, melted

Cook's Tip
Press each paratha down gently with a spatula or flat spoon while you are cooking it to make sure that it cooks evenly on both sides.

1. Sift the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flours and add 2 teaspoons of the ghee. Rub it into the flour with your fingertips, then gradually knead in enough cold water to make a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
2. Divide the dough into 12 equal-size pieces and roll into balls. Keep covered the balls that you are not working on, to prevent them drying out. Roll out a ball of dough on a lightly floured counter to a 4-inch/10-cm circle and brush with ghee. Fold in half, then brush with ghee again and fold in half once more. Either shape into a ball and roll out to a 7-inch/18-cm round or roll into a 6-inch/15-cm triangle. Repeat with the remaing balls, stacking the parathas interleaved wtih plastic wrap.
3. Heat a heavy-bottom skillet or griddle pan. Add 1-2 parathas at a time and cook for 1 minute, then flip over with a spatula and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Brush with ghee and flip back to the first side and cook until golden. Brush with ghee, then flip over again and cook until golden. Keep warm whie you cook the remaining parathas in the same way.

Ok. Now from me. Daddy always said "Everything's easy if you know how and have the right stuff."
My tools (the "right stuff"):
  • a big flour-able space for rolling out the parathas (I use a big wooden cutting board)
  • a rolling pin (wine/sparkling grape juice bottles work well, maybe better)
  • your container of flour (so you can keep sprinkling the chapatis, the board, the rolling pin, and your hands)
  • some water (maybe a cup and a half)
  • salt
  • olive oil (we use this instead of ghee, and we keep it in a mustard/ketchup type bottle, and that rocks my world.)
  • a bowl for the dough
  • a plate or something to put the chapatis on when you get them formed, to carry them to the stove (seems obvious, but i always used to forget this when I started.)
  • a skillet or something to fry them on
  • a spatula or something (I have some silicone coated ones--some from Wal-Mart, one from Big Lots. All good, all cheap.)

I know this is a lot of detail, but, hey, what if you actually decide to make them?

(I'm rewriting this whole procedure part, after feeding some stiff chapatis to my family. I was trying to make four for each of us (that's 20), and they got stiff before they got to the table. Daniel called his mommy for some tips, and also watched me making them one day. He said I had unnecessarily turned it into an art, but it was actually much simpler. So here's the new and improved (and easier) process.)

My procedure (the "know how"):
  • Rub a few drops of oil into your hands to keep them from sticking to your dough.
  • Scoop out some flour into a bowl, maybe four cups. I just use chapati flour, I don't mix it with anything else, and we don't sift it.
  • Sprinkle some salt over the surface, then stir it around and do it again (that's how much we've found to be about right.)
  • Shake your bowl a little so all the flour's together, then stick your finger in the middle and wiggle out a little well, and pour some water in there. Whack your hand around in there a little until that water's all absorbed, then make another little wiggle well and pour more water, until you've got a lump of dough there instead of a puddle in some flour.
  • Then pick the lump up and squeeze it into a sort of ball, squirt a few drops of oil on it, then squeeze it in your hands for a while, until it's a smooth ball, maybe about 5" in diameter (or so).
(Usually, we eat these straight from the skillet, so we don't let the dough rest--we're not worried about them staying soft. But if it's going to be a few minutes, like, the time it takes to cook the rest of the chapatis, then maybe you'll want to let the dough rest for a half hour at this point. Otherwise, forge ahead. If you don't cover the bowl in plastic wrap, the surface might darken a little, so just re-knead it for a few seconds. If you leave it uncovered too long, the outside will dry up. That's gross. If you cover it, you can leave it for a few hours. If you want to leave it til the next day, stick it in the fridge (or it'll get stinky). Then pop it in the microwave when you're ready to use it, for about 30 seconds, just to get it back to room temp. Then re-knead it for a few seconds, and then forge ahead.)

  • Tear off about a handful and make a little ball in your hand, and then sqeeze it into a little disk, and then dip it in your flour on both sides and set it on your board (or other surface). Maybe sprinkle a little more flour on there.
  • Now roll it out, picking it up and moving it around some, until it's a big disk, not so thin that it's becoming one with your cutting board. Maybe it'll be a big 9 or 10 inch circle now, about 1/16" thick or so.
  • Now squirt a drop or two of oil in the middle, and spread it around with your fingers into the dough disk.
  • Fold it in half, and fold it in half again. Now it's a little quarter circle.
  • Roll this out in all directions so that it's a bigger triangle thing about the size of a modern dinner plate. (Daniel thinks it looks like a lamb's head at this point.) You might want to make sure it's small enough to fit on your griddle pan or skillet. We've recently started using a large electric skillet for this purpose, which works superbly at about 275 degrees.
  • Anywho, then put that one on your carrying plate and keep making chapatis until your dough ball ceases to exist. You might want to sprinkle some flour on the plate and on each chapati so they don't stick together, or you could use plastic wrap. I find plastic wrap to be a shooting pain in the star anise.
  • If you're using the stove top, heat your pan as high as you can (you know, for non-stick, don't go higher than medium high), and then turn it back down to medium once it's hot. Or turn on your electric skillet till it's hot. Put a little oil on there. Slap your first chapati on there, and when the bubbles (or big bubble) come(s), press it, until the whole thing has bubbled, or so. Then turn it over and do the other side. It just takes maybe one minute to do a whole chapati.
  • Eat it right away if you haven't let your dough rest, or let your buddy eat it right away, and then keep making them and eating them. Otherwise, you can set them on a plate as you make them, and then eat them. :0)
Yumm. And for some reason, they fill me up. About two or three this size, per person, is enough for breakfast, by themselves, or for supper with some curry. I love cabbage curry with chapatis. Also, you can freeze them after you've rolled them out, just wrap them in plastic wrap and stick them in a freezer bag, then take them out and stick em frozen on the skillet when you're ready to eat them. You can buy them that way, too.

I think the whole process takes about 20 minutes, start to finish, but I'm pokey.

This is my very favorite thing about making chapatis/parathas:
Making chapatis/parathas is like playing "Whack A Mole." When you press out an air bubble, it just kind of moves to the other side of the chapapti, and then you press it there, and more start popping up everywhere. I LOVE Whack A Mole. It's my favorite arcade game. I used to play it at Chuck E Cheese-type places. I only like that game, Duck Hunt, and ski ball (thanks, Jennifer). It brings me great joy.

I bet these would be awesome with butter instead of oil.


Jenn Hacker said...

Whack a Mole! Skee ball! Wheee!

If I ever get a place with a counter big enough, I'll have to try this!

annalu alulu said...

You don't need a big counter! Just enough room for a cutting board! Most of it you can do in the bowl. (form the dough ball). Then break off a chunk and roll it into a litlte ball (still in your hands) and make a little disk (still in your hands) and stretch it a little bigger (again, in your hands), and then set it down on your cutting board and roll it out. The rolling pins that indians (and I think Mexicans, too, for tha tmatter) use are only about six inches long. They sell those at international markets, too, and maybe big lots. They also sell a little flat circle, about the size of a pizza pan (which would be perfect for rolling out dough, wouldn't it?) that you can use instead of a cutting board.

no excuses! (except, "i don't want to.")

Jenn Hacker said...

Yes, but you have to have enough counter space to even lay out your ingredients on. My microwave takes up a large chunk of my little bit of counter space. My microwave is an old, huge thing that I got at the thrift store for $10.

annalu alulu said...

No! No excuses! Your ingredients are flour and water! You can put the water in a bowl in the sink, and stick the flour in the microwave and open the door! No excuses, except, "i don't want to."

Tooz said...

Good, Jennifer got it right. SKEE ball, not ski ball. Sounds the same, but looks different. My cousin Roger taught me how to play that game so that I could really rack up the points. We located a "sweet spot" on the side rail--if you hit that spot, your ball was almost certainly guaranteed to go into the innermost circle--the 50 point one. They didn't much like us at that arcade.