• Kieumy, BOM, London

Breaking down Indian Breads for Beginners

Understanding what the Indians mean by bread and the way they go about it can get pretty confusing for beginners. But if you love Indian food just as much as I do, then with a little bit of research and hands on experimentation, you can crack the basics in no time.

Here is a little bit about the three major types of bread that is a staple of most Indian households.

1. Chapati The word chapati is actually derived from the Hindi word for a ‘slap’, which is how these little beauties are prepared. The idea is to stretch out the dough and slap it between your hands to create a thin dough, similar to a thin crust pizza. This particular bread uses the most amount of water to create the dough. The reason being is that while it is the most basic form of bread it is aimed to be the lightest and suitable for everyday consumption. Many a times, it is paired with a little bit of rice, dal and vegetables. Though there is no handwritten rule, the ideal measurement would be equal parts of water and flour. Adding some salt for seasoning accentuates the flavour and replacing a portion of the water with milk leads to a softer chapati. Ideally, there is no oil or ghee in the end product, but one can always slather a bit at the end for that extra flavour during the winters.

2. Paratha A close cousin of the chapati would be the paratha. The reason being that while it is commonly used in `Indian households, for health reasons and a slightly more complex process than the chapati, it may not be prepared on an everyday basis. If you are looking for more texture and something more going on with your palate, the paratha comes to a quick rescue. Compared to the humble chapati, the paratha boasts of a flakiness and density which is achieved by constantly turning its sides with ghee application on the frying pan ‘tawa’. This bread uses 70% of the water and 15% of yoghurt in ratio to the flour, to create the dough. There is much more flavour that is at work with the paratha and a lot of it has to do with the way the dough is created initially. It can be paired beautifully with a pickle of some sort like chilli or mango. They are usually the star of the meal and are not ideally served with rice or other breads.

3. Puri Gracing the Indian households every now and then is the golden puri, which reserves its appearances for more special or extravagant occasions. It defines the idea of a hearty meal, the star of which is this aureate bread. Unlike the other two, this one is fried at the end instead of being baked in the tawa, which lends it its distinct crunch.

The dough of a puri requires 50% water and 10% oil in ratio to the flower initially. The dough should much firmer than the other two as it goes into hot oil for preparation. Making it too soft would end up breaking the dough into bits when in touch with the oil. Once the dough is prepared these are deep fried at about 175 degree celsius in a wok. Pairing a puri with an accompaniment is a conscious choice. While the norm can be vegetables or dal, in the eastern part of India, they are also paired with something sweet, like jaggery or rice pudding.

This was a short introduction to the major types of Indian breads to get you started. The idea is to get creative with it as you please.

The breads shall not judge you!

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