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How to make Roti Chapati Phulka?

Roti is a flat whole wheat bread, a staple food of North India. Roti, Chapati or Phulka are same except for size. Roti and Chapati are about 6" diameter, thickness of a Nickel (5 coin). Phulka is a smaller and lighter, about 5" diameter, thickness of a Dime (10 coin). There is no yeast used in these breads. Here, I will discuss wheat bread only.

For breads with yeast see What are Pizza and Naan dough components?

For Gluten free breads such as Bajra, Rice, Ragi see  How to make Gluten free breads (Roti)

To a novice there are four basic concerns:
1. How much water should I add to make dough?
2. How do I roll out dough?
3. How to cook the bread on the griddle?
4. How to make softer Chapati (tenderize dough)?
The restaurants add ingredients as a percentage of flour weight. I have included these ingredients for 1 pound of flour.


The Dough

The dough is made by mixing flour, salt and water per recipe.


Salt adds flavor, and strengthens the gluten (tightens the dough). Salt should be sifted with the dry Atta. I like to add a minimum of teaspoon of salt for every two cups of flour. For unleavened breads, the amount of salt just depends on the taste of the user.

Restaurant ( 1 pound of flour): 2% salt or 1 teaspoon of table salt.


The amount of water to make dough varies on the type of grain, age of grain, and the milling process used to make flour.

Restaurant (1 pound of flour): 60% or 9.6 ounce or 1 cup and 2 Tablespoons.

At home, it is difficult to weigh the flour every time we need it. In Indian kitchen, there are two types of flours used to make Roti. Normal gluten and normal weight, and heavy flours. I have assumed the flours are tapped to fill the cup.

Heavy flours (Corn, Millet): 10 to 11 Tablespoons per cup of flour

Normal weight (Wheat flours): 6 to 7 Tablespoon per cup of flour.

The rule of thumb follows:

1. For wheat flours (Atta, Maida), add 6 Tablespoons of water per cup of flour. If the dough is too sticky, add extra flour. If the dough is too stiff, add more water (one teaspoon at a time) to get the right consistency. The dough before resting should be slightly sticky.

2. For heavy flours (Corn, Bajra, Jowar, etc.), add 10 Tablespoons of water per cup of flour. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. If the dough is too stiff, add more water (one teaspoon at a time) to get the right consistency. Lack of gluten will not give you a good feel for its stickiness.

3. Add 1 teaspoon of extra water per cup of flour, if you plan to use Electric Roti Maker .


Rolling Dough (Wheat Roti)

Use flour to dust and help roll out dough.

We need to roll dough out to form a 6" diameter disc about the thickness of a Nickel (5 coin). Rolling dough depends on the type of flour (gluten level). How you roll the dough will also determine whether the bread will puff up evenly or not. Pinch dough to make one bread and form it into a ball. Now flatten it to form a patty about 2" to 3" round. This will guide you in maintaining the round shape when using the rolling pin. Always apply rolling pin from the middle of the dough patty to outwards. It takes practice to roll out a round disc. If you are a novice, use a lid of coffee can and a sharp knife to form the round disc. 


Always use rolling pin on one side of the dough. Do NOT turn the dough over and roll again, it is called re-rolling. Avoid re-rolling. If you look at the cross-section of a finished puffed flat bread, you will notice one side is thicker than the other side. The thinner side corresponds to the side which was in contact with the rolling pin. We will call it the skin surface.



Heat the griddle (Tawa) to about 375 F surface temperature. If you don't have a thermometer to measure the surface temperature, put a test bread about the thickness of a dime (10 coin) on the Tawa. If the bread sticks to griddle, you need to increase heat. If the bread gets brown spots too quick, it is too hot. It should take about 30 seconds to develop scattered brown spots on the underside of the test bread.

It takes about 1 to 1 minutes to cook each side of the bread depending on the thickness of the bread. The bread is cooked in three steps. 

1. Put the rolled dough on the griddle with skin surface down. It will take about 30 second to 1 minute. Use a turner to lift a corner to see that the underside has a few brown spots.

2. Turn it over and let it cook. The time to cook will depend on the thickness of the bread from 1 minute 90 seconds, you will notice steam bubbles trapped in the dough. Again use a turner to lift a corner to see that the underside has a brown spots.
3. Turn it over. Press the bread with a clean dry rag as the steam bubble will get larger and larger merging with each other to encircle the whole area. The time will depend on the thickness of the bread 30 seconds to 1 minute.


Tenderizing dough to make softer breads

1. The starch in the flour absorbs moisture with heat. Always add warm water (near 100F) to make dough.
2. Lactic acid and fat in the Yogurt tenderize gluten. That's why buttermilk is added to make 'biscuits' in the United States. Replace water in part or whole with Dahi, or Buttermilk to make dough.

3. Add shortening such as Ghee, butter or even milk to the dough to make it softer. These fats also add to the texture of the dough.
4. Allow the dough to rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature, to permit the starches and glutens enough time to work through.
5. If you stored dough in the refrigerator, let it come to room-temperature before rolling, otherwise the gluten will remain stiff resulting in hard bread.


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