What is chapati/Roti/ Phulka?
CHAPATI is a term for all Indian flatbread. People also call it Roti or Phulka. Traditionally we prepare chapati by patting the whole wheat flour dough balls between the palms of the two hands. To flat it into a round shape.
Why Chapati is called chapati?
“Chappat” in Hindi means slap. Since we strike the dough ball continuously with the palm to give it a round shape. Thus we call this recipe – Chapati.
What is Roti or Phulka?
Today we will prepare out chapati with the help of a rolling pin. So, some veterans may say that it is not a chapati if the dough is not flattened by hand. That is without the use of a rolling pin. Thus under such circumstances, we will call it Roti or Phulka.
A chapati may or may not puff up like a balloon. If it puffs up we call it Phulka. Otherwise, we call it Roti.
What is the difference between a chapati and a roti?
Roti is a generic name for Indian flatbread. We cook these Indian flatbreads with whole wheat flour or with refined flour or specific flour of any cereal like maize, gram, corn, wheat, rice, barley, etc. These flatbreads are roasted without using oil.
In India, you can find a variety of Roti like- Tandoori Roti, Missi Roti, Rumali Roti, Makki di Roti, Chawal ki Roti, Bajre ki Roti, Besan ki Roti, etc.
Each of these Roti gets their name from the specific property they have in them. That is Tandoori Roti gets its name because we prepare it in Tandoor. Tandoor is an Indian clay oven popularly in use in northern India and Pakistan.
Makki di Roti, Chawal ki Roti, Bajre ki Roti, Besan ki roti gets their name from the main ingredient used in it.
And Rumali Roti since it looks like a handkerchief. We call handkerchief as rūmāl in the Urdu language.
How to cook Chapati or Roti
Stone Age has gone and now we are in 21 century. So, we have a specific tool to easily roll these bread – flat and circular. Thus, we are going to use a rolling pin to ease our work.
Please note down these 2 technical terms if you are going to try it for the first time.
If your Roti puffs up like balloon serve it to your husband as Phulka. Otherwise, serve it as Tava Roti. Please don’t smile it’s all about technical words.
Coming back to Chapati – which we also call Tava Roti or Phulka. Let’s start preparing it.
- 2 cups wheat flour (गेहूं का आटा)
- 1/2 tablespoon salt to taste (नमक स्वाद अनुसार)
- 3/4 cup water (पानी)
How to Make Dough for Chapati
- Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and mix well.
- Now make a well in the middle then gradually stir the flour adding water in parts. Mix the flour and water well with your fingers.
- Form a supple dough kneading it for 7-10 minutes. Cover it with clear film (plastic wrap) and leave on one side for 15-20 minutes to rest.
How to Make Soft Chapati
- After 20 minutes lightly knead the previously prepared dough and divide it into equal parts. To shape it, make a log of the dough then slice it into 8-10 equal parts. Each part should be sufficient to make a 2-inch size ball.
- Roll each part in between your palms to make balls. Then place all the balls in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.
- Dust the rolling board lightly with some raw flour. Put a dough ball over it flatten the top and roll it with the rolling pin to make a circle shape of around 5-6 inch diameter. Your first chapati is ready to cook.
- Place Tawa or a flat frying pan over high heat. When steam starts rising from it, lower the heat to medium and add the first chapati to the pan.
- When the chapati begins to bubble lightly, flip the chapatti using tongs and cook for 10-15 seconds.
- Check for the little brown spots. Once they start appearing, and the chapati starts to puff it indicates that your chapati is completely cooked.
- Once the chapati got cooked well, remove the Tava from the stove and place the roti on the bare flame to get perfectly puffed up Phulkas.
- If you observe that the chapati is bulging from one side, you can lightly press down the bulges with a clean dish towel or a flat spoon on these spots to encourage the air to pass through the entire chapati. This will inflate the chapatti well and will make the chapati nice and soft.
- When the air fills up completely turn it over once again and remove the chapati from flame and store it in a casserole box with a kitchen towel, lined at the bottom.
- Repeat the process until all the chapatti gets cooked.
- Serve hot.
Why my chapatti is not puffing up?
Since we are talking a lot about technique and technical words lets understand the science behind the puffing of chapatti or Phulka.
How does air get inside chapatis/Phulka?
Since we want to understand how does a chapati separates into 2 layers. And then inflate like a balloon when cooked. Let us understand the Physics and chemistry behind this recipe.
The uncooked dough composes of 2 components.
Wheat flour consists of two major proteins—glutenin and gliadin. When you add water to the flour and knead it. It leads to the formation of a continuous network of the protein Gluten. This Gluten lends the dough elasticity and makes it stretchable. The strong gluten network forms an airproof matrix. Hence no air bubbles can escape out, without breaking the surface of the dough.
Now since you understand the chemistry part of the reaction. Let us look at the physics of the phenomenon. Let us see how to cook good chapati.
The science behind Chapati or Roti:
When we roll the dough with a rolling pin or flatten it by patting the dough with our hand. The bond between the Gluten gets stronger horizontally rather than vertically due to surface tension.
When we place the flattened slice on the Tawa (flat pan). Then heat it till one face slightly dries. This heat further improves the horizontal bond of Gluten.
Then we turn over the slice on the Tawa and cook it. Till another side of the slice becomes drier. This side should be heated more than the previous side. Hence it becomes drier compared to the previous side. This gives a stronger horizontal bond of Gluten to this side than that of the other. At this point, the vertical bond also gets weaker. Thus the chapatti forms 2 invisible layers internally.
Now we place the less cooked side of the chapati on the open fire. And our chapati inflates like a balloon due to weaker vertical bond and formation of steam inside from the less cooked side. This stream tries to evaporate out of this roti by breaking the weaker vertical bond of Gluten. This is the key to the inflating of the chapati. Since one side is drier compared to others. Hence there is a difference in the density of Gluten bonds.
On heating up, the air bubbles trapped inside the dough and the water convert into steam. These expand and create an inflationary force. Then the drier layer inflates to escape from the hydrophilic bond of the moist layer when the air expands it.
Now, since you understood the key to making a good chapati. Cook one side more than the other.
Why does chapati become hard?
This is all because of the dough you prepared. Depending on the wheat used (Sujata, UP-2425, etc.), the flour would have a certain percentage of gluten protein. Thus based on the variety of wheat in flour, we add appropriate water to prepare the dough.
We call this stage – combining the dough. After combining the dough proceed with stretching and folding this dough for 5–7 min or more and the process is referred to as kneading.
Kneading helps is trapping some air bubbles in the dough. Post kneading you end up with a dough that is considerably smoother and less sticky.
Roti goes hard if the water content of the dough is too less or the flour has not been kneaded properly. A typically Roti dough has 45-55%water by weight.
Another reason if you have used a lot of flour to dust them for rolling it. This decreases the moisture content of the dough. And your chapatti will become hard and chewy.
Why are Indian Rotis/chapatis round?
Traditionally Rotis or chapatis are round or oval in shape. Again this is all science. This is because both round or oval shape has more surface area. Thus the dough gets cooked better when shaped round or oval shape.
Further, if you want to get the Rotis or chapatis get cooked well from inside. It needs to puff due to moisture trapped inside, which helps in cooking it evenly from inside too.
When the shape Rotis or chapatis are round or oval it has no sharp edges from where the stream can explode out due to weaker bond at sharp edges.
Thus you can very well understand a round or oval shape Rotis or chapatis gets cook very well.
Now coming up to round shape. It’s more psychological as we humans do not accept change very easily. And our mothers and grannies have made it a perfect circle. Thus we do not accept oval shape Rotis or chapatis.
Now let’s conclude this topic.
What are the tricks to make perfect chapati, Roti or Phulka?
For me, the key to making perfect chapatis is kneading the dough very well with water till you get into a soft and smooth dough.
Below is the recipe and tips for Whole Wheat flour (atta) chapatis:
- Take that many fistfuls of flour plus one extra depending on how many Rotis you want to make. If you want 10, then 10 fistfuls of flour plus a little extra.
- Add a little salt to your taste to the flour before kneading.
- Don’t measure your water. The water required will depend on the quality of your flour mainly wheat. Add water in parts till you can assemble the dough. Once you got a rough dough, add water little by little as required, smash the dough with your knuckles and with the heel of your palm for a few minutes to incorporate the water into the dough. You should end up with a soft and smooth dough that is not sticking to your hand or the utensil. If you have added enough water, you should not see cracks and dry spots.
- Resting is recommended as it the gluten/gliadin to relax and easily reform itself into the long protein chains which are the superstructure of the finished loaf. You can also go straight to making Rotis. If you have kneaded it well, you will definitely get soft Rotis.
- Roll out medium to thin Rotis and ensure that the edges are not thick.
- Ensure that your Tawa is hot and place the Rotis properly to avoid places on the Tawa with uneven heating that will result in wet spots on the roti.
- Cook the roti well on both sides. You should not find any wet spots and it should start puffing up in places.
- Place the roti on the bare flame to get perfectly puffed up Phulkas.
- Store in a casserole or box immediately.
- If you want to pack them for lunch, wrap them in a few tissues or foil first.
- If you want to store the dough, apply a little oil on the dough, wrap it in foil and store it in the fridge. To be on the safer side, don’t store it beyond 3–4 days.
- To improve the taste you can apply some butter or ghee on the surface of your chapatti. Butter or ghee while improving taste also forms a thin layer over the surface of chapatti thus closes the fine pores from where moisture can exit from the Phulka. This helps in retaining moisture and keeps the Phulka soft for a long time.