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Water Cooler: Roti, the flatbread every home cook should make

UPDATED: Thu., July 29, 2021

Flatbreads are prized for their simplicity and freshness, meaning you’re much better off making them at home than opting for the often-stale and flavorless store-bought versions.

One of the simplest breads in the culinary universe is roti, an Indian bread made from whole wheat flour. This bread is unleavened, meaning it requires no yeast, unlike the more popular Indian flatbread naan.

Roti is native to the Indian subcontinent, but it is enjoyed all over the world, especially in areas like the Caribbean where there is a large Indo-Caribbean population. Roti is traditionally cooked on a thin iron griddle called a tawa, or it is sometimes cooked on the interior wall of a tandoor oven. To make roti in a Western kitchen, a cast iron pan is your best option, but you can use any kind of griddle or frying pan to do the job.

Here is how to make this simple bread at home.

To make about a dozen roti, all you need is:

270 grams of whole wheat flour

190 grams of water

6 grams Kosher salt (optional)

You can alter this recipe to any amount you want, as long as the amount of water is always about 70% of the weight of the flour.

Combine the flour and salt in a food processor, mixer or mixing bowl. Once well combined, add the water and knead or mix until the dough forms and has a smooth, elastic texture. You can use the windowpane test to tell if the dough is ready by holding it up to the light and stretching. If you can stretch the dough thin enough until light shines through (without any tearing), then the dough should be ready.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel and let rest for 20 minutes. This allows the dough to develop flavor and strengthen the gluten bonds. After resting, knead the bread once more, then divide into 12 equal pieces, about 35 grams each. Form each portion into a ball.

Sprinkle flour over your work surface, then roll one dough ball at a time into a flat circle. Keep the rest of the dough balls covered while you do this so they don’t dry out. Set aside each rolled portion and cover until ready to cook.

Heat your skillet or pan on medium-high heat until about 475 degrees Fahrenheit or until lightly smoking. Dust the excess flour off each portion of roti before cooking. Put the roti on the pan and let it cook for about 30 seconds to 60 seconds, or until it begins to bubble and get a slight amount of color on the bottom. Flip and let cook for another 15 seconds to 30 seconds. The roti will begin to bubble a bit more.

Remove the pan from the flame, then place the roti directly on the stovetop for about 5 seconds on each side. During this step, the roti will brown a bit more and it will inflate almost like a balloon. Once cooked, keep each portion of roti in a clean kitchen towel to keep it warm as you cook the remaining portions.

If you have an induction or electric stove, follow the same process but instead of taking the pan off the flame, simply flip the roti again in the pan and let it brown and puff on each side.

Roti is excellent to eat with curry and other Indian dishes, but you can also use them the same way you would a tortilla wrap for making burritos and wraps at home.

Rachel Baker can be reached at (509) 459-5583 or rachelb@spokesman.com.

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