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A Sampling of North Indian Breads

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Post your questions here -->> Q&A

A Sampling of North Indian Breads

Authors: Monica Bhide and Chef Sudhir Seth

Introduction

These breads are the taste of home for me -- wholesome breads prepared with simple ingredients and simple cooking methods. There are many different types of breads in North India. They can be prepared in the tandoor (clay oven, as is done in many restaurants), dry roasted, cooked on a griddle, or deep-fried. They can be prepared plain, or stuffed with savory or sweet filling, or just topped with mouthwatering garnishes.

In the recipes below we are merely attempting to scratch the surface, presenting you with a glimpse of these magnificent breads.

North Indian breads are prepared with various kinds of flours. The ones listed here use a whole-wheat flour known as atta and all-purpose flour. The dough is prepared in most cases without the use of yeast. (We have shown a special sweet bread here, called Sheermal, that is prepared using yeast.) Also, the tandoori breads are generally rolled out by hand not with a rolling pin. But in the recipes below, for ease of use for the home cook, we have used a rolling pin. As you will also see then, no special equipment is needed. We have prepared the breads in a traditional oven and in a non-stick skillet. (We have included some pictures towards the end of the lesson of a roti being prepared in a commercial tandoor.)

A few tips:

• Knead the dough well, adding only enough water or other specified liquid to make the dough the right consistency.

• A must for preparing these breads is to let the dough rest as indicated. This will ensure that the dough softens and moistens, making it more pliable and easier to stretch

• To prepare simple ghee (clarified butter) see below but for a in-depth discussion check out this wonderful thread in the India forum. (See the last few suggestions on preparing it by melting butter.)

• You can also purchase ghee or clarified butter at your local Indian grocer or from www. Namaste.com.

Clarified Butter (Ghee)

Yields: About ½ cup

½ lb unsalted butter

Heat a heavy pan over low heat. Add the butter, allowing it to melt. Once the butter has melted, increase the heat, bringing the butter to a simmer. The butter will start to foam.

Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Watch carefully as it may burn. The milk solids will start to settle at the bottom, and the liquid butter will float to the surface. When the liquid butter becomes amber in color, remove it from from the heat. Cool to room temperature.

Strain the amber liquid into a jar and discard the milk solids.

Cover and store, refrigerated, for up to 6 months.

Plain Naan Dough

Naans are traditional Indian breads prepared in clay ovens or tandoors. They are commonplace on most Indian menus. We have tried here to present a simple dough for Naans and then two of the more unusual preparations for it: the Peshawari Naan and the Onion Kulcha. .

• ½ cup milk

• 1 teaspoon sugar

• 1 cup warm water

• 1 tablespoon yogurt

• 1 egg

• 4 cups of all-purpose flour (labelled "maida" in Indian grocery store)

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for baking tray)

• 2 tablespoons clarified butter or ghee

In a bowl whisk together the milk, sugar, water, yogurt and egg.

Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a large shallow bowl. Mix well.

Pour the liquid onto the flour and begin to knead. Continue kneading until you have a soft dough. If you need more liquid, add a few tablespoons of warm water. Knead for at least 10 minutes, or until you have a soft dough that is not sticky.

Oil the dough.

Cover the dough with a damp cloth and place in a warm place for 1½ - 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in volume.

Directions for plain naan:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly dust the rolling surface and rolling pin with flour.

Knead the dough again on the floured surface for about 5 minutes. Divide it into 8 equal pieces and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap.

Roll each piece into a ball and flatten it with your hands. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into an oval shape (about 8 inches). Using your hands, pull at both ends of the oval to stretch it a little. Continue until you have made 8 naans.

Brush each oval with clarified butter.

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Place the naans on the baking sheet bake for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until golden brown.

Peshawari Naan

In this delightfully sinful recipe, the naan dough is stuffed with dried nuts and raisins and baked. Serve this warm right out of the oven for the best taste.

1 recipe prepared plain naan dough

For the stuffing:

• 1 tablespoon cashews (crushed)

• 1 tablespoon almonds (crushed)

• 1+1 tablespoons pistachios (crushed)

• 1 tablespoon raisins

• 1 teaspoon cilantro leaves, minced

• 1 teaspoon sugar

• 1 tablespoon Milk Mawa Powder (Dried whole milk powder)

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• 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground

• 3 tablespoons melted butter or clarified butter

Prepare the Naan dough.

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While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.

Set aside 1 tablespoon of pistachios and the raisins. In a mixing bowl combine all the other filling ingredients. Add a few tablespoons of water to bind them together to form a lumpy consistency.

Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly oil or flour your hands.

Take one portion of the dough and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

Add a tablespoon of the filling to the center. Bring the sides together and pinch them to seal and form a ball. Flatten lightly. Dust very lightly with flour.

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Roll the flattened ball again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

Garnish with the reserved pistachios and raisins.

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Continue until you have made 8 naans.

Brush each naan with clarified butter. Place the naans on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve hot.

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Onion Kulcha

We present this recipe by popular demand. Here the naan is stuffed with a spiced onion mix and baked to perfection.

1 recipe prepared plain naan dough

For the stuffing:

• 2 small red onions, finely chopped

• 1 tablespoon minced cilantro

• 1 tablespoon Chaat Masala (www.namaste.com)

• 1 teaspoon red chili powder

• Salt to taste

• 3 tablespoons melted butter or clarified butter

• 2 teaspoons cilantro, minced for garnish

• small boiled potato, grated (optional)

Prepare the naan dough.

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While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.

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First, using the palms of your hands, squeeze out all the water from the chopped onions. If the onions still appear to be watery, add a small boiled grated potato to your filling. This will prevent the filling from spilling out of the kulcha.

In a mixing bowl combine all the filling to form a lumpy consistency.

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Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly oil or flour your hands.

Take one portion of the dough and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

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Add a tablespoon of the filling to the center. Bring the sides together and pinch them to seal and form a ball. Flatten lightly. Dust very lightly with flour.

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Roll the flattened ball again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

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Dip your fingers in water and moisten the surface of the kulcha very lightly. Sprinkle with a few minced cilantro leaves. Continue until you have made 8 kulchas.

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Place the kulchas on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve hot.

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Ande Ka Paratha

This is a unique addition to your recipe collection. A mild and flaky bread, it is a small kid’s favorite at our home.

Makes 8 parathas

• 2 cups Indian atta flour (whole-wheat flour)

• 1½ teaspoons table salt

• 2+2 tablespoons melted butter or clarified butter

• Water as needed

• 8 eggs

In a bowl combine the flour, salt and two tablespoons of clarified butter. Slowly begin to add the water, kneading the flour as you go. Make a dough, kneading for at least 10 minutes. The final dough should be soft and pliable. It should not be sticky or else it will not roll out well.

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Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.

i809.jpg

Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.

Lightly oil or flour your hands. Take one portion and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the prepared floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

Now fold the dough over itself.

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Take the folded dough and roll it around itself into a spiral.

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Tuck the end under.

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Do this for all eight dough balls. (This folding and rolling will make the paratha very flaky.)

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Now flatten the spiral and roll again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

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Heat a griddle on medium heat. Brush it lightly with butter and add the paratha. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the paratha begins to blister. Brush the top lightly with butter and remove from heat. Put the paratha aside on a warm plate.

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Grease the same griddle a bit and break an egg on it. Cook the egg sunny side up. Place the cooked side of the paratha on the egg. Press down gently to break the yolk. Let it cook for a minute. Brush the top of the paratha with butter, flip carefully and cook for another minute or two until the paratha is no longer raw.

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Remove the paratha from the griddle and place on a serving platter. Cover with a paper towel. Continue until all the parathas are cooked.

Serve hot.

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Indian Bread Stuffed With Spicy Potatoes (Aloo Ka Paratha)

This filled paratha is a very popular North Indian bread, served traditionally with homemade white butter and Indian pickles of your choice.

• 2 cups Indian atta flour (whole-wheat flour)

• 4 tablespoons semolina

• 1½ teaspoons table salt

• 2 tablespoons melted clarified butter or butter

• Water as needed

• 3 medium potatoes, peeled

• 2 Serrano green chilies, seeded and finely minced

• 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

• 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, grated

• 1 teaspoon Chaat Masala

• 4 tablespoons melted clarified butter or butter

• A few tablespoons flour for dusting

In a bowl combine the wheat flour, semolina flour, salt and two tablespoons of clarified butter. Slowly begin to add the water, kneading the flour as you go. Make a dough, kneading for at least 10 minutes. The final dough should be soft and pliable. It should not be sticky, or else it will not roll out well.

Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.

Boil the potatoes in enough water to cover for about 15 minutes. Drain.

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Put the potatoes in a bowl and mash them well with a fork. Add the green chilies, cilantro, ginger root, and chaat masala and mix well. Set this filling aside to cool.

Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.

Lightly oil or flour your hands. Take one portion and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the prepared floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

Lightly brush the surface with the clarified butter. Add a tablespoon of the potato filling to the center. Bring the sides together and pinch them to seal and form a ball. Flatten lightly. Dust very lightly with flour.

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Roll the flattened ball again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

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Heat a griddle on medium heat. Brush it lightly with butter and add the paratha. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the paratha begins to blister. Brush the top lightly with butter and flip over. Cook for 2 minutes.

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Remove the paratha from the griddle and place on a serving platter. Cover with a paper towel. Continue until all the parathas are cooked.

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Sheermal

A sweet bread, it is one of the few Indian breads that uses yeast. Keep the dough in a warm place to ensure that it rises. You can increase the amount of sugar if you like a sweeter taste.

i794.jpg

• 1 packet dry yeast

• 1 teaspoon sugar

• ¼ cup water

• 1½ cups all-purpose flour

• ¼ teaspoon salt

• 2 tablespoons sugar

• 2 eggs (separate 1 egg and set the yolk aside) beat the whole egg and the white together

• 2 tablespoons melted clarified butter or butter

• Extra flour for dusting

• Pitted cherries/raisins for garnish

Mix yeast with the sugar and 1/4 cup water. Set aside until frothy, about 5 - 10 minutes.

Combine the flour, salt and sugar. Add the clarified butter, egg and yeast mixture. Knead until a smooth dough is formed. (You may need more warm water.) Set aside to rise until the dough doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly dust the rolling surface and rolling pin with flour.

Knead the dough again on the floured surface for about 5 minutes. Divide it into 6 equal pieces and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap.

Roll each piece into a ball and flatten it with your hands. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into a disc. Continue until you have made 6 discs.

Beat the reserved egg yolk and brush a little on each sheermal. Place a few cherries on the sheermal for garnish. Place the discs on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.

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Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Tandoori Roti

We wanted to show how the tandoor is used to prepare breads. These pictures are of a special roti or bread, called Tandoori Roti, being prepared in the hot tandoor or clay oven.

The basic recipe entails preparing a dough of whole-wheat flour. (See the paratha dough prepared earlier.) The flattened rolled out discs are then cooked in the tandoor until the dark spots begin appearing on the surface of the bread.

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