August 15, 2012

Phulkas (Puffed Rotis)

  Phulkas are made of wheat flour which is kneaded with water and salt, rolled out into a thin circular shape and cooked on a tava or griddle. You can call it the thinner version of the roti or chappati, which are generally thick. I call them 'Halka Phulka' as they are an extremely light and a versatile Indian bread.You can eat them with any sabzi (vegetable), curry, jam, pickle or butter. The Phulka derives its name from the fact that it puffs up when it is directly placed over the fire. 'Phulna' in Hindi means puffing up. This Indian bread is a staple of North India and is a little difficult to make as compared to the regular roti. The technique to get the phulka right, is in the quantity of water used and the amount of kneading done to make the dough soft. The more you knead the dough, the softer it becomes. Some people  may find it difficult to make phulkas with a very soft dough, not to worry, refrigerate the dough for about 20 minutes and it will be easier to work with. My mother made phulkas almost everyday for lunch and dinner as these and thick chappatis were a favorite of my brother's. Most times when we had unexpected guests for lunch, my mother would scramble to make rotis. And she was so adept at making these, she would have a plate stacked up with garma garam phulkas in under twenty minutes. Not to mention the dollop of home made desi ghee smeared on each phulka. I prefer making phulkas to the thicker chappatis. At home, we had something called the 'thick chappati' and the regular chappati which was the phulka. I always preferred the phulka as it was easier to eat and consumed less time ;)   

Naram Garam Phulkas (without the ghee)
Phulkas when kept folded

Wheat flour (Atta) - 2 cups (for kneading)
Wheat flour - 3/4 cup (for dusting the phulkas)
Water - 3/4 to 1 cup
Salt- a pinch (to taste)  
Ghee- a few tbsps

   Keep the following at hand: Rolling pin, Tava/ flat griddle, a pair of tongs or a wire mesh, Hot pack/ Casserole to store the phulkas

1) First visit the Indian store and buy a 5 or 10 lbs atta bag :) You will have many choices to choose from. I found that the brand one picks also matters here in the US as some are coarse ground and others are finely ground. There are also some brands which have maida mixed in the wheat flour, but claim to be pure wheat flour. In my opinion, coarse ground attas are better to make rotis/chappatis/phulkas/puris. I am not promoting any particular brand, but after lots of experimenting, I found Sujata atta to be the one closest to what my mother uses back home. Mom always did it the old fashioned way....buying wheat, washing and drying it and then getting it ground the way she liked it at the flour mill (chakki). She doesn't do that anymore as it is laborious and  I am not there to help her too.
2) Measure out the atta in a large bowl. Add the salt. Add a little water at a time and begin to knead the dough. Add only so much water initially so as to wet and bind the entire dough. Keep kneading and sprinkling a little water till you get almost an elastic consistency in the kneaded dough.The dough should be come soft and pliable. Cover and rest the dough for about 10 mins before making phulkas. You can also refrigerate the dough for about 20 mins in case you are not very comfortable working with a very soft dough.

Soft and pliable dough

3) Now make small round balls out of the dough. Take a flour ball and flatten it a little by hand, to make a small slightly thick disc. Dust this in the extra flour and roll it into a very thin roti. You will have to dust the roti once or twice to prevent it from sticking on the surface you are rolling the phulka out on. Making rotis or phulkas may be a little messy and I prefer to use the flat kitchen counter top to roll out the phulkas. I keep the  atta for dusting usually in a flat plate or on the counter itself. You could use a 'chakla' or traditional elevated flat wooden surface to make the phulkas too. Not that it will reduce the mess :)
4) Heat the tava / griddle on high. Once it is hot enough, slightly lower the flame and place the phulka on the tava. Once it changes color, flip it over and allow it to cook, till light brown spots appear on it. Now, holding the tava handle with one hand, place the phulka directly on the fire with your other hand. You could also place the hot tava on another unused gas burner, so as to keep your hands safe. Making phulkas is a little tricky and does need some practice, but once you get the hang of it, it is very easy :)
5) The phulka placed directly on the fire should puff up due to trapped steam. Using the kitchen tongs, flip the phulka over on the fire for a few seconds. Remove it with the tongs and place it on a plate or casserole.  Smear with a dollop of ghee, if you like the taste of ghee. Mom used to smear a lot of ghee on her phulkas, but I stopped using ghee on mine long ago....guess I don't really like the taste anymore. Repeat the process for all the balls of atta you have, taking care to lower the flame when placing the phulka on the tava each time.Take care to cover the casserole once all the phulkas are made. That way they will stay warm and remain soft when you eat them.
6) Another option would be to use a wire mesh, which I believe is available in the Indian store. Place this on a different gas burner than the one on which you place your tava on. Keep the flame on high and place the phulka over the mesh to puff up. I have never used the wire mesh and learnt to make the phulkas my mom's way.....which did include burning my finger tips in the process. But definitely worth it!

 Note: In case you find placing the phulka directly on the fire or wire mesh is not for you, then you could also use a kitchen towel. Crumple it first and gently press down on the phulka when it has slightly cooked on both sides, keeping the flame on high while doing this. Steam will build up inside the phulka causing it to puff up.


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