International cooking for the youthful malcontent.

Bhatoora

Edit: I’ve modified this recipe as of May 9th, 2011. The recipe and directions have changed. Deal with it. This one is better, and simpler.

As I mentioned in my Kheema post, the first time I had bhatoora/bhatura was in an Indian shop in Singapore. Before then I had tasted several kinds of naan. Naan is pretty popular now in North America and is manufactured by companies like President’s Choice and Dempster’s (don’t ever buy these if you’re craving Indian breads – they probably won’t taste the way you want them to) but India offers many kinds of breads that aren’t normally offered at buffet lines (which was, at the time, the only place I had ever had naan) and are not available commercially in most Western supermarkets including bhatoora, a puffy, deep-fried bread served often with chana masala (spiced chickpeas).

Edit: I’ve erased my old paragraph here about the problems creating this bread. The truth is, at the time of writing I did not fully appreciate what letting the dough rest for hours does for bread re: glutens/elasticity. So scratch all that and get into this: Give your bhatoora dough 4-6 hours to properly rise and develop the necessary elasticity. Besides making a better bread, it also makes the bread easier to eat. As in chew, swallow and digest. Don’t believe me? Try making bread from dough immediately after kneading, and compare it to bread made from the same dough that’s been resting 4 hours, or overnight. Plus this bread is kneaded with yogurt. Full-fat yogurt. Don’t be tempted to use nonfat yogurt here, health-nuts – the yogurt plays a role in rising the bread and is important.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour
  • 3/4 cup plain full-fat yogurt (5-6% MF)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp salt
  • enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a wok with 1 to 1 1/2 inches of oil

Serve with: chana masala, kheema mattar

What you will need: wok or deep-frying pan, medium to large-sized mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons, metal or wood tongs, paper-towel lined plate to drain the cooked breads, plastic wrap, rolling pin (or use your hands)

Directions:

  1. In the mixing bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. I like to use my hand, but you can use a whisk if you’d like. I stick my hand in the flour like a claw and swirl it around. It’s fun.
  2. Add the yogurt and mix it into the dough using your hands.
  3. Continue to knead the dough until all the flour is worked into the dough. This may take about 5 minutes or more of work. WikiHow on Kneading. When it’s done, the dough will not be sticky anymore, instead it should feel slightly tacky.
  4. Put the dough into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it sit in a warm, dark place for 4-6 hours.
  5. When you’re ready to make bread, pour the oil for deep-frying into the wok and turn the burner to medium heat (around 4-5 on my dial usually does the trick). Give it approx. 10 minutes to heat up.
  6. On a clean countertop, sprinkle some loose flour onto the surface and put the dough ball on it. Separate the dough ball into 6 roughly equal-sized pieces. It doesn’t have to be perfect by any means. Then, with the rolling pin, flatten the pieces one-by-one into rough disc shapes about 1/6 to 1/4 inch thick and maybe 6 inches in diameter, or slightly more. Who knows! The main thing is the make sure the dough is thin enough to guarantee it cooks all the way through, and thick enough that there’s room for air pockets to develop when the baking powder activates.
  7. Once they’re flat, you’re ready to start deep-frying. The oil is hot by now (don’t leave it heating up longer than 15 minutes. If steps 1-6 feel like they’re taking longer than 15 minutes to finish, don’t turn the oil on at all. Wait until now to start heating the oil, and let the dough discs rest for that time) Remember that hot oil hurts a lot and that you should be really careful working anywhere near a wok full of oil that’s well within the temperature range to burn skin. Before you put the dough into the oil, try to remove any loose flour from the surface by brushing it with your hand. Loose flour will burn in the oil and you’ll end up with watery eyes and a burning sensation in about 10 minutes as the smoke circulates your kitchen. You can test if the oil is hot enough to fry the dough by dropping a small ball of it into the oil. If it rises to the surface, surrounded by air bubbles, you’re good to go. If it sinks and sits there, then wait.
  8. Get a plate ready near your oil. Cover it with 4 or 5 layers of paper towels.
  9. Carefully slide the first bhatoora disc into the oil. Don’t just drop it. It will splash if you do that and then you’ll lose your face.
  10. It should rise to the surface after a few seconds. Let it cook on one side for about 15-20 seconds, then flip the dough using the tongs. Once flipped, the bhatoora should begin to inflate with air. You can encourage this a little bit by pressing the air pockets gently with the tongs. Not too hard of they’ll break, or escaping air could possibly spatter a bit of skin-burning oil your way and then you’ll be a hideous freak and no one will love you.
  11. Let it cook on this side until it’s nicely golden brown, and inflated as much as possible, then flip back over and finish the top side. Take a look at my photo: that’s about as browned as they need to be, or even a bit less.
  12. When done, remove to your plate lined with paper towels.
  13. Repeat 9-12 until all the discs have been cooked.

Now you have fresh, fried Indian bread. Eat it immediately. With curry!

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