Basic Unleavened Whole-wheat Bread (Chapati)

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The most popular of all unleavened breads, chapatis are traditionally made with stone-ground whole-wheat flour. Thus they're rich in fiber, vitamins B and E, protein, iron, unsaturated fats, and carbohydrates. Like all whole-wheat breads, chapatis also contain phytic acid, a chemical that regulates the amount of calcium and other minerals the body absorbs. So while connoisseurs can relish chapatis for their refined taste, texture, and aroma, natural food fans can enjoy them for their varied nutritional content as well.

Note concerning flour:

Most Vedic breads are made with a kind of stone-ground whole-wheat flour called atta, or chapati flour. This flour, available in Indian grocery stores, is quite different from the kinds available in supermarkets and health-food stores. Chapati flour consists of whole grains of wheat finely milled to a near powder. (Cooks in India usually make it even finer by sieving it through a very fine screen in a utensil called a chalni.) Chapati flour is tan or buff in color and bursting with nutrition. Doughs made with it are velvety smooth, knead readily, and respond easily to shaping.

If chapati flour is unavailable, you can use regular whole-wheat flour. You should either sieve this flour to reduce its coarse texture or replace a portion of it with unbleached or regular all-purpose flour. How much all-purpose flour you should add depends on the quality of your whole-wheat flour, but generally two parts whole wheat to one part all-purpose gives good results. (For best results, use freshly milled flours.)

To measure the flour, first sieve it and then lightly spoon it into a measuring cup until it overflows the rim. Finally, level it off gently with a knife. If you pack the flour into the measuring cup or shake the cup, you'll get an inaccurate measurement because of compression or settling of the flour.

In following this recipe, begin with the least amount of water suggested. If the dough turns out too soft, add additional flour. Remember:

Flours vary according to the type of wheat they're milled from, the processing they undergo, and the amount of moisture they absorb during storage. So even the most accurate measurements may need small adjustments.


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