Baking with Hot Bread Kitchen: Chapati

Welcome to the second installment of my new series, “Baking with Hot Bread Kitchen!” You can read about my first bread adventure here.

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Baking with Hot Bread Kitchen #2: Whole Wheat Chapati

I returned to the kitchen last weekend for my second “multi-ethnic” bread-making adventure from The Hot Bread Kitchen CookbookI’d been planning to make rich and complex paratha, but my time and energy were in short supply, so I settled on the simpler chapati, a classic South Asian flatbread. I’d helped make chapati while facilitating a cooking class at work last fall; also, many of my Bengali and Indian students and co-workers make it regularly.

Chapati requires just three ingredients: whole wheat flour, boiled water, and salt. What could be easier than that? As the cookbook mentions, mixing flour with hot water cooks the flour so that the flatbreads stay tender and pliable, even the next day. I recalled that you can actually buy special “chapati flour,” which is very finely ground. I used regular whole wheat flour for mine and it worked fine, although I may try using chapati flour next time to see if it changes the bread’s texture at all.

My chapati turned out well. The recipe was so simple and the whole process took just under an hour, from initial mixing to 12 cooked flatbreads. I made them in parallel with F making chicken curry from Simply Delicious. The chapati were (was?) tender, soft, and great for scooping up chicken pieces in the curry.

I took some leftover chapati to work the next day for my Bengali co-workers to sample — they were generous in their praise and told me it tasted like the “real thing.” An Indian co-worker recommended using a little less salt next time and drizzling leftover chapati with olive oil before packing and reheating them for lunch. I’ll try that next time — and yes, there will definitely be a next time for these quick and delicious flatbreads.

Have you ever made chapati? Post your tips and tricks in the comments.

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Baking with Hot Bread Kitchen: M’smen

Hello and Happy New Year! Long time no blog… I lost a bit of energy and motivation for it last fall, but now it’s a new year and I have a new project that I hope to blog about regularly. Read on to find out more…

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As the holiday season approached last year, I stumbled upon a review of some new cookbooks, one of which caught my eye: The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook. The review explained that Hot Bread Kitchen is a social enterprise in New York City, helping migrant women share bread-making skills from their cultures while providing them with training and jobs. As some of you may know, working with migrant women is a passion of mine (as well as my job!). The fact that the cookbook included bread recipes from around the world had me sold. I sent the link to F, hinting that I might like the book for Christmas. He willingly obliged.

So, armed with a beautiful cookbook made up of a plethora of “multi-ethnic” (their words) bread recipes as well as extensive tips and techniques, I have made a 2016 intention to try two new bread recipes per month from the book. That’s roughly every other weekend, so it should be manageable. As I make my way through breads of the world, I will write short posts about my experience with the recipes (I will not post the recipes themselves). I hope you’ll join me on my bread-making adventures: “Baking with Hot Bread Kitchen.”

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Baking with Hot Bread Kitchen #1: M’smen

The first section of The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook is titled “Primordial Bread: Unleavened Flatbreads.” I have tried my hand at flatbreads before and make naan pretty often. I like the general simplicity of flatbreads — they don’t usually need much resting time and cook quickly in a hot pan on the stovetop. For my maiden foray into The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook, I decided to cook the very first recipe in the book: m’smen, a Moroccan flatbread.

The only ingredient for m’smen that I didn’t already have at home was semolina, which was easy to find at our local greengrocer or big Tesco. The other ingredients were plain (all-purpose) flour, salt, water, neutral oil, and salted butter.

Making m‘smen required a few stages of dough shaping and resting before cooking, so the whole process took me almost two hours. I started around 11am with a vigorous 6-minute arm workout of mixing the dough by hand (must get a stand mixer one of these days!), before dividing the dough into 12 balls and setting them on oiled baking sheets to rest for half an hour. I left to do some errands and ended up out longer than expected, so the dough actually rested for almost an hour.

Next, the recipe called for more oiled workspace (I guess my hands were well-hydrated by the end of the process?) to stretch each dough ball out, sprinkle it with butter/oil and semolina, then fold it over onto itself to create a neat little pocket:

post-stretching & folding

post-stretching & folding

Finally, each pocket must be stretched and cooked in a hot skillet for a couple of minutes on each side. The author of the recipe recommends drizzling hot m’smen with honey and having alongside mint tea. F and I did share the first bread with honey — yum — and reheated the rest in the evening to serve alongside falafel and yogurt sauce and Moroccan carrot salad. Once the m’smen cooled down, they were a combination of crunchy and chewy, with a pleasant flavor and a hint of sweetness.

cooking the m'smen

cooking the m’smen

I enjoyed the process of making m’smen. It was a relatively involved recipe with a lot of hands-on time, but the flatbreads turned out delicate and delicious — worth the time investment. The dough was quite sticky and very stretchy; it helped to keep my hands oiled. I’ll definitely make m’smen again and may freeze some to use as an alternative to sandwich bread.

Have you ever heard of “m’smen”? Have you every made it yourself?

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Recipe: Stuffed Grilled Flatbreads with Basil Oil

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You know those recipes you see and immediately go, “I have to make this”? This, from Melissa Clark over at NYT Cooking, was one of them. I don’t know exactly what got me so excited, but who doesn’t love cheesy-doughy goodness? A free long weekend coming up meant I had time to make the dough on Saturday morning, let it rise, and prepare the flatbreads for dinner. Great cycling fuel, too, as F anticipated a long ride — and I a slightly shorter one — for Sunday morning.

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I was unsure how to do the folding and re-rolling (probably should’ve watched Melissa Clark’s video first — oops), so my flatbreads ended up very doughy on one side and very cheesy on the other. That also could’ve come from using cubed rather than grated mozzarella. That said, I didn’t care because the dough is delicious. Dollop on some extra basil oil, sprinkle it with some salt, and you’ll be good to go. Feel free to stuff the flatbreads with whatever you want — I’d like to try olives next time — or don’t stuff them at all and just enjoy them with that delicious basil oil. The dough would also be amazing as pizza dough — after all, these are basically calzones.

Stuffed Grilled Flatbreads with Basil Oil (adapted from Melissa Clark at NYT Cooking; makes 8 flatbreads, serving 6-8 people)

Ingredients

  • Flatbreads + Filling:
    • 1 tsp honey
    • 7g active dry yeast
    • 375g whole wheat flour
    • 13g sea salt
    • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 250-375g plain/all-purpose flour (+ more for counter dusting)
    • 200-300g mozzarella cheese, grated or cubed
  • Basil Oil:
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 50g fresh basil leaves
    • 1 garlic clove OR 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Procedure

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together honey and 2 cups of warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir until it dissolves.
  • Gradually stir in the whole wheat flour, taking about 1 minute to stir everything together. Let the mixture rest uncovered for 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the salt, yogurt, and olive oil, along with 250g (~2 cups) of the plain flour. Add more flour as needed, until the dough is too stiff to easily stir.
  • Flour a flat surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until it’s smooth, elastic, and only a little bit sticky.
  • Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with a dish towel and let the dough rise at room temperature until it doubles (~2-3 hours). If you want to make the flatbreads the next day, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.
  • Make the basil oil by pureeing the fresh basil, olive oil, and garlic in a blender or food processor.
  • After the dough has risen, turn it onto a floured surface and divide it into eight equal pieces. If the dough has warmed up too much, chill it for 30 minutes.
  • On your floured surface, roll a piece of dough into a circle about 6in (15cm) across, or about 1/4in (1/2cm) thick. Brush it with some basil oil, then evenly distribute some mozzarella over the dough round. Fold edges of dough to the middle of the circle, pinching them together  to seal in the filling. Re-roll the dough into a circle. Repeat with the rest of the dough pieces.
  • Before cooking, brush each side of the dough rounds with some olive oil. Place the dough rounds either on a grill or in a skillet over medium heat, and cook for about 3 minutes per side (flip when the dough/bread starts to puff and bubble). Alternately, place the rounds on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven at 450F (230C) for 10-15 minutes.
  • Before serving, brush each flatbread with some basil oil and sprinkle some salt over the top.

Enjoy!