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What's the right grain for chappati flour?

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subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

What's the right grain for chappati flour?

I home mill my own flour and need to know what is the correct grain to buy to make whole wheat chapati and other breads that are cooked on the stove top using a griddle (or cast iron frying pan).

According to my Indian cook books, chapati flour is called *atta*;  this is generally  defined as  a very fine whole wheat flour milled from the entire wheat berry. My problem - what kind of wheat is used for chapati flour?

When I research it on the 'net, I get articles that say it is hard wheat  or durum wheat. However, my cookbook "The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking" (by Yamuna Devi) says atta is made from *soft* wheat flour and goes on to suggest mixing two parts whole wheat *pastry* flour with 1 part unbleached white flour or *cake* flour if you can't get imported atta flour. This certainly suggests that *soft* wheat, not hard, would be the better grain choice.

I use a Nutrimill grain mill which can produce a finely milled flour. But what grain should I use - hard wheat? soft wheat? durum wheat?

Looking forward to your answers - thanks

charbono's picture
charbono

I have two books of Indian cooking, one by Doshi and one by Pandya.  For chapati, they simply specify whole meal flour.  There is no mention of hard or soft, and there is no mention of atta.  One mentions kneading, which implies a hard wheat.  Durum doesn't sound right.  Since there is no yeast, perhaps it's just personal preference.  Wish I could help more.

cb

 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

There's been a few discussions, maybe this thread will help..

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/4065/semolina-vs-durham#comment-20471

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

Hi (and thanks for responding)

However, I am the poster in the link you cited.

I am hoping for feedback a little less circular, though I appreciate that you took the time to search. 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

Sorry..we have such knowledgable people.. I knew I remembered reading about it and thought this expert was for you..little did I know it was you..  ;  )

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

...recommend sifting whole wheat flour for a close equivalent to atta flour.

johny.m's picture
johny.m

Flour used for chappati is usually stone ground whole wheat flour (called Atta in India). Medium hard to hard varieties of wheat is usually used for chapati. Using flour from a hard wheat variety helps in rolling out the chapati very thin, which is considered desireable in most parts of India. Softer varieties of wheat are also used but this results in a slightly thicker (but softer and less 'rubbery') chapati. At home we use a medium hard variety of wheat to make our flour which results in a soft and acceptably thin chapati.

No yeast is used for making the chapati dough and the dough is kneaded by hand generally till it is soft and supple. It is considered good to use warm water for kneading though I'm not sure why and milk can be partly substituted for water to make the chapati soft.

Hope this helps...

See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atta_flour
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapati

merrybaker's picture
merrybaker

I used to make chapatis from home-ground hard wheat berries mixed with storebought, unbleached A-P flour. The chapatis were just okay. Then I tried Pillsbury atta. What a difference! Now my chapatis look and taste like they should. So the flour does make a big difference.

I know you want to use your own flour, so I'd suggest you use something fairly soft. Otherwise, rolling them out will drive you crazy. I agree about sifting out some of the bran. Atta is lighter in color than whole-grain whole-wheat, and is very fine and smooth.

When it comes to making the chapatis, don't make the dough too soft. Don't knead it too much -- gluten is not your friend here. And be sure to let it rest 30 to 60 mins before rolling.

ejm's picture
ejm

I make chapatis with a half and half mixture of whole wheat flour and allpurpose unbleached flour. (This is what Jaffery recommends in one of her cookbooks) I could get atta from Indiatown but I'm too lazy. For paratha, I use 100% wholewheat flour. (around 14% protein content)

However, I have used atta to make chapatis and there is virtually no difference (to my mind).

I do not sift the whole wheat flour.

One thing I do swear by is using HOT water to mix the dough. I add enough to hold the flour together and then knead for about 5 minutes til the dough is smooth and silky. Then I allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling it out - this is the method that I was taught by our Indian friend who makes chapatis every day and learned how to make chapati from HER mother in India. (Our friend uses atta because she lives in India.)

From what I understand, atta is made from durum wheat.

-Elizabeth, in Canada

edit:

I remember having a discussion about atta some time ago in the newsgroup alt.bread.recipes. On 8 Jan, 2004, I wrote the following:

I know that durum flour is hard flour but it is also my understanding that atta is low gluten. Because there are so many Indians here in Toronto, my thinking was that they would insist on atta that was like atta from "home", therefore low gluten.

... excerpt from [the page that WAS at] www.foodindia.org/cereals_pro.asp
:
: In India wheat is ground generally into atta (whole meal), suji or rava
: (semolina) and maida (flour). These are further divided like high gluten
: and low gluten atta and low gluten, medium gluten and high gluten maida.
:................................................

... excerpt from [the page that WAS at]  www.microwavecookingforone.com/Namaste/NamasteFlours.html
:
: Durum Atta Flour — Fine whole wheat flour used to make rotis,
: puris and parathas. Also known as chapati flour. Low in gluten,
: atta flour is easier to knead and roll. It may also be used
: for making certain sweets and snacks like ladoos or mathris.
:..................................................

 

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

hi Elizabeth

I believe you mill your own flour (?)

If you were milling whole wheat flour for chapati and you did *not* have durum wheat, would you chose *soft* wheat or *hard* wheat to mill for the whole wheat flour? (Or, perhaps, you dont think it matters either way ???)

thanks - SF

edh's picture
edh

Hi subfuscpersona,

I think you've got me confused, maybe with ejm? I do mill my own flour, but I've never made chapatis (actually, only ever eaten them once, a million years ago!), so I'm afraid I don't have any advice :-( Sorry!

edh

merrybaker's picture
merrybaker

I emailed my niece, who makes chapatis on a daily basis. She suggested mixing hard and soft wheat flours together to make a medium gluten flour. That way you’d get the best of both worlds: easy rolling, high puffing, soft consistency, and good keeping. She makes her dough in a food processor, and it takes less than a minute to mix and knead.

ejm's picture
ejm

On May 21, 2008 - 12:02pm, subfuscpersona wrote:

hi Elizabeth

I believe you mill your own flour (?)

If you were milling whole wheat flour for chapati and you did *not* have durum wheat, would you chose *soft* wheat or *hard* wheat to mill for the whole wheat flour? (Or, perhaps, you dont think it matters either way ???)

thanks - SF

No, I do not mill my own flour. I buy "no-name" allpurpose unbleached from NoFrills (a branch of the Loblaws chain) and 5Roses whole wheat flour - both in 10kg bags.

But what I do to make chapatis is basically what merrybaker's niece suggested. (I don't make them every day though) I use a half and half mix of all-purpose unbleached (~11.5% protein) and whole wheat flour (~13.5% protein) mixing it with a little salt and just enough HOT water to create a ball of dough. And I DO hand-knead the dough for about 5 minutes. I've found that this is essential. Otherwise our chapatis are tough.

The two cookbooks I used to remind myself of what to do, after my hands-on lesson with our friend in India, were "Entertaining Indian Style" by Shehzad Husain and "A Taste of India" by Madhur Jaffery. Husain writes (and she's right):

"Do not get disheartened [...] you will improve with practice."

This is pretty much what our friend in India said too....

Happy chapati making!

-Elizabeth

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

...as usual, excellent advice.

Based on the answers, I think I'll try whole wheat flour milled from soft wheat mixed with some commercial unbleached white bread flour for a slight gluten boost (probably 70% WW, 30% white). I will definitely use warm to hot water and a good resting period before rolling them out.

In the past I've made chapati just with commercial white flour and we preferred the ones made with all-purpose flour to those made with bread flour. (The flour that performed best was Hecker's All-purpose Unbleached, which has a slightly higher protein content than some other brands of all-purpose, but not as high as bread flour at 12% protein. Hecker's is primarily available in the northeast US but the same flour is marketed as Ceresota brand in the midwest.).

Testing with durum flour will have to wait. I've never worked with durum flour and am reluctant to purchase yet another type of grain, given my ample supply of other grains, especially wheat (red / white; soft / hard winter / hard spring).

I'm planning on making the chapati when the summer comes when I want a bread that can be baked on the stove top. When the temperature soars into the 90s, I try to avoid using my oven a lot.

So again, THANK YOU ALL - and if anyone has further tips, please *do* post them.

ejm's picture
ejm

We've cooked both pita and naan on the stovetop (and on our gas barbecue). So you don't have to confine yourself to chapatis only in the summer. Focaccia and pizza can be baked in the barbecue as well.

-Elizabeth

(our flatbread recipes, including pita, naan, chapati, focaccia)

 

edit: Here are some photos of making pita and making naan on the stovetop.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

hi Elizabeth-

Thanks for the links. I put a link to your site in google notebooks in my bread notebook. (I like google notebook because I can put links to all my favority TFL posts there so I can find them easily. You can also include comments and tags for each entry, which makes searching very easy).

Alas, no barbecue for me, living as I do in a small city apartment with no balcony. However, I'll try the stovetop approach for pita and naan this summer.

QUESTION - where did you buy the rack that you use to puff up the pita or chapati? I'm due for a trip to my favorite Indian spice store to stock up but if they don't carry them, is there a mail order source you'd recommend?

TIA - SF

PS very nice photos of the process of stove-top baking on your site 

edh's picture
edh

Elizabeth, those are great photos of pita and naan in process. The final pic of the naan with dinner made me very hungry!

Subfuscpersona, for what it's worth, I do pita on the stove top, but just cook it on the spider until it puffs up. Otherwise the process is the same as ejm's; cook it until bubbles are about to appear on one side, flip it, cook it until it puffs up. Sometimes I have to go back and forth a few times to finish the puffing up, though that's more the case with higher percentages of whole grain. I don't get 100% to puff all the time, but that has more to do with inconsistancy on my part in the rolling out of the dough than the cooking method... I like them better on the stove than in the oven because you get those little blackened spots that I think are the best part.

edh

ejm's picture
ejm

Thank you both for your kind words! I know what you mean, edh; we like the bread best when it's cooked on the barbecue because it gets those lovely blackened lines (also the best part) Ours don't always puff either. I'm pretty sure it's because of my rolling technique. Sometimes I roll them too thinly. But it's not a big deal if they don't puff. The flavour is still fabulous.

SF, if you're lucky enough to have a gas stove, you don't have to use one of those racks at all. You can do the final puffing directly over the fire. I don't know if this is possible on an electric stove though....

We get the racks in Indiatown. (Didn't someone ask about this before? looking...) Aha!! Yes! It was you, SF. :-)

excerpt from the answer in entry entitled "failed wild yeast dough rescued to make great chapatis":

They call [the rack] a "roti fluffer". It didn't cost a whole lot - $5 sticks in my mind.

It looks like this online company is selling them but I can't see a price or a location:

http://www.avoindia.com/productdetail.php?productid=4

Ask at your Indian spice store where they get the racks. I would be really surprised if they don't know where you could get one. The racks are available at many of the stores in our Indiatown. Good luck!

-Elizabeth

utahcpalady's picture
utahcpalady

I make roti and get them to puff up well.  I use a metal cookie cooling sheet over top of my burner, it works well.

auntysharm's picture
auntysharm

I am a 'good Indian girl' taught how to make chapatis by her grandmother and you can make them from pretty much any flour.

The key to making good chapatis is resting your dough (no less than 30 minutes < wags finger > )

Good luck and make sure you post pics :) 

deepa's picture
deepa

I have tried to make chapathis from all kinds of wheat berries ground in my nutrimill in the past, but never got the texture and flavor I liked or was used to.Then I bought  durum wheat, ground it fine and I am making such wonderful chapathis these days, I am myself surprised. I am just accounting my own experience. I was never great at making chapathis in the past, but I am proud of what I make these days!

 

Deepa. 

vmonika's picture
vmonika

Hi Deepa,

Could you please tell me where do you buy your durum wheat berries to make chapati flour?  I've recently ordered my nutrimill as I plan to switch from store bought chapati flour to home milled chapati flour.  Now I'm looking for places to buy durum wheat berries in bulk quantity in bay area or online with reasonable shipping.  Prefer organic and non GMO.

Secondly, are there different varieties of durum wheat like (winter/spring/red/white etc)?  If so, please share which one you prefer.

Thanks,

Monika

clazar123's picture
clazar123

This lady has wonderful videos on how to cook just about any Indian food. http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/2007/03/21/roti-chapati-flat-indian-bread/ is the link


 

 

 

DJ's picture
DJ

Whole Durum Wheat Flour is absolutely the best and most commonly used flour to make chapatis. The best flours you can purchase for this are found in Indian stores and are from Canada.

Durum wheat is not only the wheat of choice for chapatis but also the wheat of choice for similar flat breads in most other cultures. It is also the wheat of choice for Italian bread and pasta.

Generally nowadays most people use white durum flour for yeasted Italian bread and pasta. In some cultures they may sometimes even use white durum for flat bread now, but traditionally the whole durum wheat is still used for most flat breads, definitely for chapatis. Whole durum wheat used to be the only wheat used for pasta and bread in Italy.

Durum wheat is the hardest and highest protein wheat there is. It is white not a red wheat but do not assume that white spring or white winter wheat is durum wheat; it is not. If is doesn't say durum wheat it isn't and if it doesn't say whole durum wheat is isn't whole.

Do not expect to find whole durum wheat flour easily in your local supermarket or health food store. I could not find organic durum wheat flour anywhere in stores or online so I resorted to looking for durum wheat berries and finally found those at barryfarm.com. That was my inspiration for grinding fresh flour and alternately sprouting the grains instead.

I have made some wonderful bread from the sprouted durum grains and I am eager to make the whole wheat Italian bread from the Laurels Kitchen bread book with 100% fresh ground durum wheat berries as soon as UPS delivers my new flour grinder.

utahcpalady's picture
utahcpalady

As mentioned earlier in the thread, roti is also on the stove, my kids really love it.  My indian girlfriend taught me how to make them, after eating them at her house growing up I had to learn how to make them.  She just uses whole wheat flour, good quality.  I also have a ultramill wheat grinder and probably 1,200 lbs of wheat in my basement (I am serious about my food storage).  I have a group at church that we order our grain all together.  I really like montanamilling.com, talk to Cheryl H.  She is great, they have a ton of different types of grains for you.


Oh and try vahrehvah.com he is a really funny indian cook with great videos and recipes.

Nim's picture
Nim

Chapatis are made with 100% whole wheat, no AP or Bread flour. The "Atta" we get in India is milled from Indian wheat, for which as some posters have suggested, the nearest equivalent might be soft wheat. Indian wheat berries are smaller, light brown and long grained. It looks very much like wheat berries here but has less of an intense color.


I know people here have suggested that it is Durum flour, I cannot attest to it becoz the durum flour I have seen here (for pasta etc.) tends to be a bit more yellowy than "Atta", so I am not sure.


I have not tried this, but a mix of spring wheat and white whole wheat may also turn out nice for chapatis.


That is not terribly helpful, is it?

ejm's picture
ejm

Even though atta is available in Toronto even at the supermarket, I use a half and half combination of whole wheat flour and unbleached all-purpose flour for making chapatis. The combination works fine and the resulting chapatis are good. Or at least we think so.


-Elizabeth


P.S. I'd buy atta if I were making chapatis every day....

soleilnyc's picture
soleilnyc

One thing that I've noticed when baking with atta (from the Indian store) is it definitely seems to be higher protein: just a little bit of kneading creates a smooth, elastic dough that windowpanes. I can stretch the dough paper thin to make roti canai.


Recently, I went back to the store and noticed that they'd relabeled the atta to read "Atta (Durum)".


Hope this info is useful!

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

...and I want to thank you.


I am the original poster. Based on early suggestions and subsequent experimentation, I settled on (home milled) soft wheat. I have both white and red soft wheat and use them interchangeably (or combine red and white). The soft white wheat yeilds a more neutral taste (closer to unbleached commerical white flour) while the soft red wheat tastes more like what people expect in a "whole wheat" bread.


yours - SF

KenW's picture
KenW

Hi, subfuscpersona


Could you please share your source for soft red wheat berries? I've been looking online to buy so that I can mill my own, but no luck so far. Do you use soft red spring or winter berries?


 


Thank you,


 


 

cognitivefun's picture
cognitivefun

kinda like tortillas :)