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Why does Makki/Cornmeal Roti use boiling water?

asder's picture

Why does Makki/Cornmeal Roti use boiling water?


I am learning on the why of things right now, and mommy dear does not know the answers. Everyone in the house enjoys these makki ki roti with saag. The bread is unleavened if wondering.

This is how my mom prepares them.

1) Boil water (it is literally boiling)

2) add it to the cornmeal (dried maize ground by a mill near our home, not storebought)

3) Make the shape

4) Roll out the shape into a circle

5) transfer to a flat pan/tavaa (we use a non stick pan)

6) Cook on low heat on one side

7) Flip and cook the other side

8) Remove from the pan and cook directly over the heat if any spots were missed, flipping when necessary

This is what the roti looks like when done

Makki di roti

Makki di roti

My aim is to make this using Ankarsrum and bake this in a gas oven rather than a stove top.

According to mom, when they were younger, the flour used to be "stronger" and it had more "lace". Still got zero clue what those terms mean in any language. What I gather about lace is that it refers to gluten probably, or the ability of the flour to stick together. By stronger I gather, mom means that the dough is easier to handle. The big crack in the middle won't happen either. This flour was very hard to handle and we had to be very very careful with it.

My Questions

1) Why do we need boiling hot water to even make this bread? If cold water or warm water is used, the dough does not form at all. Mom mixes the boiling hot water with a spoon.

2) See how the edges are broken, jagged and not smooth, according to mom "a stronger flour would create thinner, smoother makki di roti like a regular roti". Would buying the dried maize and grounding it into flour using a stone mill, help towards that?

3) What kind of things should I tinker around with so I can make these using a dough mixer and a gas oven? Right now the boiling water is putting me off from trying.

If people could help me out in understanding the nature of this flour and/or how the bread is made and the different reasons for each step, I would appreciate it.


clazar123's picture

I have never made cornmeal based roti and have limited whole wheat roti experience but I still have a few general thoughts for you.

Boiling water will help the corn release the starches from the grain. I would think a vigorous stir would help, as would shaping into a ball and letting it sit for a while before rolling out ( at least 10 minutes but 30 would be better-covered). Corn does not have any gluten so depends on the natural sugars and starches to provide the cohesiveness.

The roti looks too dry. Grains that are grown, even if it is the same variety, can have different characteristics from crop to crop. It looks like this cornmeal is a little drier and needed a little more water.

Roti is designed to be made in direct contact with the heat source (frying pan,etc) and may dry out even more if you make it in an oven. You will end up with roti crackers! If you do use an oven, it would probably involve preheating a flat surface in the oven to about 230C or more, placing the roti on the surface to cook and very carefully monitoring. You should remove the cooked roti and then allow the flat surface to re-heat again. It may take a long time to cook 1 batch.

Adding a small amount of whole wheat can make the roti more supple but is really a personal choice. Adding a little ghee or oil can also tenderize it a bit.

I would think that making the dough in a mixer would be fine but it is easy enough by hand unless a very large mount is being made.

Keep posting the followup! Interesting post.



asder's picture

Thank you clazar123. I will look into letting adding a bit of wheat flour and see. We do make our own ghee from milk fat(tradition followed by most households here), let's hope that helps. Or gives us clues and we start going towards a better roti.

I will test out leaving it in a ball shape, but I am afraid if the water has cooled down, the roti will break apart very easily when rolling it out.

Thank you for sharing the basic facts about corn, I will try to dwell deeper into this. Most of the corn we get comes like this, that is why I was wondering if using a stone mill would result in a different product compared to the regular steel burrs used in regular commercial mills here.

I'll fiddle around with the oven, steam, temperature. The hardest part is that we don't like wasting food, so if I make the roti, i will most likely end up eating it, even if it does not taste awesome. Worst case if it is inedible, i would break it up into little pieces and leave it out for birds to eat.