Phulka (Wholewheat Flatbread)
Posted on June 3, 2014 by Viji
What can be more satisfying, at the same time more basic than making a bread at home from just two ingredients – flour and water? Watching the dough turn from a lumpy mess into a silky mass is absolutely fascinating and relaxing. That is what these flatbreads are all about. Like any other bread, time and heat take care of the rest.
‘Phulkas’ are made from a firm dough of wholewheat flour, water and a spoon each of salt and oil(optional). Salt adds to the flavor and oil helps in adding flavor and softening the bread. After about 30 minutes, roll out small portions of the dough into thin discs of about 5 inches diameter using a rolling pin. Cook the rolled-out doughs partly on both sides on a preheated dry ‘tava'(griddle/skillet) first and then directly on a medium-high flame, which make them inflate like balloons. It only takes about a minute or less to get one phulka done.
I fell in love with the hot soft ‘phulkas’ served with bhindi(okra) fry at the Queens Restaurant, Church St, Bangalore the first time I ever had it. This was 19 years back. The simplicity of this bread fascinated me so much that ever since this became the regular bread we made at home. It is so thrilling even today, when these ‘phulkas’ fluffs up on the flame! We started of having this with ‘dal’ or the vegetable dishes like ‘bhindi fry’, ‘baingan burta’, or with ‘paneer dishes’, but now this is our ‘wholewheat tortilla’ for burritos and quesadillas, the base for our ‘thin crust pizza’, the pita bread for our ‘falafel’ and the list goes on…
- 2 cups wholewheat flour(our favorite has been the ‘high protein, fine, stoneground, organic wholewheat flour’ from the bulk section at Whole Foods)
- water(about 1 cup)
- 1 tsp salt(optional)
- 1 tsp of oil(optional-we use organic sweet almond oil)
Put the flour in a large bowl. Add salt and oil, and using fingertips, lightly rub them into the flour. Pour water and mix. Add more water if the mix is dry and more flour if the mix is too wet. As soon as the dough comes together, turn the dough onto a clean surface to knead. Any smooth hard surface is fine. If the bowl is large enough you can knead it in the same bowl itself. Keep kneading for about five minutes by which a seemingly unworkable sticky mass would have transformed into a dough that feels so soft and alive. Lightly flour the work surface, place the dough on it and shape it into a ball. Also, lightly flour the mixing bowl, put the dough into it, cover it with a clean cloth, and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes.
When it is ready to roll, take a couple of spoons of wholewheat flour on a plate. Take small amount of the dough, make a ball of the size of a key lime(or a munchkin) and pat it slightly on some wheat flour. With a rolling pin, gently roll the ball into a circle. If the dough sticks to the surface or the rolling pin, lightly dust with flour. The dough pressed too hard while rolling won’t fluff on the flame. So make sure to roll smooth and gentle. You can roll a few before starting to cook them. Place the rolled dough on a ‘tava'(iron skillet) which is kept on medium heat for a few seconds(you start seeing small bubbles forming). Using tongs, flip and put the other side on the tava, again just for a few seconds. Now, either take the tava off the stove, or use a second stove and flip and place using tongs with the half cooked bread on the direct flame. It will swell up like a balloon. The ‘phulka’ is ready. Serve warm!
If the first few do not fluff much, not to worry. Patience and a little bit of practice will definitely take you there!