There is nothing more delightful than scooping out spiced flavored curries with some fresh, hot, flaky flatbread. These lovely multi layered, rustic, crisp on the outside, pastry like breads are called the Parathas.
Parathas are an everyday kind of bread in the northern regions of India. They are eaten with curries but also with just pickles. They are enjoyed during breakfast lunch and dinner and as much as it sounds like a comfort food, it is a heartwarming luxurious experience when one gets to enjoy piping hot fresh parathas straight from the griddle.
During my childhood years, the weekend breakfasts were special treats; we had parathas or pooris/luchi with a light dry potato curry. It was the same sweet mornings when I went back this time. My aunts cooked crispy parathas and puffy pooris for breakfast, with the very familiar potato curry… reliving memories over flaky hot bread is calming.
The word Paratha breaks down to Parat (layer) + Atta (flour). Paratha is just a general term which means unleavened flaky, multi- layered bread cooked on the tawa or the griddle. There are quite a few variations to the Paratha, and they may be spiced or even stuffed (like Aloo Paratha and Dal Paratha and many more).
While the most common and the easy one is usually triangular in shape and usually contains about 2-3 folds/layers, the Lachha Paratha has many many layers. They are discernible soft layers when the crispy outer layer is torn opened. The layers inside are delicately thin, soft and flaky.
Here is a fun video to watch: Making the layers in Lachha Paratha. While the feat shown here is not exactly doable at home, it definitely shows how many layers can go into a Paratha professionally made and is quite entertaining to watch. Have fun watching!
Some variations of the recipes like to use egg and/or baking powder. The flaky multi layers can be achieved without using either of them, so I never use them in the dough.
I have done a step step by step to the process of the Lachha Paratha. Do refer to it if you are doing it for the first time. Hope it helps!
Make a smooth soft non sticky dough.
Rolled out, brushed with ghee/butter, dusted with flour, pleated, stretched, twisted, and rolled into a spiral.
Up close! See the layers?
All ready to be rolled and cooked. You can see the dusty flour between the layers. The brushing with the ghee/oil/butter and then the drizzle of flour prevents the layers from sticking to one another. Once cooked, they are paper thin and separated.. very distinct.
Cooked- the top is golden with streaks of brown and is crisp! now its ready to be brushed with more butter/ghee.
Smear a generous amount of butter/ghee. You only indulge once in a while.
Gently crush it before you serve.. piping hot. The crushing breaks the outer crisp layer and reveals the soft layers inside. This also allows the butter or ghee to seep inside the bread, which adds an extra level of flavor.
Enjoy with any Curry Dishes as an accompaniment.
Lachha Paratha – Layered Griddle Cooked Flatbread
Ingredients: (makes 4 parathas about 5-6 inch diameter each)
- 1 & 3/4 cups whole wheat flour or Atta (fine milled whole wheat flour available in Indian stores) + more for rolling and dusting on the bread
- 1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- 3 tablespoon ghee or melted butter (may use oil as a substitute)
- luke warm water or milk (about 1/2- 3/4 cup), just enough to make a smooth soft non sticky dough
- oil/ghee/butter for shallow frying + to brush on the paratha while rolling
Sieve the flour and salt together in bowl. Rub in the ghee or cut in the butter until the flour forms crumbs; add warm water/milk gradually, a little at a time. Knead until smooth. Cover well and leave aside for about 30 minutes to an hour.
Punch down the dough and knead it again for a couple of minutes; divide the dough into 4 portions. Shape each into a round ball. Flatten the spheres. Roll out each flattened ball into a circle of 8 inch diameter or as thin as you can get them without tearing. You should be able to pick up the rolled dough without tearing.
Brush some melted butter/ghee on the surface of the dough, evenly dust some flour on the rolled dough. Start from one end; hold the left and right side of the end with fingers and then start pleating, like doing a paper fan. Pleat into small folds as these folds are finally going to be the folds inside the bread; so the more you do the more layers you will have. (Try to pleat 6-8 times.) Once you have reached the other end, it will look like a rope. Press both the ends with your finger tips.
Pick up the rope carefully by holding the the ends, and now twist it, about 5-7 times. Each hand should move in opposite direction (think of the looks of twisted bread stick or wringing water out of a towel).
Now lay it down on the board and start rolling it in to a spiral snail like shape; roll until you have reached the end. Take the end tip and press it down on the top or the sides, so it does not open while rolling. Flatten it with your palm. Dust the board with more flour and roll it carefully without pressing too hard into 5″ -6″ (diameter) circles.
Heat a tava/griddle and cook the rolled dough lightly (on medium heat) on both sides. When you see tiny brown spots appear, brush on about half to one teaspoon of ghee/oil and flip it over. You will see the bread starting to puff – at spots or the whole bread will start puffing up. Press down gently with a spatula until the underside is golden with brown spots. The pressing down also helps to crisp the outer side. Now again apply half to one teaspoon of ghee/oil on the top, flip it over and cook this side in the same way as you did the other side.
These are best served hot from the stove as it cooks. Place the bread on a foil and gently fold/crush it.
Serve hot with your favorite side!