“Parat” means layers, and this layered and unleavened Indian flatbread --a staple in Indian homes--is made with a fine whole wheat flour called atta. There is nothing like a hot paratha to complete a thali of Indian dishes. It is made with just two ingredients and is traditionally seared on a hot cast-iron griddle with ghee, but if you have a plant-based diet, it’s pretty good with avocado oil also. It is quite easy to make and you can keep the dough for a few days or even half-cook the bread, freeze it and reheat it on the griddle with some ghee or avocado oil to make a delicious fresh bread whenever you need it.
Combine the atta with 1 cup of water in a large steel or glass mixing bowl. Mix well and knead to form a smooth dough. It should not be too soft or too firm. You might need to add a few tablespoons of water if the dough is too firm, but be careful to add a little at a time so you don’t overdo it. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 8 balls. Keep a bowl of atta and some kosher salt nearby. Flatten one of the balls into a patty and dip the patty lightly in the flour. Roll into a thin round (about 5 inches in diameter). Lightly brush the top with the ghee or oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt if desired and very lightly dust with a pinch of flour. Fold over to make a semicircle. Brush the top with ghee and sprinkle with salt and flour again. Fold over to make a triangle. Roll it again to end in a thin triangle (as thin as it was when you first rolled the ball). Don’t worry if some of the oil oozes out or if the shape is not perfect.
Heat a seasoned cast-iron skillet or a heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
When the skillet is hot, add the paratha and dry-cook it until light brown spots appear on each side, about a minute per side. Then, add about 1/2 teaspoon ghee and cook each side until the spots darken and the paratha becomes slightly crispy and has a glazed look, about 30 seconds per side. If you like it extra crispy or ‘karak’ as we say in Hindi, cook it a little longer. Repeat with the other balls. Once you get the hang of it, you can roll the next ball while cooking the previous one.
In India, we put the parathas in an insulated chapati box or insulated casserole dish to keep warm as we go. Alternatively, you could wrap them in a towel or kitchen cloth to keep warm.
Atta is a very finely ground soft wheat flour. If you substitute regular whole wheat flour you will not get the same result. Ideally, buy atta from an Indian store or get finely milled soft whole wheat flour.
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