Friday, January 7, 2011

Fast Indian Bread Puffs Rajasthan Style

   I'm always looking for new (to me) and interesting Indian breads. Especially breads I can serve at Indian banquets. It seems that my Indian banquets always begin with me at the stove frantically sticking my hands in the fire (yes, I have almost no nerve endings left after 20 years of doing this) making chapattis at the last minute so they'll be nice and hot and puffy. By the time I'm finished, my make-up is usually a sweaty, runny mess, my hair has frizzed up, and I totally get why kitchen wallahs are left in the kitchen after the food has been prepared. Who wants to look at that? However I have to make my way to the table and hostess. So, when I ran across a bread that had originated by being left in the desert, buried under sand all day and unearthed for eating later, I was so there. They had me at left all day.
   The bread I'm talking about is called Baati and is a specialty of the state of Rajastan. Translated, Rajasthan  means The Land of the Kings, and the people of the region were renowned for  their warrior skills and chivalry. What can you say about a bread that was traditionally made by some of the fiercest warriors of the sub-continent and left to bake under desert sands all day with a marker to guide them back to bread deliciousness when all the conquering was done? Nifty? Ingenious? Try On the Menu!     These guys were not just Kings of Rajasthan. To me they were the Kings of Make-Ahead which of course is one of my favorite lands.
Maharana Pratep Singh 16th Century Ruler of Rajahstan
     So, I thought going into my New Years Eve bash that if I baked Baati, my makeup might possibly stay on my face instead of giving me Marilyn Manson eyes.  I really hadn't cooked many dishes from Rajasthan before. It's a area with a great deal of desert and a very arid climate. The food is mainly vegetarian, focusing on lentil dishes. Ghee abounds, and since there is not a lot of water readily available, they make up for it by using milk, buttermilk and ghee to cut down on the amount of water needed for cooking. It's a rich and complex cuisine.
   Baati is traditionally served with dal, but it can also accompany other curry dishes and sometimes is even stuffed like a samosa for a hearty complete meal. The Baati I made was just a simple bread, and once the dough is set can be popped in the oven on a baking sheet with very little effort.

Baati, Indian Bread

   Here's what to do:

 This recipe makes about 16 Baati, they're small but full of ghee so you may want to halve this amount.
 In a large bowl sift together
 4 cups of chapatti flour
 1 tsp of baking powder
 1 tsp of salt
 Make a little space in the center of the dough, pour in 1 and 1/3 cup of water and mix it around.
 When the water is all mixed in, knead the mixture into a nice soft dough.
Cover the dough with a damp cloth and set it aside for 10 minutes.
 Now for the fun part (the ghee!)
 Take the cloth off of the dough and gradually drizzle into it 1/3 cup of melted clarified butter or ghee.
 Knead it in well.
Then cover it again with the damp cloth and let it take another 10 minute nap.
Now the dough is ready to be shaped. Divide the dough into 16 small balls and place them on a greased baking sheet.
Cover them with a damp cloth and let them sit for another 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Flatten each ball slightly, cover them and keep 'em aside till you're ready to bake.
When you are ready to bake them, put them into the oven for about 18 minutes or so.
Now for the fun and guilty part. When these little gems come out of the oven, poke them with your finger, crack the crust a bit and drizzle each with some more of the ghee. Hey, if you're busy defending your kingdom from marauding hordes, don't worry about the ghee... you'll work it off.
   Okay, I just couldn't leave these delightful little morsels alone. I had a bit of leftover dough so the next day I decided to pair this bread with a couple of vegetable dishes and experiment with removing the extra ghee. I took my dough, rested it and then flattened it a bit more than I had the night before.
 I baked them and served them ghee free.
 There they were denser than a chapatti, not risen like naan bread they were...Baati! I pulled one apart, it opened full of steamy flaky goodness.
I could see that all sorts of tasty morsels could be made to fit inside, they were little pockets of whole wheat goodness, and of course since they weren't drizzled with ghee I felt so virtuous eating them.
  Did they work on the table? Yes they did. Would I make them again, absolutely! In fact I can't wait to serve them, this time as part of the traditional Rajasthani Dal Baati Churma meal. Because everybody needs some Baati sometime. Sorry, I just couldn't help myself.


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