The alchemy of flour, salt and water

This morning, as I sat where I am sitting now, I really meant to put my nose to the grindstone and not delay the inevitable and sit and look for a job. But I sit and look for a job a lot. Since this is a chore that is not very exciting or particularly rewarding, I tend to let my mind wander and I get distracted. This morning, since I also delayed something else that is inevitable: eating breakfast, I found myself sitting in front of a computer, hair a mess, teeth not brushed, still in pajamas obsessing about a breakfast burrito. Normally this would not present a problem. We often pick up whole wheat tortillas at the store when we purchase groceries, but this past weekend it seemed like a much better idea to have a lot of fun instead of doing chores so we never quite made it to the store.

The prospect of cleaning up the mess known as me, and transporting myself to a grocery store in order to come home and cook seemed a hell of lot more daunting than skipping straight to the kitchen and creating an even bigger mess by starting a whole step backwards. When I say starting a whole step backwards, I of course mean making the wraps for my breakfast. Last week while perusing the Indian food section of my cookbook collection (yes, I have so many books that they can be categorized into sections, don‘t you?), I was noticing that there was a chapati recipe in each book. Recipe is a little bit of an overstatement. Chapatis are flour, salt and water, kneaded for a few minutes, flattened with a rolling pin and cooked in a heavy, hot pan. Same thing in each book. Easy.

But… I was thinking, would they be the same thing as the tortillas I buy? Not really, flour tortillas have a little bit of fat in them. The chapati recipes I was looking at have no fat, but the dough is kneaded for as long as I would knead a yeasted dough. They wouldn’t be soft but they should have a nice texture. The other challenge to my idea of a breakfast burrito would be the size. I only have a nine inch cast iron skillet. My chapatis would be bigger than a standard corn tortilla, but not big enough to wrap things up burrito style. I would have to make my breakfast resemble something more along the lines of a large taco. Fine with me. Filled with eggs and cheese and other goodies I could scare up from the depths of the vegetable drawer and the pantry, my chapati breakfast wraps would be a triumph!

Would you care to make breakfast with me? First let’s make chapatis:

In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour and ½ tsp salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and slowly start to mix in between ¾ – 1 cup of water. I started with ¾ of a cup but being that I was using stone ground whole wheat instead of Indian atta flour, I think I needed more moisture. I used almost a cup of water. Begin kneading the dough in the bowl until it starts to stick together. Transfer the dough to your favorite kneading surface (mine is a lightly floured wooden board) and knead for seven minutes or more until you are able to form a supple, smooth dough. Form this dough into a round ball (see above), cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it sit for twenty minutes.

Divide the dough into eight even pieces and roll one into a thin round (about 9” in diameter).

Heat a 9” or larger cast iron skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke and then lower the heat to medium. Carefully transfer the first round of dough to the pan so that it lays flat.

Cook for about a minute until it starts to form bubbles. Turn the chapati over and press down with a clean dishtowel to make sure all of the surfaces contact the pan. Cook for about a minute and turn over again. Make sure the edges especially are cooked all the way.

Remove the chapati to a tortilla warmer or a dishtowel lined basket to keep warm.

Repeat the process seven more times until all chapatis are cooked. I was able to roll each chapati out in the time it took for the bubbles to form on the first side, so I did these assembly line fashion. If this is too stressful, roll them out and stack the dough between pieces of wax paper or parchment so they are ready to go.

While my fresh chapatis were safely tucked away warm and toasty in a tortilla warmer, I did a reconnaissance of what food was left in our kitchen. Here is the lovely chapati wraps I was able to make for a hearty brunch.

Chapati breakfast wraps

(Makes 4 wraps)

4 chapatis

2 – 3 tsp olive oil

½ red onion, halved again and then sliced thin

1 zucchini, sliced thinly into rounds

Salt and pepper to taste

5 eggs, beaten

15 oz can black beans

Chili powder and cayenne to taste

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

¼ cup cilantro, minced

1 avocado, pitted and cubed

If the chapattis are fresh, keep them warm. If not, toast them on both sides in a cast iron skillet and keep them warm until you are ready to use them.

Saute the red onion in olive oil until it softens and begins to brown slightly. Add zucchini, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until the zucchini softens and just begins to brown a bit.

Meanwhile, heat the black beans in a small pot over medium heat. Season with chili powder and a dash of cayenne to taste.

When the veggies are cooked, add the eggs to the pan. Scramble the eggs, stirring until fluffy and cooked.

Put a chapati on a plate. Top with ¼ of the scrambled egg mixture. With a slotted spoon, drain some of the black beans and use them to top the eggs. Next add the shredded cheese, then cilantro and avocado.

As I said before, the texture of the chapatis was not soft like the flour tortillas we Americans are used to. There was a toothsome quality but they were still soft enough to wrap up the fillings. They had a good wheat flavor with a little bit of a smoky charred flavor from toasting in the cast iron skillet. I really enjoyed them as a wrap for this egg mixture and they were surprisingly easy to prepare.

I used stone ground whole wheat flour for these but I may try using whole wheat pastry flour or a mixture of stone ground whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour. I’ve never used atta flour so I am not sure what would be closer to authentic. If anyone has experience making chapatis with the proper flour, let me know what you think!



  1. ronnie said,

    March 11, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Toothsome is such a great word. That breakfast wrap looks fantastic!

  2. stacy said,

    March 11, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Wow, I might have to add these to my repertoire of “thinly-rolled-skillet-cooked-flour-based things.”

    And with a few taco leftovers in the fridge, it may also be my breakfast tomorrow!

  3. Natashya said,

    March 11, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    These look great to me – I love chapatis more than flour tortillas anyway!
    Now I need a tortilla keeper…

  4. Malar Gandhi said,

    March 11, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Loved ur step by step picture…perfect whole wheat flat bread…yum:)

  5. Joanne said,

    March 11, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    A chapati sounds absolutely delicious! And in my opinion. They are way better than flour tortillas.

  6. Brad said,

    March 11, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Nice work! And I like that you conducted a kitchen reconnaissance.

  7. Andreas said,

    March 12, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Fabulous chapati breakfast.
    I didn’t know there is a thing called tortilla warmer.

    Regarding making sourdough, I think I will try the conventional flour + water + time assay first. Using cabbage is for experts, I’d say. 😉

    • Mimi said,

      March 12, 2010 at 7:31 pm

      I was a little scared of the cabbage thing too. That’s why I tried to talk you into it 😆

  8. Hilary said,

    March 12, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Oh my gosh, that wrap is BEAUTIFUL! I may just have to make those tomorrow morning…or…some morning…we’ll see. Either way, I want to eat that wrap so bad…

  9. Mamatkamal said,

    March 13, 2010 at 7:01 am

    I’ve never tried chapatis before. Thanks for the recipe, it sounds easy to make.
    And this breakfast wrap oh la la la looks REALLY REALLY BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

  10. drfugawe said,

    March 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Whoa Mimi, you are into creative overdrive! Congrats – keep it going girl.

  11. Jacqui said,

    March 14, 2010 at 5:43 am

    These look so tasty, what a great way to start your day! I’ve been making homemade wheat tortillas for a little while now and they taste so much better than store bought ones, but I’ve never made chapatis. I’ll have to switch it up!

  12. Peter said,

    March 20, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    I’ve never made chapatis, but I like to take risen sourdough bread dough and do exactly the same thing, Tangy, chewy, and great with almost anything. They’re also very good on the grill.

    • Mimi said,

      March 20, 2010 at 7:26 pm

      The chapatis are closer to a whole wheat flour tortilla except chewier.

      I’m glad you reminded me. So many people were writing about grilling bread dough and making pizza out of it last year. I never got around to it. Your idea is great. Just make a flat bread while your bbqing to wrap around meats and grilled veggies, yum!

  13. March 26, 2010 at 10:57 am

    that is so impressive. I have always wanted to make my own naan… have you a good recipe for those?

    • Mimi said,

      March 26, 2010 at 11:46 am

      Hi Tia, I haven’t been able to exactly recreate restaurant quality naan at home yet. I think it is difficult to get the same results at home as you would get with a clay tandoori oven. That being said, I make pretty great naan and I owe it to the recipe in Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey. (If you can get a copy of this book somewhere, I highly recommend it for the excellent home style Indian food recipes). I used to make the recipe the way it is written, but I have made changes to the recipe for utilizing my sourdough for leavening. I make a fake garlic naan topping (olive oil based instead of ghee based) and I use a baking stone to try to get a crisper texture. I still don’t have the hang of rolling them out right (although I think I should make them soon, the chapati making is giving me a better idea of how thin to do them).

      I started to type out the long recipe and then I realized that she is famous enough that the recipe has to be online and I was right so I am going to direct you here:

      Here is what I do differently: I use 2/3 cup sourdough starter instead of the sponge ingredients (milk, sugar and yeast). Since I use sourdough, my rising times are longer, but I just plan ahead, the flavor from the sourdough and longer fermentation is worth it. I place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees, F. Since the oven is so hot and the stone is so hot, I don’t have to broil the top of the naan to brown it. It takes just 3 minutes to cook these. Before placing in the oven, I mix together a few tbsp olive oil, several cloves of minced garlic and a couple of tbsp minced cilantro. I brush this mixture on the dough before baking.

      Don’t listen to me, make the recipe I linked to, you’ll be very happy with it as written!!

      BTW, I am absolutely coveting your yeasted apricot coffee cake. It looks so good!

      Mimi _** _

  14. Richa said,

    April 9, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Awesome job with the wraps. The chapatis looks fabulous! Like most Indian households, I make chapatis or phulkas pretty much every day. You can try adding a little oil or clarified butter to the dough to keep the chapattis soft and also use whole wheat pastry flour to make it less chewy:) I should probably do a post on Chapatis, you can checkout some Naans on my blog!

  15. spice said,

    April 9, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Hi Mimi,
    first time here & liked it….loved reading your post…..nice chapathi or as we call it phulka…..Richa is right U can always add some ghee/oil while kneading the dough…..other thing to make it soft is use milk to knead it instead of water, or mixture of both….we usually use milk while making chapathi for little ones….to make it more soft…..but in that case don’t keep the dough for more than a day in the fridge….If u like u can check the foll. link….

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