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!

Left over brown rice becomes amazing dinner rolls

I’m sitting here munching on the subject of my photo, thinking about how happy I am that I took on the challenge of nurturing a sourdough starter and subsequently learning enough about baking with it that I can pretty much be as creative as I want to be with my bread.

I avidly read about bread and one thing I notice is that many bakers like to drop some cooked or soaked whole grains into their bread. Lately, we’ve had plenty of brown rice in the house. Oatmeal has never agreed with my boyfriend and recently, he discovered that he can have hot cereal in the morning if he cooks up a pot of short grain brown rice. He adds raisins, walnuts and rice dream to it and he loves it. He makes a big pot at a time and I’ve been quite the opportunist, grabbing some for snacks or a side dish… and now for my sourdough.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been playing with this recipe. The person who posted it, said it was full-proof, but following his instructions, I ended up with a brick! (A very tasty brick, however so I knew I just needed to try it again). This week, I added extra water and starter. The dough was way too dry last time and it is so much harder to hydrate a dry dough than dry up a wet dough.  I decided to err on the side of moisture. Since the dough was really wet, I just added more flour a little at a time until I liked the consistency of the dough. I also added a lot of brown rice and some sesame seeds for extra flavor. The result was terrific! I ended up making rolls instead of a loaf this time and the rolls baked up with a crisp crust, a dense soft crumb and a wonderful chewy texture thanks to the rice. The only problem I had was that I forgot to slash the rolls and they exploded. I took a picture of their photogenic side.  😉

These yummy rolls will be on YeastSpotting this week. Please click the link to see other wonderful yeasty concoctions!

Whole Wheat and Brown Rice Rolls

1 cup water

1 cup active 100% hydration sourdough starter

2 ½ tbsp olive oil

1 ½ tbsp honey

1 ¼ tsp salt

2 2/3 cups whole wheat flour + a little over 1/3 more as needed

1 ½ cups cooked short grain brown rice

2 tbsp raw sesame seeds

Cornmeal for dusting your peel

In a large bowl, mix together water, starter, olive oil, honey and salt. Add 2 2/3 cups flour, rice and sesame seeds. Mix until well combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin to knead. The dough will be wet. Start adding the additional 1/3 cup flour a little at a time, kneading well after each addition. You may have to add a little more than a third of a cup until you have a dough that is still moist but not sticky. Knead for 15 minutes until you can stretch the dough without breaking it (windowpane test). Form the dough into a tight ball and transfer it to a large greased bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in bulk, 1 ½ – 2 ½ hours.

Flatten the dough gently and fold it. Form it into a ball again and place it back in the bowl. Allow it to rise again, covered, for up to 2 ½ hours until it is doubled in bulk.

Divide the dough into 13 equal pieces and form into little balls. Arrange on a cornmeal covered peel. Cover with a dish towel and allow the dough to rise until puffy, up to another 2 hours.

When you are getting ready to bake, place a baking stone in the oven and preheat your oven to 375 degrees, F. Slash the rolls and then transfer them to the hot oven. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 190 degrees, F. and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool completely before serving unless you can’t help yourself. If you can’t help yourself, make sure you are armed with butter.