Lacha paraths are the puff pastry of flat breads. With their beautiful layered look and the interesting textural contrast these appeal to the eyes as well as the taste buds. Often served hot with spicy curries these flat breads are very popular in India . In the south these are often referred to simply as Parotta. Even the picky eaters who refuse to touch their rotis gobble these up . I make these with whole wheat flour (atta) and with much less amount of fat and they still come out flaky and delicious .
In the south you will find road side shops serving these breads. These are usually made to order and served piping hot, perfect for folks to grab on the way heading home from work. Usually the roti stand will be featured prominently near the entrance to the eatery and you can watch as the cooks make it to order. “Parotta Adi ” I think the process was referred to , was considered to be a man’s trade ;-). It is a fascinating process to watch as the cooks stretch the dough by hitting it on the workbench followed by swishing and throwing the discs in the air . They make such a show of this process these that most home cooks hesitate to try these. The truth is that one does not need large counter space or huge biceps to stretch the dough. The usual rolling pin flat work surface is all you need , and no hitting or manhandling of the dough involved .
The street side recipes usually consists of maida (white all purpose flour) and plenty of oil. Some recipes even include eggs and a bit of leavening , typically baking soda. Maida and eggs help to stretch the dough paper thin without tearing. But other than eggs, if used , all the other ingredients have little or no nutritional value .
The recipe is simple and starts out similar to a standard Indian Roti / Chapathi Recipe. The dough is made with atta (whole wheat flour) , a pinch of salt , a little bit of oil and enough water . One can substitute some or all of the water with diary, either milk or yogurt for a softer richer dough.
The trick in this recipe lies in the rolling and layering . The steps are described below . It is not as detailed as I wanted , but hope this helps ..
Mix the flour with salt and oil . Slowly pour water while stirring the flour to moisten it . Add Just enough eater for the dough to come together. There may be still some dry flour left in the bowl . Bring all the flour into a to ball and knead for 10 minutes till the dough feels soft and relaxes a bit . Cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes .
Pinch off large lemon sized balls – if you make rotis thinks 1.5 to 2 times large – and roll them in flour .
Roll it out as thin as possible. Use enough flour for dusting the board and rolling pin to prevent the dough from sticking . Spread about 1/2 tsp oil/ ghee on top . Use a pastry brush to brush the oil evenly on top . The pastry brush is a very useful tool as it reduces helps to brush the oil evenly all over thus reducing the total amount of oil used.
Hold the edges of of the dough farthest from you at opposite ends and start pleating it , with the oiled side coming in contact with the oiled side. The pleats should be about 1 cm or so wide . Think Chinese fans or the pleats for a sari . Gather the pleats as you work towards you and it will end as a thick piece of rope.
Coil the rope loosely as in the picture with the oiled pleat openings facing the top .
With the heel of the palm flatten it out to into a disc. If using a rolling pin roll only in one direction from the center. Place the pin at the center of the disc and roll once either towards or away from you. Take the pin off and give the disc a quarter turn and repeat the process . This ensures the layers are kept apart as much as possible .
Oil a hot griddle and place the roti on top . Cook over medium heat until air bubbles seem to form . Drizzle a little oil (1/4 to 1/2 tsp) flip the paratha and cook on the other side . Once a few parathas are cooked gather then in your hands and gently shake the layers loose.
Serve hot !!!