FAQ: WHY ARE MY CHAPATIs OR PARATHAs HARD?
QUESTION: WHY IS MY CHAPATI OR PARATHA HARD?
REASONS & WAYS TO RECTIFY IT
Due to personal experience, these are some of the simple guides involved in making best layered soft chapati. So if your chapatis is still hard despite following the recipe to the dot, you might need to reconsider our guide below. If you rectify these, you are half way there! Welcome to our open secrets...
QUICK CHECKLIST FOR POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:
1).The dough is not pliable:-
a) Use the right type of flour for making chapati.
b) Too little liquid used for mixing the flour (Add the right amount of liquid).
c) Not kneading enough (knead until the dough is not sticky and it surface becomes 'shiny').
d) The dough is not rested after each handling, and especially before cooking (Rest the dough between handling especially before cooking to relax the gluten).
2) Chapati is hard after cooking: -
a) Too little liquid used in mixing the flour/dough (Add the right amount of liquid).
b)Knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes.
c)Let the dough rest in between handling (this helps the gluten relax).
d)Do not roll the chapati too thin.
e)Too little or too much heat used in cooking (Adjust the heat setting).
f) Use a heavy (cast iron) griddle. It will distribute heat evenly.
g) Oil the chapati (during or after cooking). This will help soften it after cooking.
h) After cooking, cover the chapati to retain its moisture (to avoid drying out).
3) The chapati is not cooked evenly i.e the center or its edges are hard:-
a) Roll the chapati evenly (this will ensure all parts of the chapati cooks evenly).
b) Adjust the heat level (especially when using charcoal brazier/jiko : make sure the charcoal is distributed equally and evenly all round).
c) Use a heavy bottom based (cast iron) pan (this ensures heat is distributed evenly).
4) The inside of the chapati is still raw after cooking:-
a) Do not roll the chapati very thick (all parts of the chapati should be rolled evenly).
b) Too much heat causing the outside to completely cook before the inside is ready (adjust the level of heat). If some parts of the chapati are cooked but others are not: adjust the distribution of heat used or keep turning/moving the chapati in the pan so that all areas are exposed to the heat evenly.
5) The chapati was soft after cooking but became hard after
a) The gluten in the dough was not fully developed : knead the dough until it is soft pliable and has a sheen. Also do not forget to rest the dough for the appropriate time/s.
b) The dough was not covered when resting (forming a hard crust on top of the dough/balls).
c)Oil the chapati evenly especially when making jeleby chapati.
d) Cover the chapati as soon as it is removed from the griddle (to prevent it drying out).
6) The chapati is soft but has some hard patches on its surface:-
a) Too much dusting flour used (sprinkled on the plate during the resting period) or when rolling the chapati prior to cooking (use only a little dusting flour as required. If too much has been used, pat the chapati or blow the rolled chapati before cooking to remove excess flour on its surface).
7) Chapati either too dark or too light in colour:-
a) Adjust the cooking time (hence amount of heat used). This is a personal preference: some like their chapatis dark toned others prefer them lighter or just golden. (Too dark: kept too long on the griddle. If too light then removed much too early)
8)The chapati becomes soggy or develops a soggy bottom upon storage/covering:-
a) When covering the chapati after cooking, the first chapati should be placed on a kitchen towel (or food paper). The towel or food paper will absorb any dripping condensation at the bottom of the container.
b) If using a metal or plastic cover, the covering should be placed slightly ajar when covering the hot cooked chapatis :- this allows moisture to dissipate and prevents condensation water accumulating and eventually dripping along the sides of the storage container or collecting at the bottom of the first chapati place in the storage container.
1. FLOUR: The type of flour used has a tremendous effect on the end product. Different flours have different amounts of proteins in them which will affect their elasticity. So if you follow all instructions of trying to make soft chapathi but you still do not get satisfactory results, try changing the flour you use.
The best flours to make chapati are usually produced from medium hard to hard varieties of wheat. Commercially produced ground whole wheat flour (Atta/Maida flour) is the best as you can roll the chapati very thin, however, for paratha, try using All purpose bread flour or a mix of Atta and all purpose flour.
Also remember, the atmospheric environment also affects flour properties. So if a recipe calls for a specific amount of liquid, you might need to add slightly less or more depending on the environment (e.g too cold, hot, high humidity etc). That is why certain recipes calls for an addition of extra flour if the dough turns out to be wet or extra liquid if the dough turns out dry even though you used the exact amount of liquid as specified!
2. LIQUID: You will need enough water (or whatever liquid you use) so that the dough has the right hydration for formation of gluten and hence its pliability. If too little water is used, the dough becomes dry and less pliable. If too much is used, the dough becomes water logged, both will affect the chapati cooked. So try to use just the right amount of liquid in making your chappati or parathas.
It does not matter if you use lukewarm water or cool or cold water as some cooks specify, all are just right if the right amount is used. Personally, I have tried both and do not see much difference. Traditionally (at least I have observed some women from the Bajun tribe in Lamu, Kenya) some cooks use boiled HOT water for mixing with the flour to make the dough for paratha. This was usually done to ensure that the flour is halfway cooked through by the hot liquid. This ensures the chapati is fully cooked inside, prolonging the shelf life of the chapati which was usually stored in the open kitchen cupboard (known as a 'kabati'). (There were no fridges or freezers during the good olden days, eons ago!).
Machine for kneading? If using a kneading machine, slightly reduce the amount of liquid or you will need to reduce the kneading time, otherwise your dough may turn 'gooey'.
3. KNEADING: The most obvious reason for a hard chapati disaster most people recognize is the kneading process. A well kneaded dough will produce better results than one that is not. Kneading makes the gluten in the flour align. Knead until the flour is not sticky and is pliable. But remember to slightly reduce the amount of liquid used otherwise the dough will turn 'gooey' if using a kneading machine. Alternatively, reduce the machine kneading time.
4: RESTING THE DOUGH: when you knead the dough,either by manually by hands or by using a kneading machine, 'gluten' aligns within the flour molecules which causes it to 'toughen' up, which will make your chapati chewy. In order to allow the gluten to relax again after kneading or handling, let the dough relax by covering and putting aside for about 15-20 minutes. It does not matter where you keep it (some wrap the dough in cling film and relax it in the fridge or just cover and place in a cool place), the most important thing is just to let the dough relax.
5.COVERING THE DOUGH: When letting the dough relax, cover it with a draft proof lid or with a damp towel or cling film. This ensures that the surface does not dry up with will result in a hard crust when cooked.
6.OILING THE PARATHA: When folding the paratha/jelebi chapati, make sure that the oil is spread throughout the sheet. This helps in making the cooked chapati soft after cooking. The type of oil used for kneading,rolling or cooking the chapati does not really matter! However, the oil of choice used is usually ghee (or butter) for its wonderful smell which adds to the aroma and flavour of the chappati. Due to health reasons, you can mix the ghee with another healthy oil or completely substitute it. It is personal preference. Some cooks dust some flour after rolling and oiling the paratha. The flour will help the layers separate after cooking but a word of caution, too much flour and the layers end up sticking together!
7. ADDITIONAL DUSTING FLOUR: When rolling the chapati, do not add too much additional flour on the rolling board or rolling pin. Sometimes it is necessary to add flour to help the chapati not stick onto the rolling pin or surface. However too much flour will stick onto the surface of the chapati creating a hard crust when cooked. So just add enough flour to stop it sticking to the rolling pin or surface. Do not add more than is required. If you have used excess flour, try to pat it off with your hand or blow it off gently off the chapati before placing it onto the griddle for cooking. If there is still flour on the chapati or the griddle after cooking, use a clean (kitchen) cloth or kitchen tissue to wipe it off the surface of the griddle and chpati.
8.ROLLING/CHAPATI/PARATHA THICKNESS: The indian chapati is comparatively thinner compared to a paratha. However, do not roll it too thin as a pastry. The chapathi needs to be comparatively thicker than a pastry so that it does not become hard and crunchy or crumbly when cooked. However, also do not make it too thick either, otherwise your unleavened bread will end up uncooked inside. How thin or thick the chapati or paratha is personal preference, hence adjust the heat accordingly. (I personally roll to an estimated thickness of between 0.5cm, though you do not have to be exact. Just gauge thickness with your eyes and with time and much more practice, you too will get the hang of it!). The only rule I can suggest when it comes to rolling chapati or paratha is to make sure that you get the same thickness throughout. Make the whole rolled chapati as even as possible so that all areas cook at the same time and pace. If the edges or sides are thinner than the center, these will cook faster and dry out and hence become hard. The same applies to the center. If the center is thinner than the edges, it will cook faster hence result in a hard crumbly center.
9. YOUR PAN/GRIDDLE: Make sure the griddle/pan is hot enough before placing the chapati on it. Otherwise it will end up cooking for longer hence drying up and becoming hard.
Also if you will frequently cook this bread, I would advice you to invest in a heavy griddle/pan/tawa (usually made of cast iron material) as it heats up and distributes heat evenly. When the heat of a cast iron pan is controlled, it will not burn your bread while allowing it to be cooked to its deepest interior layer. This bread is not leavened using yeast so it is important that during cooking, it has enough time for steam to be formed inside. This causes the bread to puff up thus separating the layers. Using a heavy griddle allows this to happen without the bread burning while cooking.
10. There are different ways of oiling the chapatis or rotis. In East Africa, the oil is applied while the chapati is still cooking on the griddle. When oiling the paratha while on the pan, add the oil onto the pan first to heat up then move the paratha towards it. If you add cold oil on the paratha then turn over to cook, the oil gets absorbed into the paratha and ends up becoming crisp and forming a hard crust. For Indian style rotis, the oil is applied at the end of the cooking process. Oiling helps to soften the chapati/roti after during/after cooking.
The amount of oil will also affects the colour of the surface. For an enticing chapati, add about 1-2 tbs of oil per chapati but if you are a health and weight watcher, then even less than that should do it, however you will be compromising on the colour.
After adding the oil, press the top of the chapati with a turner or a clean cloth so that the bottom gets maximum contact with the griddle hence formation of a puffed up golden brown colour on the surface.
11. After removing the chapati/paratha from the pan, cover it to prevent drying up ending up hard. You can use a damp cloth (wet a kitchen towel then wring it out completely before using) or a lid to cover the chapatis or parathas placed on a bowl. When using a lid, slightly place it ajar, so that steam can escape, preventing the accumulation of condensation on the interior of the lid or the breads which can make them soggy.
12.After cooking jelebi chapati/paratha, you can gently 'punch' them (optional) to make them flaky and hence eliminate them becoming hard when cooled down.
13. OPTIONAL ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS: There are certain optional ingredients that can be added to the chapati but these are not essentials. These include addition of egg/s, sugar, milk, coconut milk, yogurt etc They interfere with gluten formation hence the chapati can become soft/softer . The use of all these ingredients makes the bread softer. Please note that although sugar makes the bread softer, do not use too much. A teaspoon or two should be enough depending on the size of dough. The purpose is to just make the chapati softer but not to sweeten the bread. The same goes with all the other ingredients, all should be used in moderation so as not to alter the texture or flavour of the paratha roti being cooked.
14. ALTERNATIVE PROCEDURES/METHODS: Certain procedures can also be incorporated into the recipe, although not traditionally essential but they can improve on the softness too. These include rubbing oil before kneading the flour, adding hot oil or hot water and partially 'cooking' the flour before kneading etc.
15.STORAGE: Before storing chapati, paratha or rotis, make sure they have completely cooled down (Keep them covered but keep the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape, preventing condensation and soggy bottoms). Once cooled, store in an airtight container to prevent air drying them out which will result in a crunchy hard crust. Warm up to crisp them up again before consumption.