May 19, 2013

Coconut Flat Bread

Indian woman baking chapatis on an iron griddle
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In the U.S., we are more familiar with Latin American tortillas when it comes to unleavened flatbread. However the flatbread used in India is called chapatis or rottis. The dough is rolled out into thin 8 inch rounds and baked on an iron griddle.

Using coconut milk instead of water adds a tropical coconut flavor and a velvety texture to this traditional Indian bread. The dough is easier to roll and shape than the whole wheat flour version. 


After you have made a stack of coconut flatbread, you can just put butter on them and eat them warm, or make a tropical burrito out of one, using cooked and seasoned ground pork, black beans and rice, with a spicy mango-avacado salsa. Or cut flat bread into strips, fry in 350˚F oil 2-3 minutes, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar while still hot. Then serve them with apple bananas that have been sauteed in butter, brown sugar, rum and cinnamon. Or serve them around mango ice cream sprinkled with toasted coconut. There are so many uses for this delicious tropical coconut flatbread.

Coconut Flatbread
Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups white all-purpose flour, plus a bit extra to dust the counter top.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (Be sure to buy pure coconut milk with no sugar added. Shake the can well to distribute the cream before opening.)
2 tablespoons canola oil

Procedure:
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add coconut milk and stir to make a soft dough. Mix with hands until thoroughly combined, and knead well about 10 times. If the dough is too wet or too dry, add a bit more coconut milk or flour as needed. At this point you can leave the dough, covered, for an hour or two.

Preheat a large (9-inch or more) cast iron or other heavy skillet or griddle. Brush surface with the 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Heat until hot but not smoking.

Divide dough into 10 equal balls. Dust work surface with flour, and begin rolling balls into large, flat rounds, about 8 inches in diameter and very thin. You can trim the edges with a sharp knife or pizza cutter to make a round shape.

Place first round of dough in hot skillet. Press surface lightly with a paper towel to make air bubbles appear in dough. This makes a nice speckled surface. Cook for about 1 minute, then flip and cook other side, pressing dough again with towel. When dough is cooked through and lightly browned in spots, remove from pan. Continue with remaining rounds of dough. Usually you do not need to add more oil to the pan after the first flatbread is cooked. You can stack coconut flat bread on a warm plate as they are taken from the pan. Makes 10 coconut flat bread rounds.

Gluten-free Coconut Flatbread
Rottis are a pan-fried soft bread, similar to Indian nan, that are made with toasted rice flour. Coconut milk is a delicious and exotic replacement for dairy and soy milk. Rice flour and coconut milk are gluten-free and vegan.

Ingredients:
2 cups rice flour
1/2 cup unsweetened, dried and shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups water, or use canned coconut milk (Be sure to buy pure coconut milk with no sugar added. Shake the can well to distribute the cream before opening.)

Procedure:
Place the rice flour in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir the flour continuously to ensure even toasting. Remove from heat when the rice flour has darkened several shades and emits a toasted aroma. Place the toasted rice flour in a large bowl.

In the same skillet, toast the coconut, stirring constantly, just until it begins to turn golden. Add the coconut to the rice flour and add salt. Stir to combine. Add just enough water to make a soft dough. Knead it until it forms a ball and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. To test the moisture level, roll a bit of the dough in your hand and press it flat. It should easily stay in one piece but it should also have some cracking around the edges. If your edges are totally smooth, you've added too much water. In this case you can add a bit more un-toasted rice flour to the mixture.

Roll the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball. Place each ball between two pieces of waxed paper and use your palm or a rolling pin to flatten to your desired thickness. Note: If you make them too thin, they can break easily.

Fry on a preheated, lightly greased griddle or frypan over medium to medium-high heat until it begins to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until golden. Makes 6 gluten-free coconut flatbread rounds.
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