Saturday, November 16, 2013

Aloooo Bread Baking Babes

One of the blessing of being part of a bread baking group is that different members bring assorted interests to the table. This month as be gather around the table of our Kitchen of the Month Babe Baking Soda of Bake My Day blog, I have been introduced to a bread I never knew existed. It's called Aloo Parantha and it's an Indian unleavened flat filled bread that is baked on a griddle or hot frying pan. It is most often eaten in the northeastern part of India, usually with a savory filling of potatoes and herbs, although vegetables are sometimes used, for instance cauliflower and spinach.

These packets of non-yeasted dough are filled, rolled out carefully so the filling stays inside, and then cooked on a hot griddle or, in my case, a hot cast iron skillet. They are surprisingly filling and quite delicious.

After reading various recipes online, I changed the filling from regular potato to a mixture of roasted sweet potato and roasted winter squash. I seasoned the filling with sage, cayenne, salt & pepper and lemon juice, plus minced cilantro. It's a very enjoyable variation. The winter squash was a gift from a neighbor and I don't really know the variety.  First I cut it in half and removed the seeds and stringy parts. Then I roasted it in a hot oven, then peeled it and cut it into chunks. It is a brilliant orange-gold and very tasty.

One of the things I discovered while making these is that the dough springs back a little as you roll it out, so be WILL get larger, thinner circles of dough if you persevere.

I also found out that after you pull the extra dough atop the filling and twist it a little, it helps to dip the twist top and then the bottom of the packet in flour, turn it with the twist side down, then push down on the center with your fingers to begin the flattening process. With the first one I started rolling vigorously with the rolling pin and filling immediately squirted out a couple of places...not what I had in mind. Even when I had flattened it a bit with my fingers I used the rolling pin gently and straight down to flatten it more, then moved the rolling pin off the packet and to a different angle, then pressed straight down again, so I never actually rolled the pin over the packet.

While cooking these, I brushed them with butter every time I turned them over and I turned them over at least 6 times while cooking. You could use oil instead of butter if your are doing a vegetarian or vegan version. The key thing is to get both sides crisp and browned. You may have to use a spatula to gently flatten them as they cook, too. It is worth the effort since they are warm and savory, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and overall very delicious. Thanks Baking Soda! Great choice.

If you would like to be a Bread Baking Buddy, bake the bread and post about it, with a photo or two, then send the link in an e-mail to Baking Soda of Bake My Day  bakemyday AT gmail DOT com with Aloo Paratha in the subject line before 29th November . I wonder what filling you'll come up with?

Aloo Paratha
("how to cook everything by Mark Bittman")

1.1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1.1/2 cups all purpose flour plus more for rolling out the dough
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, plus more for brushing the breads
1/2 medium sweet potato (I used a garnet yam), cooked, cooled, peeled, and cut in half (use 4 oz of it)
8 oz. winter squash, roasted, peeled, and deseeded
1/4 teaspoon rubbed or ground dried sage
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
freshly ground pepper
juice of 1/2 small lemon
melted butter or neutral oil

Combine the flours with 1 teaspoon salt and the thyme in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add the oil and 3/4 cup water through the feed tube. Process for about 30 seconds, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough and, using flour as necessary, shape into a ball; wrap in plastic and let rest while you make the potato mixture. (At this point, you may wrap the dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for up to a week; bring back to room temperature before proceeding.)

Mash the sweet potato and winter squash, along with the sage, cayenne, and cilantro a large pinch of salt, some pepper, and the lemon juice; taste and adjust the seasoning (you may prefer more cayenne; sometimes aloo paratha are quite hot).

When the dough has rested, set out a bowl of all-purpose flour and a small bowl of oil, with a spoon or brush, on your work surface. Lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin. Break off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. Toss it in the bowl of flour and then roll it in your hands to make a ball. Flatten it into a 2-inch disk, then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a thin round, about 5 inches in diameter, dusting with flour as necessary.

Mound about 1 tablespoon of the filling into the center of one of the rounds of dough. Bring the edges of the round up over the top of the filling and press them together to make a pouch. Press down on the “neck” of the pouch with the palm of one hand to make a slightly rounded disk. Turn the disk in the bowl of flour, place 'neck' side down, and roll it out again into a round 6 to 7 inches in diameter. Pat it between your hands to brush off the excess flour. Put the paratha on a plate and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Continue to roll all of the remaining dough into parathas and stack them on the plate with a sheet of plastic wrap between them. You can keep the paratha stacked like this for an hour or two in the refrigerator before cooking them if necessary.

Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or two, then put on a paratha (or two, if they’ll fit) and cook until it darkens slightly, usually less than a minute. Flip the paratha with a spatula and cook for another 30 seconds on the second side. Use the back of a spoon or a brush to coat the top of the paratha with oil. Flip and coat the other side with oil. Continue cooking the paratha until the bottom of the bread has browned, flip, and repeat. Do this a few times until both sides of the paratha are golden brown and very crisp, 2 to 3 minutes total for each paratha. As the paratha finish, remove them from the pan and brush with melted butter (or oil for vegan) if you’re going to serve hot; otherwise wait until you’ve reheated them.

I served mine right away with some plain yogurt and they were excellent.


  1. That is an interesting filling I have to say, worth trying next time, because I'm going to make these again and again!

  2. What a wonderful filling you made. Sounds just delicious. Love how your breads are a bit thicker, better for tasting the filling. I agree that the rolling out took some patience so the filling stayed in. We learn so much, love it.

  3. Now see, I think that the pressing is a great idea...I did start to press and stretch a bit as I went along. But I still wound up rolling because otherwise they wouldn't reach the 6-7 inches noted. Oh well, they were still tasty.

    I love your filling, and am wishing that I'd thought of it - especially with the 12 weeks of winter squash thing that I'm doing right now! I'll have to make another batch...

  4. Thank you Elle, what a lovely filling you made! Oh that rolling out caused us some headaches! I think you devised a clever method to get them as flat as possible :-P

  5. I love the sound of your filling! You are brilliant! And I also like the idea of brushing with butter as you turn the bread while it's cooking.

    When we've made unstuffed paratha in the past, we've brushed half the rolled out disc with butter, folded it in half and brushed half of that part with butter and folded it in half once more. Then we (when I say "we", I mean "I") carefully rolled it out as thinly as possible to create a triangular shape. We cooked it on a dry (not for long with all that butter oozing out) medium hot carbon steel frying pan. Those parathas were REALLY crispy.

  6. I really really love your filling and I may try it! Mmmm filled with sweet potatoes would make the perfect dinner with just a bowl of soup. Beautiful! This was a tremendous recipe and one I think that we will be making over and over again. Your breads came out thicker like mine did. I hope to try mine again thinner next time, thinner and crispier, yet with a sweet potato filling I think I would be tempted to add more and have them thicker. Gosh, you have my mind running wild with ideas now!

  7. Oh, I think I like the winter squash..... Yum!

  8. I want to try a cauliflower filling BUT now I must try the squash! and sage, oh how my mom would have loved these!
    You are awesome with the great roll out write up!
    Gorgeous paratha. Love your title!