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Flaky Breads Stuffed with Spinach and Cheese

Updated February 23, 2016
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This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Full-flavored breads like this one are fun to eat as soon as they come, piping hot and flaky, off the griddle. I serve them, cut into wedges for dipping, with some of the simple dal curries in this book for an elegantly simple prelude to a multiple-course curry dinner.

Roti flour, also labeled atta (“flour”), is packaged in small, medium, and large bags, and can be found in Indian, Pakistani, Middle Eastern, and other Asian grocery stores. It is a low-protein flour, and is ideal for making these fluffy-thin flatbreads. (When you knead dough made with high-protein flour, it forms gluten—which gives European yeast breads their structure, an unwanted constitution in rotis.)

If you plan to use frozen chopped spinach, make sure you thaw it completely and squeeze out as much water as you can before you use it for the filling. The drier the filling, the less chance that the dough will tear when you roll it out.

Paranthas (like the other breads in this book) are a cinch to make even days before you plan to serve them. Just rewarm them, wrapped in a damp paper towel, in a microwave oven for barely a minute. Because the flour is a low-protein one, the microwave will not toughen the bread. As long as you do not overheat the paranthas in the microwave, they will be as good as fresh. Alternatively, you can wrap them in aluminum foil and rewarm them in a preheated 300°F oven for about 10 minutes.

Makes6 breads

Cooking Methodpan-frying

CostInexpensive

Moderate

Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursehot appetizer

Dietary Considerationvegetarian

Taste and Texturebuttery, hot & spicy, savory

Type of Dishflatbreads

Ingredients

  • 3 cups roti flour (see Notes)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • About 1 cup warm water
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach leaves, well rinsed, patted dry, and finely chopped; or 1 box (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry (see Notes)
  • 4 ounces Doodh Paneer, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon mango powder, or the grated zest of 1 lime or lemon
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 3 or 4 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed, finely chopped (do not remove the seeds)
  • Ghee or melted butter for brushing 
  • Roti flour for dusting

Instructions

To make the dough, stir the roti flour and salt together in a medium-size bowl. Drizzle the oil over the flour mixture, rubbing the flour through your hands to evenly distribute the oil.

Drizzle a few tablespoons of the warm water over the flour mixture, stirring it in as you do so. Continue drizzling warm water until the flour comes together to form a soft ball; you will need about 1 cup warm water altogether. Using your hand (as long as it’s clean, I think it’s the best tool), gather the ball, picking up any dry flour in the bottom of the bowl, and knead it to form a smooth, soft ball of dough (do this in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface). If it’s a little too wet, dust it with a little flour, kneading it in after every dusting, until you get the right soft, dry consistency. (If you used your hand to make the dough from the start, it will be caked with clumps of dough. Scrape them back into the bowl. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly, and return to the dough to knead it. You will get a much better feel for the dough’s consistency with a dry hand.)

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap or cover it with a slightly dampened cloth, and let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, make the filling: Combine the spinach, paneer, mango powder, salt, and chiles in a medium-size bowl. Stir well.

When the dough has rested, roll it with your hands to form an 18-inch-long log (lightly flour the work surface if necessary). Cut it crosswise into 6 pieces, and shape each piece into a ball. Press each ball flat to form a patty. Cover the patties with plastic wrap.

Place the ghee near the stove, with a pastry brush handy. Tear off a large sheet of aluminum foil and set it aside. Tear off 7 sheets of wax paper, each about 8 inches wide.

Lightly flour a small work area near the stove and place a dough patty on it (keep the others under cover). Roll it out to form a round roughly 5 to 6 inches in diameter, dusting it with flour as needed. Make sure the round is evenly thin, with no tears on the surface. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the spinach filling onto the center. Gather the edges of the dough, bring them together over the center, and pinch them together to seal the dough, forming a pouch shape. Flip the pouch over, pinched side down, and gently press it to flatten it. Reroll the dough, dusting it with flour as needed, to form a round roughly 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Lift the green-speckled round, plop it onto a sheet of wax paper, and cover it with a second sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, stacking the patties between sheets of wax paper as they are rolled.

Heat a medium-size skillet (preferably nonstick or cast iron) over medium heat.

Transfer a patty to the hot skillet. Cook until the surface has some bumps and bubbles, and the underside has brown spots and looks cooked, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately flip it over and cook until the other side has some brown spots, 2 to 3 minutes.

. Brush the surface with ghee and flip it over to sear it, about 30 seconds. Brush the top with ghee and flip it over to sear it, about 30 seconds. Transfer the parantha to the piece of foil, and fold the foil over it to keep it warm.

. Continue cooking the remaining filled dough, stacking the finished paranthas under the foil as they are cooked. Then serve.

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