Friday, June 13, 2008

Poori (Poori Bread)

Another recipe from Taste of Nepal by Jyoti Pathak.

Poori, pronounced "poo-ree," is a deep-fried puffed bread, generally prepared from wheat flour. The dough can be prepared in advance, but the rolling and frying should be done just before serving. Poori are fried in bubbling bot oil and puff up into steam-filled balloons. Poori tastes best if eaten piping hot, puffed with a crispy outside and a moist inside. Though it starts to lose its puffiness and becomes somewhat chewy and tough when cold, poori is still quite tasty when eaten that way.

It is one of the most popular breads and a classic accompaniment to any Nepali meal, and it is also eaten during family celebrations and religious festivals. It is prepared for naivedya, sacred food that is ritualistically offered to deities during worship. At the same time, it is often packed for picnics and long journey as a good traveling bread.

Makes 12 to 14 (5-inch) breads.

2 1/2 cups atta flour (See Note below) or 1/2 cup whole wheat flour mixed with 1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour, plus an extra 1/2 cup for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 cups vegetable oil

(Note: Atta Flour is also known as chapatti or durham whole wheat flour. This fine-textured flour is processed from low-gluten wheat and used in making most unleavened breads. Since this flour is low in gluten, it is easier to knead and roll.)

In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and mix by hand until all ingredients are well combined. Gradually add 3/4 to 1 cup of water, to form a dough that holds together. Knead in the bowl until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should be moderately stiff. If the dough is too sticky, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour; if it feels too firm, add a little water and knead some more. Cover with a plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel and set aside at room temperature for 25 to 30 minutes.

When the dough is well rested, place it on a flat surface and knead it until pliable, about 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a rope about 2 inches in diameter and divide it into twelve to fourteen equal portions, Roll each portion into a ball and coat it with a little flour. Flatten the balls with a rolling pin and roll into 4 to 5-inch, circles, about 1/4 inch thick. Keep the dough covered with damp towels while working. Place the circles on a tray so they are not touching each other.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat until it reaches 350° to 374° (see Note below). Test for readiness by placing a small piece of dough into the hot oil. If it bubbles and rises to the surface immediately, it is ready. Place the circles into the oil, one piece at a time. The dough will sink to the bottom, but will immediately rise up. Use light pressure with the back of a slotted spoon to submerge the dough until it puffs. Then, turn it over to brown the second side. The second side of poori is slightly heavier, so fry it longer until golden. Remove the poori with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat the procedure with the remaining dough. Serve immediately, if possible, or keep warm, covered, until ready serve.

Note: While frying, be careful to keep the oil at 350
° to 375° for even cooking. If the oil is too hot, the poori will brown too fast and may remain doughy add uncooked inside. If the oil is not hot enough, it will not puff up and the dough will absorb a lot of fat.

Pictures courtesy of Jyoti Pathak.

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