How does a chapatti puff? 

Indian Flat Bread, as it may be well known in the West, is locally known as chapatti or a roti in India. It is an age old practise of eating a soft – soft chapatti topped with loads of ghee with a Sabzi of one’s own choice. Be it Bhindi, karela, dal makhni, paneer butter masala, or any dal, chapatti is the best and healthiest option to team it up with. 

And yes,  all of us try our best to puff it up while we roast it directly on the gas burner so that it’s soft and gives a one of its kind mouth – feel. But we all fail and then learn and then finally rise with a proper puffed roti after several trials. But ever wondered why and how does it rise or puff so beautifully?  

Here’s the answer. 

Chapatti is made of atta that’s been kneaded into a dough with water salt and a little oil. Some people may add a little curd as well to make it softer and some may use milk instead of water. But what happens in the process? 

1. Atta is made up of proteins called gliadin and glutenin. On becoming wet, these two proteins combine to form a protein called gluten which is responsible for this puffing. It’s a binding agent and provides the necessary structure to the chapatti. During kneading, when gluten becomes elastic and sticky, it forms a network of structures. Also, kneading causes the air to be trapped within these structures. So the more you knead, more the air trapped. But, do not knead too much. Or else, these gluten strands may break and give you failed puffed chapattis. 

2. Atta also contains carbohydrates, specially starch which is responsible for the structure and volume of the chapatti. It co – works with gluten to provide the typical chapatti structure. 

3. The use of milk or curd, add to the fat content of the dough. The role of fats is to tenderize the dough and give a soft chapatti. As mentioned earlier, leavening results in a soft chapatti, curd is another example of the leavening agent. The favourable bacteria in curd ferment it to produce carbon dioxide, which contributes to the air present in the puffed chapatti.

4. When you roll out the chapatti, make sure all sides are even. Otherwise the air trapped inside does not get uniformly heated and so the chapatti does not puff properly. 

5. During roasting, steam is generated from the existing water content of the dough. This results in expansion of the air molecules trapped inside the rolled chapatti and hence we see the risen or puffed chapattis. Have you noticed the steam that escapes the chapatti in case you accidentally pierce the chapatti?? It is this air and steam that causes expansion of the chapatti. 

Steam is a way to leaven the food product. Leavening leads to a voluminous and a soft product. And hence chapatti is leavened Majorly through the use of steam mechanism. 

Easy isn’t it? 

But not as much. The degree of kneading is a crucial step on getting a proper puffed chapatti. So next time analyse whether have u under kneaded or over kneaded the dough. 

So next time when u make a chapatti and are wondering why is it not puffing, you got to see your kneading styles, the amount of water, curd or milk you added and the way you have rolled out your chapatti. 

All the best!! 

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Published by

Anvi Damani

M. Sc in food science and Nutrition.

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