Thursday, March 7, 2013

Onion Kulcha

A few weeks ago, my parents took Paul and I out to the only Indian restaurant in town. We enjoyed a delicious spread of dishes, soups, and breads - all piping hot and served with just the right amount of spice to suit our individual tastes. I ordered my dishes on the milder side since I have been susceptible to heartburn as of late (thank you, my yet-to-be-born child!). My Mom, on the other hand, nearly burnt her face off after asking that her soup be served at a heat level rivaling the fires of hell. Thank goodness for the cooling powers of Raita! The food was delicious and I am in continual awe at the depth and complexity of Indian flavors.

One of the new breads we tried that night was an Onion Kulcha. While similar to the more commonplace naan, a Kulcha is a puffier, more tender flatbread that has been stuffed with vegetables, cheese, or herbs. The version we ordered was stuffed with a seasoned mix of onions and cilantro. It was delicious and served as a great accompaniment to our dishes.

I have made naan at home many, many times. In fact, Paul and I often make curries and the meal just never seems complete without a batch of flatbread on the side for dipping and scooping. Since we had a delicious curry on the menu for dinner this week (recipe coming soon!), I decided to try to replicate the Kulcha we had enjoyed so much at the restaurant. I found a couple recipes online that I could use as a base and then adapted the filling to what I thought was similar to the one used by the restaurant (of course this was all based on a pregnant woman's memory, so I could have been way off base!). The Kulcha dough was a breeze to throw together - everything is simply mixed and kneaded and then allowed to rest for at least 2 hours. The filling is then prepared when you are just about ready to roll out the dough. Roll the dough, spread the filling over the top, pinch the ends up together, roll the dough out again. Finally, the rounds are cooked in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat until slightly charred on the outside and cooked through. Delicious.

All in all, a pretty easy and adaptable flatbread recipe that makes a great addition to any bowl of curry. The filling can be adapted to suit your tastes - try using paneer, different types of vegetables, roasted garlic, etc. The possibilities are endless!

And yes, those are two very different sizes of Kulcha pictured below. I was experimenting with the best method to fill the breads and ended up detailing the easiest one below.

Onion Kulcha
adapted from ChefInYou

For the dough:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 tablespoon butter (or ghee, if you have it!)
Milk or Water (as needed)

For the Filling:
1 large onion, chopped very finely
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and chopped finely (optional)
1-2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
Salt to taste

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. In a smaller, separate bowl, whisk together the oil, butter, and yogurt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients. With a spatula, gradually bring everything together to moisten. If the dough appears dry (and odds are it will!), gradually add in enough milk or water to bring everything into a soft ball. I ended up adding about 1/4 cup overall. Eventually, transfer the mixture to a floured counter-top and use your hands to knead and gather the dough. The dough should feel soft and not be sticky. When the texture is right and everything appears hydrated, place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.

While the dough is resting, saute the onion and jalapeno in a skillet over medium heat until softened. Add the minced garlic and cumin and continue to cook for another 30 seconds. Remove to a bowl and add salt to taste. Set aside.

When ready to cook, set a cast iron skillet over medium heat with approximately 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Fill a small cup with water and set it next to the skillet. Find a lid that will fit the skillet so you can cover the bread as it cooks.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and form each piece into a small ball. Keep dough covered with a damp towel. Take one piece and roll out to a small circle, about 5-6 inches in diameter. Repeat with a second piece of dough, trying to make it roughly the exact same size. Over one piece of dough, sprinkle an even layer of filling. Then, take the second piece of dough (the one without the filling) and carefully lay it over the top. Crimp and pinch the edges together and gently pat flat, ensuring that no air bubbles remain.

Wipe the skillet free of excess oil with a wad of paper towels (be careful that you don't burn yourself - use tongs if necessary!). Sprinkle some water into the pan and then quickly lay the filled dough circle in the pan. Sprinkle the top of the dough with more water and then quickly cover. Allow to cook approximately 2 minutes, or until the edges are firm and the bottom has browned. Flip, sprinkle with more water, cover, and continue to cook 1-2 additional minutes or until cooked through. Remove cooked bread and wrap in a warm towel while you roll and cook the remaining bread.

Repeat process with remaining dough.

*If you are not serving immediately, preheat an oven to 200 degrees with an oven proof plate on the center rack. As you finish baking the breads, place them on the plate in the warm oven and cover with a damp towel. Keep in the oven until ready to serve!

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