In Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, in 1961 – when my age was in negative figures – the British Baking Industries Research Association developed a novel process to speed up bread-making using lower protein wheat than the traditional bulk fermentation process. This was excellent news for bakers as they did not have to get up so early and could use cheap, domestic flour.
About 80% of commercial bread is made using the Chorleywood Bread Process to this day. I’m not sure what the best thing before sliced bread was, but the airy white loaf certainly made an impact when it arrived. Even now, it is a staple ingredient in so many households. It does make good toast for breakfast, and is great for sandwiches for lunch and tea.
I won’t go into detail about the process as I don’t recommend that you try it at home. Most kitchens don’t have a mixer capable of completely pulverising the dough, and the enzymes used are not readily available.
Bread made at home only needs a few ingredients and we are very lucky to enjoy it on a regular basis. Many people seem daunted by the thought of making their own bread and I must admit that my first attempts were haphazard and disappointing.
There is something magical about a rising dough and I will be happy to share some secrets that I have learned along the way. For now, one bread that often gets overlooked in the UK is the wonderful chapati, and it is to this staple of the Indian subcontinent that I often turn. It has the advantage over many breads that it can be made in less than half an hour, making it particularly suitable for breakfast.
The chapati is not a leavened or ‘risen’ bread so it only needs a little time for the dough to settle before it is cooked on a hot pan. In the Maldives they like it with tuna, chilli and coconut in the morning. That is a flavour combination I look forward to trying. My recent approach was more in the UK style of breakfasting, with our absolute favourites, bacon and eggs. I had some spinach and tomato too and I was inspired by the BLT sandwich to create what I call a BEST (bacon, egg, spinach and tomato) served with a breakfast chapati.
Chapati flour is available in many supermarkets which will give a lovely, authentic result. It is a wholemeal flour but a bit finer than most grinds we use. I’ve had good results by simply sieving wholemeal flour to remove most of the husk. I had a bag of mixed flour and seeds which was perfect for breakfast and I base this recipe on that. Digital scales are advisable for measuring the quantities.
Makes two chapatis
150g Chapati Flour or mix below
Flour to dust
Butter or ghee to finish
60g Strong white flour
40g Wholemeal flour
20g Rye flour
20g Ground oats (use a pestle and mortar)
10g mixed seeds (poppy, sunflower etc)
In a bowl, weigh the water, add salt and the flour (or flour mix). I usually coat the inside of the bowl lightly with olive oil before adding the water so that the mixture doesn’t stick. Using a metal spoon, mix it together to make a dough. It may be quite wet at this point. Leave for ten minutes or so. Then knead lightly for a couple of minutes, dusting with white flour if it’s too sticky.
Form two balls each weighing about 120g. Dust with flour and roll out as flat as possible. Dust with flour if necessary to avoid sticking.
Use a thick based, flat pan and heat until hot. Cook each chapati for a minute or so on each side until slightly puffed up and nicely browned. Spread a small knob of butter on one side to finish.
We ate ours, using our fingers, with bacon, not-too-hard boiled eggs, spinach leaves, and tomato. And I didn’t have to get up too early which made it taste even better.