Kulcha, a leavened flatbread, has its origins in North India, in Amritsar to be specific. It is basically made with maida (all purpose flour), yogurt, leavening agents and baked in a tandoor.There isn’t much difference between naan & kulcha, except for the leavening agents involved in their respective recipes. Kulchas are mostly stuffed from a gamut of fillings, potato (the most popular one, known as aloo kulcha) to onions to paneer etc.
Kulchas and chole, a perfect accompaniment to each other, are served in various street side food stalls all over Punjab. I have heard so much about the rustic, hearty & delicious food served in these places, that I definitely hope to visit Amritsar, Punjab some day. Amristar is also popular for ‘The Golden Temple’. The food served there has a special touch, especially the halwa. The place has a special vibe known to calm one’s mind and soul. One look at the images of the Temple itself, and you can feel the serenity surrounding it. It’s truly a shame, whilst I live in India for most part of my life, I never made it there due to my busy work schedule! I hope I do get a chance to visit this beautiful city and enjoy the experience it has to offer!
For a healthier version, kulchas can also be made with whole wheat flour. I use all purpose flour, because it is not something that I prepare frequently unlike the everyday chapatis. So I indulge in these kulchas whenever I prepare some rich curry or chole. You can use 1:1:: maida: whole wheat flour, if you wish. Most people feel intimidated at the thought of making kulcha at home. I say there is absolutely no need to fret! Making kulcha at home is relatively easily, almost like making a chapati with some leavening agents and yogurt. I have not used any yeast, neither the oven to make these soft, fluffy kulchas. These can easily be done on the stove top. I’ve slightly adapted this recipe from my mom’s recipe book, it’s the recipe for naan actually, but I prefer to use yeast whenever I make naan. This is the way I prepare kulcha’s, be it plain or stuffed, and they always turn out amazingly delicious! You can make these instantly, but allowing the dough to leaven and ferment for sometime yields better kulchas. The end result is a slightly crisp exterior yet soft and fluffy on the inside. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave or stovetop. You can use this same recipe for no yeast Naan as well:)
Ingredients: Measuring cup used, 1 Cup = 250 ml ( Makes 6 kulchas)
For the kulcha dough-
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (maida)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons oil/ghee
1/2 cup yogurt (Room temperature)
About 1/2 cup warm water/milk for kneading ( I prefer to use milk )
1/2 teaspoon salt/ to taste
1-2 teaspoon black sesame seeds or nigella seeds
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
3 garlic cloves, finely minced, use as per flavor desired
ghee/butter for roasting the kulcha, as required
1. In a large mixing bowl, sieve flour, baking powder, baking soda, add sugar & salt. Mix well. Add yogurt & oil. Mix well with the flour. Start kneading the dough using warm milk/water until you achieve a soft and elastic dough. I used a little more than 1/2 cup lukewarm milk.
2.Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, drizzle some oil over the dough, spread it evenly to avoid it from drying out. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for 2-3 hours minimum or about 6-8 hours. I usually let it ferment overnight, which results in a soft and fluffy kulcha.
3. After leaving the dough overnight to ferment, you will see the dough has leavened and risen a bit. Knead the dough for another 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 6 equal size balls.
4. Now dust the working surface with flour, take one ball, dust it in flour.
For butter kulchas: Roll the floured ball to about 4 inches in diameter, add some cilantro & black sesame seeds, roll the ball to about 7-8 inches in diameter, and 1/8 inch thickness. Dust off excess flour.
For garlic kulchas: Add some cilantro, grated garlic & black sesame seeds, roll the ball to about 7-8 inches in diameter, and 1/8 inch thickness. Dust off excess flour.
5. Heat an iron skillet/tawa, place the kulcha, cilantro side up on the greased tawa, cover with a lid and cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute on medium heat, once brown spots appear at the bottom, and bubbles appear on top, flip and roast the other side for 45 seconds. (You may directly roast the other side over the flame by inverting the skillet upside down until you get charred spots. In that case make sure you dab some water on the plain side without the cilantro etc and cook that first, then invert the skillet and cook the other side).
6. Brush the kulcha with ghee/butter roast on both sides till fully cooked through, flipping 2-3 times more. Prepare the remaining kulchas in the same manner, stack them in a casserole/aluminum foil/clean cotton napkin to keep them soft & warm. Serve with yogurt & pickle or with curry of your choice.
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