“To roll or compress into a thin plate, to make by uniting superposed layers of one or more materials, or to unite (layers of material) by an adhesive or other.” Answer: Laminate (verb). I learned “laminated dough” as a baking term when attempting to make croissants for the first time. Butter unites the compressed layers of dough, creating hundreds of flaky layers. The process of making paratha for the first time this past weekend was somewhat similar.
Paratha is from the province Peshawar in the diverse country of Pakistan, which in 1947 became a country independent of India. This flatbread is heavily eaten during Ramadan for suhoor, the early pre-dawn meal before fasting. I used a whole wheat chapati flour and mixed it with salt, egg and water. Then came the more complicated part…rolling out and folding the dough. I tried three different methods. Once it was rolled out, a thin layer of ghee (clarified butter) was spread and more flour sprinkled on top. Then the dough was folded a bit like origami before going back into the refrigerator. When chilled it was rolled out again, spread with more ghee, and heated on a cast iron skillet. I wasn’t able to resist trying the hot, fresh bread, and the soft, flaky layers had a delightful texture and taste. Although seemingly complicated, this is a simple bread similar to naan and pita, with just a few more twists and turns. It is probably like the bread Jesus ate, and it has many different names according to the region. Paratha, naan, roti, chapati, pita…simple loaves uniting people across many cultures.