No Bread? Make Some… Quickly.

My husband and I were happy to learn that the martial arts center very near to our home, Midwood Martial Arts and Family Fitness Center, offers a few nice yoga classes, including one taught by a dear friend of mine named Hunt Parr.  What luck!  Anyhow, after the 9:15 class this morning and before setting back to work we were looking forward to some good, warming grub.

I’ll be honest, I had a not so sattvic desire for eggs-over-easy served up with these all natural turkey breakfast links I bought at the local food co-op yesterday.  What better way to round out this meal than with a lovely slice of artisanal whole-wheat sourdough or rye bread?  I realized, however, I hadn’t gotten any from the farmers market this weekend.    Breadless, I decided to take matters into my own hands and prepare Tibetan skillet bread.

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In 2005, I spent about 3 months living, teaching English to Tibetan refugees, and studying yoga in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, North India.  Every morning, as this very small city was waking up, I’d stroll up to the bus station and buy the “Times of India”.  One day, while walking back down Jogiwara Road, I noticed a tiny shack with an open door and smoke billowing out of a tiny chimney.  Inside this structure that must have been no more than 6 by 8 feet was a woman with a kind and weathered face cooking something over a wood-burning stove.   Then, a Tibetan man walked up the little plank that spanned the gutter between the road and the shack.  He gave the woman a few rupees and, in exchange, received a stack of fresh flatbreads, which the woman delicately wrapped in newspaper.

I soon became a regular costumer.  I grew found of slathering this bread, which I later learned is called amdopali or bhaleh, in Tibetan, with apricot jam I brought back from Ladakh.  A few weeks later, my two Tibetan monk friends Dhondhup and Gelek invited me for breakfast.  Not only did they make bhaleh, but they showed me just how quick and easy it is to prepare.  Now I’d like to show you!

Here’s what you need to make 4 small breads (they’re about the size of an English muffin:

  • ½ cup Whole-wheat flour
  • ½ cup All-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp Baking powder
  • Just under 1/2  tsp salt
  • About 2/3 cup water
  • A little olive oil for cooking
  • A skillet or non-stick pan. I prefer to use the Indian tawa I brought back in 2005.

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Here’s what you do:

  • Whisk together the dry ingredients.
  • Slowly add the water and mix by hand. You want the dough to be mixed well, malleable, yet not sticky.  If you feel you’ve added too much water, add a little more flour.  Kneed for about 30 seconds in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface.
  • Separate the dough into 4 equal parts.
  • Roll each part into a ball and then press it down in the shape of a flat disc shape.
  • Heat your pan over medium heat with a little bit of olive oil.
  • Place bread in pan and cover, cooking for a bout 4 minutes on one side.
  • Flip breads over with a spatula or your hand and cook for another 3-5 minutes, covered.
  • Each side should be slightly browned.
  • Enjoy!

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I also stumbled across this nice Jacques Pépin recipe for Tibetan skillet bread today. It’s a nice variation!

p.s. for REAL… we almost are ready to roll out the first podcast of “Doing It”. Post-production has taken a little more time than anticipated.


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