Baking for Bookworms: Chapatis from I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

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There’s not too much mention of food in Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, except in passing. For the most part, foods are either associated with the familiar smells and tastes of Pakistan, or they are associated with the alienness of England. This breakfast though is mentioned twice, first in Pakistan and then in England as a way to bridge the gap between the two.

This passage comes from the first mention of the breakfast, in Pakistan, where it is associated with a familiar and comforting routine:

“In the morning my parents came to my room as usual and woke me up. I don’t remember a single school day on which I woke up early by myself. My mother made our usual breakfast of sugary tea, chapatis, and fried egg. We all had breakfast together–me, my mother, my father, Khishal and Atal.”                                                                                     239

Chapatis are a flat bread, making them is similar to making a tortilla. They are fast, easy, and a relatively nutritious bread.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (plus more for dusting) whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup water (but you’ll probably use less, drizzle it in slowly)
  • 1-2 tablespoons melted butter (this is optional, but I love the flavor it adds, you can also use a little oil or omit it entirely)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional, I didn’t use salt in mine)

Melt butter and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, measure out two cups flour and the cup of water.

When the butter is cool, drizzle in the butter and a little of the water. Combine the mixture with your hands, adding water until you create a dry dough and all the flour is incorporated.

At this point you can use the dough immediately or leave it to rest for several hours on the counter or refrigerate it for several days.

Divide the dough into six to eight balls, depending on the size of your skillet. Press the dough onto a generously floured surface and roll to desired size, the thinner the better. I like to turn the dough slowly to make it more evenly round.

If you decide to stack your chapatis, make sure you put something between them like wax or parchment paper.

Spray a skillet with cooking spray and turn to medium high heat. Cook the chapatis on both sides until they puff up and get nice dark spots (about 30 seconds a side). Remove to a plate and cover with a dish towel until ready to serve.

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These would be great with breakfast, as mentioned in the book, and they’re also a great accompaniment for savory dishes. I served mine with an improvised aloo gobi. Use them as you would any flatbread, as a wrap, toasted and thrown into soup–you can even paint them with melted butter, dust them with cinnamon sugar, and throw them into the toaster oven or regular oven for a few minutes.

What breakfast foods remind you of your childhood? I will always remember my mom’s banana pancakes and my dad’s waffles, as well as the ubiquitous Lucky Charms cereal, with the milk in a glass on the side (I hated soggy cereal).

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One thought on “Baking for Bookworms: Chapatis from I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

  1. My Mom’s Fried matzo sandwiches were incredible. I make great matzo Brie but my Mom’s were spectacular. Ask your parents to see if they remember them. My everyday breakfasts were shredded wheat, Cheerios both with milk and a scrambled egg with a slice of challah. Sometimes we would have bagel with melted cheddar cheese or cottage cheese and fruit.

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