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Puris are Indian unleavened breads which are traditionally fried in oil. They are typically served immediately after being cooked, while they are still hot and crispy; usually puris are served in a mound on a plate located in the middle of the table, allowing diners to serve themselves. This bread is native to Northern India and Pakistan, where it is quite common, and Indian restaurants which feature food from these regions often have puris on the menu; a common alternate spelling is “poori.”
Like other Indian flatbreads, the dough for puris is extremely simple, and very easy to assemble. Traditional doughs are made with whole wheat flour, salt, a small amount of oil, and enough water to pull the dough together. Puris seasoned with various spices are also not uncommon; ajwan seeds, cayenne pepper, and cumin are common spices used to flavor puris.
Once the dough has pulled together, it is briefly kneaded and then allowed to rest, covered. Next, chunks of dough are pulled off and rolled out into rounds. The rounds of dough are fried. As the dough fries, it puffs up with air; an ideal puri looks sort of like a flying saucer, although puris may also simply be bubbly in some cases. If the puri is allowed to cool, the air will escape and the puri will collapse, so most people try to eat their puris while the breads are still puffy.
Traditional puris are fairly small, designed to be used as scoops for curries and other dishes. A variant on the puri, the batura, is extremely large, and it can be used more like a wrap. In either case, the bread varies in texture from crispy to chewy, and the flavor can be mild or quite spicy, depending on which spices are added to the puris, if any.
The traditional flour used to make puris is atta, which is made from durum wheat. It is also possible to use white flour or flours made from other grains, along with flour blends. The dough can be kept refrigerated for several days, for cooks who would prefer to make a large batch. Because puris use the same basic ingredients as many Indian breads, the dough can also be used in various different ways; for example, larger chunks of dough may be rolled out and stuffed to make parathas.
Since puris are fried, they can harbor pockets of very hot oil and air. Caution is advised when eating them, to avoid burning the face and mouth. One way to avoid being burned is to tear a puri in half before using it to scoop up food, allowing the puri to vent hot air so that it will not burn you.