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Puri is a type of bread that originated in Southern India and remains popular in the region and in Southeast Asia. It is made from a simple flour-and-water dough that has some oil added before being rolled into flat, round sheets and deep fried. This process causes the bread to fill with steam and puff up. The oil cooks the flour so the puri is able to maintain its inflated shape even after it has cooled. The bread can be eaten for breakfast, alongside curries or with other any other type of spicy Indian dish.
The flour used to make puri can vary, but it is almost never made with pure bleached white flour. The dough is usually made from wheat flour or a mix of wheat flour and some other type of flour, such as lentil flour. Water is added to the flour along with some oil and then mixed together until everything is incorporated.
The puri dough must then be kneaded for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. During this time, the dough will develop a silky texture and eventually become smooth when formed into a ball. At this point, the dough is allowed to rest for 30 minutes or longer in a warm place so the gluten relaxes. Using the dough without resting it first usually results in dough that has a brittle and unyielding texture and is difficult to roll out.
Once rested, the dough is divided into smaller pieces and each piece is formed into a small ball. This ball is rolled out until it has formed a thin, flat circle. It is important to roll out all of the puri dough before cooking begins to prevent burning and other complications that can arise.
A pan that is large enough to hold the circles of dough and has some depth is filled with vegetable oil or ghee and heated until the oil is ready to be used. One at a time, the pieces of dough are gently placed in the hot oil, where it will immediately start to cook and form bubbles on its surface. Oil that is not warm enough will cause the dough to drop to the bottom of the pan and do nothing. Oil that is too warm will likely result in burned bread.
Once in the oil, the key to getting the puri to puff up is to use a utensil to push it toward the bottom of the pan. The best method for doing this is to push the dough down gently in the oil, let it float up a little, then push it down again, much like dunking a teabag. After only a minute or two, the bread will puff up. At this point, the bread is turned and allowed to cook for 30 seconds on the opposite side before being taken out of the oil and allowed to dry and cool.
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