These two uniquely Sri Lankan flat breads with the right balance of thick chewy outside and soft inside are good for breakfast with jam/jelly or coconut sambal, or at any time with dahl or fish curry, or simply dipped in tea.
The following procedure can be used to bake these two types of bread to about 80% of authenticity and with some uniqueness.
The recipe for the bread dough is at the end of the procedure. For the novice, it is however convenient to use a 400 -500 g or 1 pound of frozen bread dough purchased from the grocery store.
Both breads are baked sideways. A side of the loaf actually rests on the bottom of the pan during baking.
Theti Paan For the bread; Frozen store bought bread dough (1 lb or 400 or 500 g). Oil or butter Flour for light flouring
Other materials needed:
One 9" x 9" x 2" (22 cm x 22 cm x 5 cm) or a 9" x 18" x 2" (22 cm x 45 cm x 5 cm) baking pan. The measurements are approximate except the depth which should not exceed 2 inches (5 cm). The depth of the pan will be the width of the bread. Another baking tray/sheet such as a cookie sheet or a metal sheet that can rest over the baking pan mentioned above. One brick weighing about 2 lb or (1 kg). This has to be bake-proof. Hence use only a clay brick. These are made by baking. This can be wrapped with aluminum foil if necessary. The bread is forced to expand horizontally by placing the weight over the rising dough. If you can figure out another method you may use that. (Do not use a concrete brick as these are made at lower temperatures by chemical reactions. Baking concrete bricks could be undesirable although they do withstand high heat). Otherwise a heavy skillet or a granite rock will work. Plastic wrap
Procedure 1. Thaw out the bread dough overnight in a refrigerator in a plastic bag to minimize the surface from drying out. 2. Lightly flour the dough to prevent from sticking 3. Rest the dough along the 9 inch (22cm) side of the pan that is lightly oiled and floured. 4. Cover snuggly with plastic wrap. 5. Place the baking sheet over the baking pan. This should be wide enough to rest on the rim of the pan and not on the dough. The bread rises(expands) horizontally within the space that is created with the baking sheet. 6. Place the brick/weight over the baking sheet so that the expanding dough will not lift it. 7. Place in a warm place and let the dough rise. An electric heating pad can be used for this. This takes a little over an hour usually. A heating pad is useful for other needs that require fermentation, such as for hoppers, dosai, idli, ingera (Ethiopian dish similar to hoppers), yoghurt and making home grown sprouts. 8. When the dough has expanded to about 5 inches (12 -13 cm) in length, remove the weight and the upper baking sheet, and carefully remove the plastic wrap. 9. Brush the underside of the baking sheet with oil/butter and place it over the dough so that its edge into the baking pan is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the upper end of the dough. (See the picture). 10. Place the brick/weight back on the baking sheet. 11. Bake in the center rack in a pre-heated oven at 300 (150 C) for about 25 minutes. 12. After 25 minutes, remove the brick/weight and the baking sheet. 13. Continue baking for another 15 minutes at 300 F (150 C). This helps to firm the upper side and form the chewy crust. 14. Increase the temperature to 400 F (200 C). This is mostly to brown the bread and to firm the crust. 15. While the temperature is at 400 F (200 C), watch the bread carefully to make sure that it is browned to the desired color and does not char. This takes about 5 - 10 minutes. Do not use the broiler for this purpose. 16. Soon after removing the bread from the oven, brush/rub this very lightly with a fragrant oil of your choice (olive, coconut, sesame) or butter. I use virgin coconut oil for the authentic aroma and the flavor of Sri Lankan bread. 17. Let the bread cool down completely in a plastic bag. Hot bread fresh off the oven looses its texture and shape if sliced too soon.
Pol sambol/dahl curry/ambul thiyal any one?
Roast Paan The procedure is essentially similar to the making of theti paan. Instead of a baking tray that is 2 inches (5 cm) in depth, use a cookie sheet or a baking sheet that is 1 inch (or 2 -2.5 cm) in height. In addition, divide the dough to two to four equal portions and place in the corners of the cookie sheet. Also do not allow the dough to expand to more than 2.5 times as the resulting bread will be too soft otherwise. The cooking time at 300 F (150 C) is reduced to about 30 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes with the upper tray and the weight, and 10 minutes after removing the upper tray. The browning period at 400 F (200 C) is the same (5-10 minutes). The dimensions of the baking sheet determine the dimensions of the bread. Use your discretion on how many loaves are made. However, avoid baking sheets that are more than 1 inch (2.5cm) deep.
Bread dough recipe *Unbleached white wheat flour 4.5 cups (one cup = 225 ml or 8 fluid ounces) 1 Large egg, beaten Warm water (near body temperature) 1 cup 3 table spoons (around 365 ml total) White sugar 1/4 cup Salt 2 teaspoons **Yeast 1 packet or two leveled teaspoons * Flour: Try to use high gluten flour. These are available in whole food stores. In its absence, try bread flour as this has a higher gluten content. Otherwise mix regular flour with wheat gluten as directed in the packet. **Yeast: Do not attempt to use smaller amounts of yeast. A little excess is ok. Since yeast can be used in many preparations such as bread, hoppers, idli and doasi, it is economical to purchase a large amount of yeast. This can be kept in the freezer for many years.
Bread dough procedure Dissolve the yeast in a portion of the water. In about 10 minutes when the yeast mixture turns frothy, add the beaten egg and the rest of the water to this and mix well. Premix the flour with sugar and salt and add this to the yeast/egg/water mixture and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Over- kneading can result in non-elastic bricky bread. The use of a bread machine in the dough cycle is good for this step and for the first rising. It is good to mix the ingredients by hand first to feel the consistency of the dough. Sometimes you may need to add a little more water or sometimes a little flour to have the right consistency. If a bread machine is not used for the first rising, let the dough rise in a large bowl covered and in a warm place (over an electric heating pad) until doubled in size, pinch down and use the procedure given above for 2 theti paan or 4 roast paan. This is good for 2 loaves of theti paan or 2 regular bread. I usually make one theti paan and two large roast paan with this. In addition, this is also good for about 18-20 naans. If you are making the dough for naan, replace the 3 tablespoons of water with milk. Excess dough can be frozen in a plastic bag for later use.