Recipes | Wholewheat Buns and Spinach Litti – A Healthy Treat from Rustic India
Whole wheat buns/Baatis and Litti Chokha – the two most rustic regional recipes from India invoke a mixed emotion in me. If the later brings back the memory of my carefree days the former reminds me of the insecurity I felt during my childhood. Unable to cope up with the work pressure and childcare my working parents arranged for a 60 something nanny to baby sit me. The most prominent features I could remember about her is her wrinkled face, bony rough hands and the white muslin Potli (pouch) she used to bring daily from her home for her lunch.
She brought these unevenly round whole-wheat buns/baatis neatly packed in a white muslin cloth or potli every day. Hand pound wheat flour to make the buns, firewood used to cook them and fresh ghee smeared over those baatis revealed the hard life of villagers. I used to get scared when she lifted me with her wrinkled hands but loved to bite on those savory buns she brought. The feeling of insecurity of taken care by a stranger was somewhat subsided with these delicacies she brought each day.
Those smoky buns made with hand pound wheat and smothered with fresh Ghee (clarified butter) is hard to forget. I may not have noticed all these features in those buns/baatis then as I was just a toddler. But now when I bake mine I could relate to the same feeling as my Baatis are devoid of these distinct features.
Though these delicacies are referred as ‘poor man’s food’, Dal Baati and Litti Chokha is a very filling & healthy meal for hard working people. The former is a popular meal in the state of Rajasthan and the later is more common in Bihar and other states of India. Both the recipes make a staple food for those working in field and other kind of labour oriented works. Both the meals do not require any modern day cookware or sophisticated methods of cooking.
Normally Litti is made with just wholewheat flour, but I wanted to differentiate between Baati and Litti and added spinach puree to it. The Littis look very pretty and tasted great with spinach puree.
Spinach Baked Buns or Litti
- 2 cups Whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup spinach puree
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil + 1 tbsp.
- 1/2 tsp. onion seeds (Kalonji)
- Salt as desired
- A pinch of baking soda
Filling for Litti
- 1 cup Chickpea flour/besan
- 2 green chilies
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
- 2 tbsp. diced onion
- 1/2 tsp. chopped ginger
- 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
- Salt as desired
Method; Wash and grind a bunch of spinach leaves to make one cup of puree. Take a large bowl and mix flour, baking soda, salt and onion seeds in it. Add 2 tbsp. oil and keep adding spinach puree in small quantity to get soft dough. Dough for Litti should be slightly softer than that of whole wheat buns or baati.
Roast the chickpea flour on medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Peel and slice onion into very fine pieces. Grate ginger, chop fresh coriander leaves and 3-4 small garlic pearls.
Mix all the ingredients for filling. Sprinkle a few drops of water just to bind the filling, do not make it too liquid. You could avoid water and use the dry filling also.
Take small dough of Litti about the size of a tennis ball and make a round. Flatten it a slightly and fill 2 teaspoons of the chickpea flour filling in it. Bring all the sides together and close the circle completely, roll in to make a round ball and flatten it slightly. Make all the Littis in a similar way.
You can use the following two ways to cook these Littis;
1. Pan fry; Heat a girdle and sprinkle a little oil over it, place a few Littis in the pan and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn to other side and cook for another 5 minutes till it becomes golden brown from outside.
2. Oven bake; Brush all the prepared Littis in a large baking tray and brush them with butter or ghee. Bake them at 200°C for 20-25 minutes, rotating them after every 10 minutes for even baking.
These Littis are served with brinjal or potato chokha or any chutney. Crush the Littis slightly keeping in between palm and place them in a serving dish. Pour melted butter or ghee as you desire and serve with Brinjal or Potato chokha.
Wholewheat Savory Buns or Baati
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
- ½ cup semolina
- 2 tbsp. butter/ghee
- ½ tsp. carom seeds or ajwain
- ¼ tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup or less warm water
- Salt as desired
Method; Mix whole wheat flour, semolina (suji/rawa), salt, baking powder, carom seeds in a large bowl. Add butter or ghee and rub it into the dry ingredients with finger tips.
Add warm water little by little to bind all the ingredients together into a hard dough. Cover it with a plate and keep aside for 30 minutes.
Make small rounds of the size of tennis balls from the dough. You can use two ways to cook the buns or baatis;
- Boil and roast; Place a large vessel fill with about one liter of water on the stove and let it boil. Add all the buns into the boiling water and cook for 10-12 minutes. Take out the buns from the hot water and keep them in a flat plate. You can slice each bun into two and shallow fry them in oil, or bake all the buns at 200°C for 15 minutes in an oven.
- Baked buns; Brush all the prepared buns in a large baking tray and brush them with butter or ghee. Bake them at 200°C for 30 minutes, rotating them after every 10 minutes for even baking.
To serve these baked buns or baatis, crush each bun slightly using both the palms such that the buns do not break completely but hold the shape. Place the crushed bun in a plate and pour melted butter or ghee over it. Serve it with mixed Lentil, Brinjal or Potato chokha or pickle.
My grandmom used to soak the baked buns/Baatis in a large bowl of ghee for an hour before serving …I can see many eyes popping through my screen
Serve these scrumptious savory buns/ Baati and Littis with mixed lentil, brinjla chokha or potato chokha.
- Avoid baking powder in the recipe if you are using the boiling method for making the Buns or baatis.
- Homemade wheat flour gives the best results, the Buns/baatis come out more crisp and crumbly.
- Use boiled and mashed potatoes as the filling for Litti.