Searching for wheat/bread alternatives for my corn- and wheat-free kids, I have crossed paths with the South Indian specialities, Dosa and Uttapam. These are made from a thick fermented rice and lentil batter; for dosa, the batter is thinned quite a bit, and they come out like toasty crepes, while uttapam are thicker, like pancakes or crumpets. There are other versions as well, such as the steamed Idli, and various fried fritter-like snacks, which use the thick batter with no liquid added at all.
For anyone who wants to follow along, I will update this post over the coming weeks as I continue to experiment.
In my research into how to make dosa, I have seen proportions ranging from 1:1 lentils to rice, to 1:3 lentils to rice, with several different types of rice and lentils, additional ingredients, and with many variations in prep techniques. I am starting out by using approximately 1:2. I just bought a new blender, which is able to get the batter a bit smoother then my food processor (it still has some gritty bits in it). I have been making small, rather chewy dosa, using a portion of my quite thick batter diluted with buttermilk. They are like flat english muffins or crumpets, but much more satisfying, and absolutely divine with butter and marmalade.
Dosa batter (plain)
- Measure out lentils and rice in a proportion of 1:2 (i.e., 1/2 cup of lentils to 1 cup of rice). Pick out any rocks; brief rinse optional.
- Soak both in non-chlorinated water to cover, on the counter for 4-6 hours.
- Using a blender or food processor, grind lentils and rice until smooth in small batches, using as little of the soaking water as is needed to keep the contents moving.
- Put batter into a glass bowl or jar large enough to allow the batter to expand (almost double), and stir well.
- Cover loosely and leave batter on counter or in a warm spot for 10-20 hours, stirring once or twice, until the batter has expanded, looks frothy, smells tangy, and has a consistency almost like marshmallow fluff.
- The batter is now ready to use, or to put up in the fridge, where it will keep for a week or more without care.
Mini Buttermilk Dosa instructions
- Scoop out a portion of dosa batter
- Thin batter with buttermilk until a thin pacake/thick crepe batter consistency
- Heat nonstick griddle to around 300F
- Oil very lightly
- Ladle small portions of batter onto griddle
- Beginning in the center of each portion of batter, use the bottom of the ladle (or the flat bottom of a measuring cup) to swirl the batter into thin, even circles
- Allow to cook until the bottom is toasted golden-tan (be patient)
- Flip over and press flat with spatula
- Allow to cook on this side untill some toasty patches appear (again, be patient)
- Remove and serve immediately, or allow to cool on a wire rack before freezing
Notes on dosa-making
I am using Jiva Organics Urad Dal, and Vedica Organics Rice Parmal, both of which I purchased from Amazon.com. From what I have read, it sounds like you can really use any type and combination, so feel free to experiment and see what you get for results, or explore others' recipes.
If you have a municipal water, you will need something more powerful than a Britta filter, or you may need to use bottled water. Trace chlorine in the soaking water will kill the wild yeasts in the batter, and prevent the batter from fermenting.
Many recipes suggest soaking and grinding rice and lentils separately from each other, as one grinds up easier than the other, and then you don’t subject the whole business to excess heat from processing. So far, I have not done this, since I am trying to keep it simple, but I might.
Traditional dosa batter is meant to be silky smooth - something made possible by a wet grinder, but unattainable with a food processor. I have had these fine-ground dosa in restaurants, and they certainly are elegant. However, I am happy with the chewy texture that my more grainy batter gives, particularly in the small format dosa I am making.
Be sure to save a bit of your batter as a starter for your next batch. After soaking and grinding the fresh batter, stir into the remains of the previous batch, and fermentation will happen much more quickly.
Traditionally, dosa and its variations are made using only water as the liquid (not buttermilk), and often have fenugreek seeds or other flavorings, which may be soaked right along with the lentils and rice, or blended into the batter just before cooking. Large-format dosa are also served wrapped around all manner of fillings, like a crepe. If you are the adventurous type, I think only your imagination would limit what could be done with this marvelously fluffy, tangy batter. I am anticipating experiments with muffins, quick breads and waffles, and I promise to post updates to let you know how it goes! Please let me know if you have any ideas.