You know when it’s really cold out but you’re tucked under a thick blanket, all warm and toasty? These fluffy, flaky kulchas are like eating that feeling of hazy bliss. You should expect nothing less from a flatbread that’s layered with butter like a croissant, then stuffed to bursting with potatoes and melty cheese.
Kulchas are similar to naan in that both are leavened and traditionally cooked in a blazing hot tandoor. But kulchas have the added bonus of more fat to keep them soft and flaky, plus all kinds of fillings like potato, paneer, cauliflower, mushrooms, and, on the rare occasion, truffles and blue cheese. The very best ones are from Amritsar in Punjab where they’re made with sourdough or dry yeast, more crunchy than bready and served with pools of salty, yellow butter and slow-cooked chickpea curry.
While I make no claims of authenticity in this recipe, I created it along the lines of an Amritsari kulcha. The dough is soft (but not sticky!) and the filling comes together in the oven, mostly hands-free. Using soft butter on soft dough to laminate, you can quickly build 10 or 12 layers for a fair bit of flake without the faff. Spring for some top-notch butter here—it really does make a difference to the taste. I love a cultured butter for its assertive twang.
You can knock together the recipe in a couple of hours but, should you want, you can also make the filling a day ahead. Just let it come to room temperature before stuffing the kulchas, so it’s pliable and doesn’t tear the dough.
This dough goes against pretty much every rule: Smother it with flour! Use soft butter! Throw away the rolling pin! It’s freeing, is what it is. After the initial rise, it will look suspiciously spongy and gloopy. This is a mistake, you will say. Why did I waste my time, you will think. I’m here to tell you, you are on the right path, and it will lead to finding your truth amongst the wispy, crispy flakes of a golden flatbread. —Shilpa Uskokovic
- Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
- Cook time 25 minutes
- makes 6 kulchas
- Kulcha Dough
(250 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
(50 grams) whole-wheat flour
fine sea salt
instant dry yeast
1 1/4 cups
(300 grams) warm water (approximately 120°F)
(85 grams) very soft butter
- Potato Filling
(11-ounce / 300-gram) Yukon Gold or white potato, peeled
neutral oil (like sunflower or avocado)
Fine sea salt
(1/2 to 1 bunch, depending on the size) Swiss chard
(1 bunch) scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
cheddar, shredded (or another grateable, melty cheese you love)
- Heat the oven to 375°F with a rack positioned in the lower third.
- In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, the sugar, salt, and yeast. Add the warm water and stir, using a sturdy silicone spatula, till there are no spots of dry flour and a slack, bumpy dough forms. Cover the bowl with a plate or lid and let the dough rise in a warm place (around 75 to 80°F) for 1 hour while you get on with the filling.
- Dice the potato into roughly 1/2-inch cubes and chuck it into a 8- to 9-inch skillet (preferably well seasoned cast iron so nothing sticks or you could use a parchment-lined quarter sheet pan instead). Pour the water and oil over the potato chunks, add the ground turmeric and a fat pinch of salt and toss to coat. Roast the potatoes in the oven for 20 minutes.
- While the potatoes are roasting, remove the stems from the Swiss chard and finely mince them. Roughly chop the leaves and reserve separately.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven and add the minced Swiss chard stems, scallions, caraway and nigella seeds. Stir, then return to the oven for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, add the Swiss chard leaves on top and continue to bake till the chard is wilted, about 10 minutes. By now, the potatoes should be tender and fully cooked. Remove the pan from the oven and crush the potatoes, using a fork or potato masher, ensuring there are no large lumps. Let the mixture cool fully, then stir the cheese through. Season with salt to taste. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions (approximately 80 grams each). Roll each portion into a ball and set aside.
- Turn up the oven to 400°F. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Use about 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour to very generously dust a work surface. Use a plastic bowl scraper or spatula to turn the dough out onto the floured surface and dust it with more flour. With your hands, pat the dough into a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick (or roughly the surface area of a half sheet pan). If there is so much flour that you can’t see the dough, dust off some with a pastry brush.
- Use a small offset spatula to spread about 4 tablespoons of butter onto the dough, like you’re buttering your morning toast.
- Starting from one long side, fold the dough in thirds like you would a letter. Dust the dough lightly with flour and with your hands, press the dough into a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons of soft butter over the dough as evenly as possible.
- Starting from one long side, roll the dough up like you’re making cinnamon rolls and pinch the seams closed. The dough is very soft, so the roll may be misshapen but that’s okay. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the dough into 6 equal portions (approximately 115 grams each).
- Working with one portion of dough at a time, flip the dough cut side down onto a generously floured counter. Use your fingers to pat it into a 5-inch circle. Place one portion of the potato filling in the center of the dough circle, then bring up the dough and pinch the top closed, sealing the filling within. This looks like a lot of filling but the dough is super extensible and you can tug at it as needed. If any butter bursts through the dough, simply dust the spot with more flour.
- Pat the ball into a 6-inch circle. Use a pastry brush to flick away excess flour on both sides of the kulcha, then transfer it to the prepared sheet pan. Repeat in the same way with the remaining dough and filling to make 5 more kulchas.
- Bake the kulchas, 3 each on a sheet pan, in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, till they’re slightly puffed and the bottoms are flaky and golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let the kulchas cool for 5 minutes before tearing into them.