Cookbook #37: Bread: From Sourdough to Rye

Adapted from Cookbook #37:  Bread: From Sourdough to Rye  (2005)

Recipe:  Masala Dosa with Spicy Potatoes and Spinach
--> Well, that didn't work out so well.  It's been a while since we have had a failure, and last night we had one.

Dosa is an astonishing Southern Indian pancake/flatbread made from a fermented batter of rice and dhal. It's India's version of the Crepe!  I love the Crepe! See here and here.  Rich in carbohydrates and protein, unfilled dosa are eaten with a fresh, moist coconut chutney for breakfast.  But for a full meal, just add spicy potatoes or spinach or both.  This is a meal I can get behind.

However, dinner didn't quite go like that for me.

Two nights ago, I soaked the rice and dhal.  The next morning I ground them up and set them atop the stove for a 12-hour fermentation.  I came home about ten hours later and noticed the batter wasn't bubbly enough, so I turned on the stove to 200, but left the bowl on the counter.  The kitchen heated up a little, and by the time I came back to the batter two hours later, we had full bubble.   All signs pointed to success.  I heated the griddle.  I poured my first dosa.

It was a failure.

But the first pancake is always a failure, so I was not daunted.  I scraped that one off, let it cool, and snacked on the pieces as I poured the second one. And oh, those pieces tasted so good, so perfectly dosa-like.  I couldn't wait to eat a fully-formed dosa filled to the brim with spinach and potato masala.  Last night's dinner was going to be oh so good.

So I stood at the stove, waiting.  Second dosa was cooking.  But then... failure.  Another half formed, lumpy pancake that flopped to a mass of goo when I tried to lift it.  What? How could this be happening?  Once again, I scraped it off.  This time I didn't eat the pieces.

So I called in the big guns.  The husband.  He has a patience I do not understand.  Often when something goes awry in the kitchen, it is because I have no patience (yeah, latkes are not easy for me.  You have to wait.  They will become yummy goodness, but you have to be PATIENT).  So I thought this was merely a matter of me being too antsy with the dosa.  And as you can see, nope.  Even in the hands of a master, still the pancake ended up a mess.

Something seemed to be amiss with the batter.  Was it my dhal?  Maybe we didn't get the right kind?  Was it the proportions?  Too much rice?  Too much dhal?  Too much water?  I am not sure.  However, I know I want to try this again, because, oh the deliciousness of the bread, people!  But here's a link and another for other dosas.  Maybe these recipes will bring better luck.  But they don't look all that different from the recipe below.  If yours turn out better, please tell me the secret.

In the end, I did have a fantastic bowl of potatoes and spinach masala.  The whole mustard seeds and cumin seeds were amazing, and there was a bit of heat because of the red pepper.  So all was not lost. 

I haven't had many failures here on Page 210.  Since I have been away for so long (school started, birthday happened), this was a somewhat uninspiring return.  I hope to  have a couple more fantastic recipes for you by the end of the week (I am a week behind now).

In the mean time, I am sticking to take out Indian food.

Makes about 10 dosa, serves about 4-6

Scant 3/4 cup basmati rice
Scant 1/2 cup urid dhal (white Indian lentils without skins)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
peanut or sunflower oil

Spicy Potato Filling
2 tablespoons ghee or peanut oil
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 medium-hot green chile, such as serrano, or to taste, seeded and thinly sliced
Pinch of ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 lb. large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 cups trimmed spinach leaves
Salt and Pepper, to taste

To Make the Dosa
1. Start the batter the day before serving.  Parboil the rice in enough water to cover it generously until the grains are still firm in center, about 4-5 minutes.  Drain well, then let cool.

2.  Put the parboiled rice into a measuring cup to calculate its volume, then tip into a large bowl.  Stir in twice its volume of cold water (about 3 cups), cover, and let soak overnight.

3.  Put the dhal into another bowl, cover with 1 cup cold water, and let soak overnight.

4.  Next morning, drain the rice.  Put it into a food processor and blend for 1 minute.  Slowly add 1/2 cup cold water to make a smooth paste.  Put the rice batter in a large bowl.

5.  Rise out the processor owl, then add the drained dhal and process as before, adding about 2-5 tablespoons cold water to make a smooth paste.  Add to the rice batter and stir.

6.  Add the salt and cumin, then cover the bowl with a dry cloth and let ferment at room temperature for about 12 hours.  The batter is well fermented when it has become a mass of bubbles.

7.  When ready to cook, stir enough water to make a medium-thick pouring consistency, like pancake batter.

8.  Heat a griddle pan until very hot.  Lightly grease with half an onion or a piece of paper towel dipped in oil.  Pour a spoonful of batter onto the hot surface, then use the back of the spoon to spread it with a thin spiral motion, much like you would a crepe.  Brush a little extra oil onto the edges of the dosa, and cook until the base is crisp and golden.

9.  Using a long flexible spatula, lift off the dosa.

To Make the Filling
1.  Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet.  Add the whole spices and cook for 1 minute until the mustard seeds start to pop.  Stir in the fresh chile and the ground spices and stir for 1 minute.

2.  Add the potatoes to the skillet.  Stir well to coat in the spices; then lower the heat, cover with lid, and cook gently, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, rinse the spinach ad shake off the excess water; then put into a large, dry saucepan and cook, stirring frequently, in its own steam over medium heat until wilted.  Drain thoroughly then chop coarsely.

4.  Uncover the potatoes and turn up the heat.  Stirring frequently, cook for a few minutes until starting brown, then stir in the spinach and salt to taste.

5.  Spoon some of the filling onto the dosa, and wrap each dosa individually.


  1. the spinach-potato looks just delicious! very impressive effort in making dosas too; I am a South Indian and have been experimenting making doses with various grains including rye grain, amaranth grain, teff flour etc (using urad dal as the main base). For brown rice dose, I use 1 cup brown basmati rice and only half a cup of urad dal, rinse them thoroughly and soak them overnight. Then, I grind them in a regular blender with around one cup of water and one spoon of salt till very smooth (almost like a paste); cover it and ferment it overnight to make doses the next day. If it gets too fermented in summer, I put the batter back in the fridge. yes, the consistency of the batter should be that of pancakes or, a little bit thicker. Please try these proportions and see how it goes:)


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