Few things identify so strongly with the culture of a country. By country I mean Trinidad, by thing I mean food and by food I mean Doubles.
Doubles is truly the King of street food in Trinidad, and doubles vendors can be found nationwide. Parked with their carts on pavements throughout the country, vendors can be found outside hospitals, on street corners, outside schools and even under flyovers (highway overpass). Yep, they’ve got more locations covered than starbucks.Jump to Recipe
What exactly is doubles?
In layman’s terms, it’s a chick pea sandwich. Specifically, a savory spiced chickpea (channa) filling sandwiched in between two pieces of fried dough. Now I’m gonna be honest with you…you know I always tell you like I see it… doubles isn’t exactly the most handsome fella around. He’s a sloppy mess, not very appealing in the looks category and definitely not photogenic. But, he’s a cheap thrill that fills you up and gets your tastebuds going.
What doubles lack in appearance, it makes up for in flavour. The toppings make this simple street food spectacular: fruit chutneys made from mango, golden apple, tamarind and coconut, a raw cucumber relish that’s very popular, ground culantro sauce commonly referred to as “green sauce” and the ever so popular hot sauce. Hot sauce is so popular there’s even a roasted variety commonly referred to as “Roast”. I’ve personally never tried it, and I’m gonna keep it real as they say and admit I’m too scared to try because you can smell the heat from a mile away! Bottom line: the toppings add interest, elevate the flavour and add texture to what would otherwise be a basic fried snack.
If you’ve never heard about doubles, it’s safe to say you’ve never been to Trinidad, or met a Trini (local). Trinidadians are so very proud of their country and more so of its culinary offerings, especially Doubles. Move over steel pan, Doubles is the new national beacon.
With doubles being as popular as it is, it only made sense that I give it a go in the kitchen and that’s exactly what I set out to do. How to make the best doubles ever…here we come!
In preparation, I reviewed my behind the scenes footage (from that time I was invited for a tasting) of doubles being made at a popular Toronto Caribbean Restaurant. I also asked a few experienced Trinidadian cooks for their doubles know-how. Heads up…the older Trini folks never ever give measurements…it’s always a pinch of this, and an eyeball of that…and tips like “feel it, it should be soft soft, but not too soft”. What does that even mean?!
Well, in my quest for answers I asked someone else what “soft soft, but not too soft” meant to which I received the response “A lil (little) soft”. It’s times like these that require the greatest of poker faces.
And then there’s conflicting advice: “Put a tip (pinch) of curry powder in the channa (chick peas)” to which someone else directly responded “Yuh Dotish! (don’t be silly!), yuh doh (don’t) put curry in channa unless yuh (you are) making curry channa!”
So even though I was left more confused than when I started (shhh…don’t tell them that), I appreciated their expert Trini insight and I was grateful to them for allowing me to ask my questions. So if any of you ever see Kaloutie, Jasso, Sumintra, Sandra and Christina from Trinidad…thank them for me again.
Okay, so enough of the rambling. It’s time to move on to the real reason you’re here: How to make doubles.
The Bara (dough)
In my opinion the perfect doubles bara should be soft, thin yet sturdy enough to handle piping hot channa, flexible and with a nice little chew. Doubles dough isn’t very complicated and it requires just a handful of ingredients but achieving that perfect texture is where it can get tricky.
In my quest for doubles perfection I made 5 different doughs. Yep…I took this thing seriously! In the kitchen I decided to conduct a little experiment. The goal: to discover the best doubles making technique that would yield the ultimate texture. All of the ingredients remained the same (as listed in the recipe box), except in Dough 1 =no baking powder and Dough 5= sourdough starter. I also varied the days the dough was made and I observed the water absorption as well as the texture. I also varied the resting times.
Bara Dough Balls Bara dough balls : close up
Here’s what I discovered:
- You can make an incredibly soft flexible dough without baking powder but it yields a thinner bara. Baking powder makes a fluffier poof-ier bara when fried.
- The dough needs to be soft and slightly sticky to yield the best texture. After adding the ingredients the dough is a cohesive mass, very sticky at first but as it absorbs water and after the oil is incorporated it becomes smoother, firmer and much more flexible.
- If the dough is too sticky to work with, leave it alone for 5 to 10 mins and then resume handling it. This gives it time to absorb some of the water making it more manageable.
- On hotter humid days the dough absorbs water differently. It is always best to add the water gradually and observe the dough. Different brands of flour, types of flour as well as temperature and humidity all affect dough outcome. 1/2 cup of water can safely be added and the rest of the water should be drizzled in a bit at a time. Squeezing the dough after each water addition incorporates the water much better than simply stirring it in.
- The longer the dough rests, the better the texture.
- Oil is necessary. The oil tenderizes for a soft texture and lubricates the dough for stretching. (important when forming the bara pre-frying).
- The frying oil should be at a medium high heat and preheated for a few minutes before cooking. Baras will immediately float and start puffing up as they hit the oil. Frying literally takes seconds. Over frying the dough leads to tougher baras.
- To get a darker appearance (a little more colour) fry Baras for an additional second on each side or increase the oil temperature slightly.
- Stack fried Baras on top each other to maintain heat, and cover them well. The resulting steam produced from the hot baras will allow them to keep their soft texture and moisture.
Dough Resting Time
I got the best baras from a dough that relaxed on the kitchen counter for 1 hour after kneading followed by 19 hours in the refrigerator. The dough was removed from the fridge 1 hour and 30 mins before frying giving it a total resting time of 21 hours and 30 mins. I would not recommend resting the dough longer than 24 hours when using instant or dry active yeast because the dough can over proof and deflate. If you want to skip the overnight process you can still make doubles on the same day but it’s important to remember to rest the dough for at least 4 hours. No short cuts, wait 4 hours!
One of the most important things I learned from my experiment : Longer rest time = Better flavour and texture. When comparing dough, the one that proved minimally (4 hours on the counter) reacted differently to the dough that proved for a longer period. The overnight dough (in the fridge for a longer period) produced far more flexible baras: they stretched paper thin without tearing, were incredibly soft, slightly chewy and smelled and tasted amazing.
Can you make Sourdough Doubles?
Yes! You can definitely make sourdough baras for your doubles.
The sourdough process of a longer resting time, overnight proving, slow fermentation of the dough is perfect because that’s exactly what the dough needs for the best results.
Use 3/4 cups fed, active starter and slightly less water than listed in the recipe. Combine all the ingredients, let it sit out on the counter for 5 hours. Lightly knead and shape into a ball, cover then allow an overnight rest of 17 hours in the fridge. After 17 hours divide the dough into bara dough balls, straight from the fridge.
I tried this method and the results were phenomenal! I think I’ll be making a lot more sourdough baras in the future that’s for sure.
Resting the dough after combing ingredients A close up of the dough Reshaped and ready for an overnight prove in the fridge
Doubles Dough Bonus!
Can you guess what else you can make out of doubles dough?
Well….while experimenting (I did mention earlier I had a lot of dough keeping me company) I discovered this fantastic doubles tidbit:
Bara dough also makes fantastic hot dog buns. Yep! You heard it from me and you heard it here first!
Now you’re probably asking yourself how the heck does one move from doubles to hot dog buns…well…I don’t really have a straight answer for you other than “why the heck not?”
I think the basic point to remember is bara dough is essentially a type of bread dough so, you can pretty much treat it as you would a yeast dough. Yeast doughs always develop more aroma, flavour and better texture when they’re given a slow rise overnight in the refrigerator.
The Channa (chickpea filling)
Doubles channa is all about texture. The best channa is always steaming hot and saucy. Yep…nice and saucy! The right amount of saucy. The gravy/sauce should have substance and a slight thickness to it. It shouldn’t be a soupy thin liquid mess but, it should still be a bit messy…the right kind of messy. The channa shouldn’t be too thick either. You definitely don’t want an immovable thick mass of chickpeas on your bara. As far as substance goes, you want a good mix of whole chickpea grains and gravy. What’s important to note is the gravy is made up of cooking starches and softened broken down chickpeas.
What you’re aiming for is the “Goldilocks Zone”, not too thick, not too thin…just right. Oh, and I’m also certain that if Goldilocks were in Trinidad, she’d be stealing hot doubles, not porridge. Side note, that Goldilocks sure had some audacity. Breaking in to the Bear’s house and violating their personal space. In Trinidad there’s a word for her… “Bold Face”.
Anyways…the sauciness should make you want to wear a bib in public because a good, steaming hot, saucy doubles is a messy affair.
Now when it comes to taste, everyone has a personal preference but I like a clean flavour profile, not too complicated, earthy, savory, and seasoned just right. That being said, the doubles channa process is pretty easy and follows a few simple steps, the first of which is soaking your dried chickpeas.
Chickpeas /Channa Preparation
When preparing your dried chick peas it’s very important to soak them overnight in plenty of water. Rehydrating the peas is an essential step that will save you lots of time. As dried peas/beans age they lose their moisture content, further hardening their exterior. The use of baking soda in the soaking and cooking process can significantly improve cook time as well as texture by breaking down their tough exteriors. If you choose not to use baking soda, you can cook your chickpeas in a pressure cooker to reduce cook time and get tender results.
What does adding baking soda to peas/beans do?
According to some studies, the addition of baking soda to the soaking water significantly decreases the raffinose family of oligosaccharides (a type of sugar that’s difficult to digest) in peas/beans. Oligosaccharides can cause the production of excess gas leading to bloating and overall discomfort. Bottom line, a wee bit of baking soda reduces the unpleasant “gassy effect”.
Adding a tiny amount of baking soda to cooking water can significantly reduce the cooking time. There are quite a few studies that explain the scientific impact of baking soda and its effect on peas/beans. It supposedly provides an alkaline environment that peas/beans favour and as a result they cook much faster. Some experiments state that baking soda helps to tenderize peas/beans by speeding up the breakdown of pectin, which is what gives the cells structure.
Disadvantages of using Baking Soda in Beans/peas:
It’s important to remember to use a minimal amount of baking soda as too much of it can give your chickpeas a soapy taste. There’s some debate as to the use of baking soda, some folks favour it, some folks are absolutely against it. There’s the belief that it reduces the nutritional value in the peas/beans, as well as affect the natural balance in the gut.
Bottom line – When it comes to your chickpeas, it’s your call on if you want to add baking soda or not. My recipe uses a minimal amount in both the soaking and cooking phase and I’ve had successful results.
Can you substitute canned chickpeas for dried?
Certainly! For canned chickpeas use 2 cans, each with a net weight of 400g, drained weight=240g. Just drain and thoroughly wash the chickpeas before adding them to the cooking water. No soaking required. Follow the recipe below and re-adjust your seasonings and salt.
Now here’s my observation: the canned chickpeas required double the amount of seasonings as the dried peas. It could possibly be the brand I used, or it could be the added preservatives (in canned chickpeas) that prevented them from absorbing all the flavours. While the texture was practically identical to the cooked dried chickpeas, I did notice a discernable difference in taste. For the best results I would highly recommend using dried instead of canned.
Convenience Tips – The day before making doubles:
Prepare your dough the day before, allow it to rest on the counter for one hour, then place it in the refrigerator overnight. When the dough is proving, you’re sleeping…so it works out perfectly.
Follow the instructions in the recipe for the chickpeas. When they become tender (before adding in the seasonings and spices) remove from the stove. Drain any excess water (if there is an excessive amount) allow to cool slightly, then add to an airtight container and place into the fridge. And voila, you’ve already reduced your cooking time by 3/4!
The next day just finish cooking the chickpeas and fry your dough. Simple does it!
So there you have it, my comprehensive guide on doubles, as well as all my findings.
I’ve tested this recipe many times and I can say with certainty that it has yielded delicious tasting doubles every time. Soft stretchy Baras and tender, spiced Channa that has a creamy and smooth texture when eaten.
This doubles recipe is very simple, and I’ve broken it down into manageable steps that’ll have you eating your very own “hot on the spot” doubles in no time.
Kitchen tested, Trini taste tested and approved…..I give to you, The Ultimate Doubles Recipe.
The Ultimate Doubles RecipeCourse: AppetizersCuisine: CaribbeanDifficulty: Easy
- Bara (Dough)
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1tsp yeast (instant or active dry)
1 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cups water (have extra on hand just in case)
1 1/2 tbsp. oil (neutral oil like canola)
2 tbsp. oil for dough balls
oil for frying
- Channa (Chickpea Filling)
400 g dried chickpeas (I used a smaller grain variety)
1 tsp. baking soda divided (1/2tsp for soaking 1/2 tsp for cooking)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup green seasoning (+ a little extra on hand)
2 cloves of garlic (finely grated)
1 tsp roasted cumin (geera)
scant 1/4 tsp. tumeric powder (I used about half = 1/8 tsp.)
water for soaking, rinsing and cooking.
- Bara Dough
- Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Whisk to combine.
- Add the yeast*
- Add the water a bit at a time.* You can safely add 1/2 cup of water, then add the rest in small additions until your dough comes together. There should be no dry flour in the bowl, and the dough should be pulling away from the edges. The dough will be a bit sticky and not very smooth at first.*
- Drizzle in 1 tbsp. of oil. Pull the edges of the dough towards the centre, following the circumference of the dough. Do this a few times until the oil has been incorporated into the dough.
- Place the dough into a bowl that has room for it to expand, then drizzle the remaining 1/2 tsp of oil on top the dough. Gently rub the top surface.
- Cover tightly with cling film, then allow to rest on the counter for at least 4-6 hours.*
- Using oiled hands, break the dough into small balls, resting them on an oiled surface. Cover them with oiled cling film while they rest.
- To a pot add enough oil to fill it half way. Allow the oil to heat up on a medium high heat for about 5-7 mins.
- Oil your hands, as well as the surface that the dough is to be stretched on. Spread each dough ball outwards to form a very thin disk.
- Fry for 2 secs. on each side.
- The night before add the chickpeas to a large bowl, then add enough water to cover. The chickpeas should have about an inch of water covering them.
- To the water add 1/2 tsp baking soda, stir to combine, then allow to rest overnight.
- Drain the water from the soaked chickpeas. Rinse well. Drain
- Add about 6 cups of water to a pot, 1/2 tsp of baking soda, 1 tsp. salt and the chickpeas. Stir to combine, and bring to a boil.
- Cook until tender (this could take anywhere from 30 mins to 1 hour depending on the chickpeas)* and remove any foam that appears on the surface while boiling.
- Add 1 cup water*, green seasoning, grated garlic, roasted cumin, sugar, tumeric powder and stir to combine.
- Cook for an additional 15-20 mins. As it cooks use your spoon to mash a few of the grains, tenderizing/softening the chickpeas as you mash. This will help thicken up the gravy.*
- Taste for salt, and add a little extra green seasoning and roasted cumin depending on your personal preference.
- Yeast: I used active dry yeast in my recipe experiments as well as sourdough starter.
- Sourdough: Substitute 1 tsp. yeast with 3/4 cups fed sourdough starter. Allow to rest for 5 hours on the counter, reshape and prove overnight. Form dough balls straight out of the fridge.
- Dough: If you find the dough too sticky to manage, leave it alone for 5 mins. then attempt to work with it again. After 5 mins the dough will absorb some of the water. This dough is meant to be sticky and moist. Avoid adding more flour = it will dry out the dough and toughen the texture.
- If you’re not resting your dough overnight in the fridge, the dough should prove for at least 4 hours at room temperature. For best results, allow the dough to rest 1 hour at room temperature, then overnight in the refrigerator.
- Frying: Avoid frying the dough for longer than the recommended time. Frying for longer periods will result in tougher baras. Ensure the oil is sufficiently hot, but not smoking. A cast iron pot maintains heat evenly and is recommended for frying.
- Chickpeas Cook Time: My chickpeas cooked in about 30mins but you’ll know when they’re ready because the majority of cooking water will have evaporated and you should easily be able to soften a grain between two fingers with minimal effort.
- Chickpeas Water: Depending on the quality of chickpeas, you might have to cook them longer and add more water until tender. After seasoning, you may also have to add additional water, up to 1/2 cup more depending on the consistency of your gravy.
- Chickpeas Gravy: I recommend taking it off the stove while slightly runny because as the mixture cools it will thicken up significantly.