Step 1In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the salt and optional anise seed. Add three-fourths cup water in increments just until you achieve a firm, stiff dough that breaks off when you pull, but doesn't stretch. You may need to add a teaspoon or two more of water, but add it only if absolutely necessary. Knead the dough for 1 to 2 minutes to achieve a smooth consistency, then roll it into a ball. Set the dough aside, covered in plastic wrap, for 30 minutes to rest.
Step 2Divide the dough into 15 portions, 20 if you like really small puris, and dust lightly with flour. Roll each piece between your palms until you achieve a ball with a smooth surface. Flatten the dough balls slightly with 3 fingers, then dust lightly again with some flour to facilitate rolling.
Step 3Using a rolling pin, roll out each flattened dough ball into a circle about 4 to 4 1/2 inches across. Sprinkle a little more flour if required, but very little. Dust off excess flour. Place the rolled-out puris on a tray, side by side. Cover with cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel and set aside.
Step 4In a deep saucepan or wok, heat the oil so it is almost smoking or a thermometer inserted reads 375 degrees. To test if the oil is hot enough, drop in a small piece of dough: If it floats, the oil is ready; if not, the oil is not hot enough. Holding the puri at the edge with your fingertips, slide it carefully into the hot oil so that the oil does not splash on your hands. With a large spoon, baste the top of the puri with the oil while it fries. It will puff up in about 15 seconds. Turn it over and fry for another 5 seconds. The puri will be golden, but should not be too dark or crisp. Lift the puri from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a platter lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Stack the puris wrapped in a thick, dry cloth napkin.