This particular post has been long overdue on this blog. A lot has been happening these past few months, though not big or important enough to share, that has kept me otherwise occupied. The unexpected loss of our beloved 5 year old cocker spaniel was sort of the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and we’ve still not got used to the thought that he is no longer with us.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been finding difficult to actually get down to writing a post though I’m not short of ideas nor have I lost my love for blogging. So this post is for Saee though it’s come much later than I promised her. I’m sure most Indian food bloggers know Saee Koranne-Khandekar and her blog My Jhola. She is not just a food blogger but someone who also loves baking her own bread and is quite good at it. Her book on bread baking, published recently by Hachette is called Crumbs! Bread Stories and Recipes For The Indian Kitchen. It’s a book that focuses on baking bread in India with locally available ingredients.
As someone who loves reading, enjoys good food and has a thing for baking her own bread a bread book is something I definitely look forward to. So when Hachette called saying Saee wanted me to have a copy of her book, I couldn’t wait to see how her book was. I wasn’t disappointed when it arrived. Saee’s book Crumbs! Bread Stories and Recipes for the Indian Kitchen is just the thing for anyone in India who would love to start baking their own bread with ingredients that are locally available. If you have lived in India and had to rely on books with recipes written for Americans and Europeans you would know how difficult it is to find even the most basic ingredients in them, here in India.
Her book starts with a basic introduction to bread and its history and then Saee addresses all the basics of making bread from discussing the types of yeast, flours and tools used for making bread, what exactly proofing is, the whole bread making process, and also includes a troubleshooting guide. Then come the recipes categorized as Basic Breads, International Favourites, Artisan Breads, Classic Indian Breads, Unleavened Indian Breads, ending with sections on how to use leftover bread, and recipes for bread spreads like jam, chutneys and butters.
If you’re starting out experimenting with bread, this is a good book to have as it runs you through a lot of the basic breads and some advanced breads as well. One of the issues I have with this cookbook is not restricted to this book in particular but a lot of cookbooks published in India. I don’t understand the need to put all the colour food photographs lumped together in the middle of the book! It might turn out cheaper to publish but it really makes no sense to the book user.
The other issue I had was with the yeast conversions in the recipes throughout the book. Saee’s recipes all ask for a given amount fresh or dried yeast. Now, the leavening power of yeast differs depending on whether you use fresh yeast, active dried yeast or instant yeast. To my mind, and the general rule of the thumb in bread baking in any given bread recipe that asks for yeast, let’s say you need 10gm of fresh yeast, then you may use 5gm of active dried yeast or about 4gm of instant yeast. If your recipe requires very small quantities of yeast then you can use equivalent amounts of dried active yeast or instant yeast.
So you need about half the amount of instant yeast to replace a given amount of fresh yeast. When I got back to Saee, she clarified this point saying that since this book was written for Indian readers, most of whom don’t have access to good quality dried yeast, these amounts were adjusted to take this into account.
I wouldn’t know because I live in Kochi where I have access to good quality dried yeast. I personally use smaller amounts of it as otherwise I would end up with very yeasty bread and not very good texture. I would therefore suggest that you go with your judgement about the amount of dried/ instant yeast needed. I followed my usual practice with the yeast to make the recipe posted below and my bread turned out really good.
I’ve baked a lot of the breads featured in Saee’s book (well, I have been baking bread for a while now), but I came across her recipe for the Brun while leafing through. If you live in Mumbai or have visited and had tea in an Irani café, the chances of you not knowing a Brun Pav/ Pao are about zero. One of Mumabi’s iconic foods is the Brun Maska which is really nothing but bread and butter. This however, is no ordinary bread and butter and you have to try it to truly understand what makes it different.
A Brun Pav/ Pao (Pao from the Portuguese word for bread), also known as Gutli or Kadak Pav is a round bread roll that’s got a very crusty top yet a soft and almost spongy center. Made popular by Mumbai’s iconic Irani cafés, Brun is usually split and slathered with loads of butter (Amul butter is the best) and jam if you absolutely must or a sprinkling of sugar if you have a sweet tooth. For the best Brun experience, enjoy it after dipping your Brun into a steaming hot cup of sweet Irani chai.
I love all things Irani café so long as the food I eat is vegetarian, and that was all the motivation I needed to bake some Brun. I wasn’t disappointed at all as my Brun turned out perfect, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. The recipe given below is my slight adaptation of Saee’s recipe for Brun. Her recipes are all listed with ingredients in weight measurements and I use volume measurements which are reflected below. I have also adjusted for yeast as I used it. Saee suggest using a baking tray half filled with water in the oven while it preheats to create steam which results in crusty bread. I prefer to use ice cubes. Otherwise, the recipe is pretty much like the original.