Monday, October 20, 2008

Brownie Points!

Gone are the days when every tea Bara Bungalow had a cook who would bake all the bread its occupants needed. Even so, we had dear old Baruah baking all our bread for us less than fifteen years ago. Baruah and his contemporaries are no more, but I do know of some chai memsaabs who turn out very good bread at parties or club 'do's. I've tried many times, with fresh yeast, dried yeast, and ready to use powdered yeast. And realised that bread making was great, but it was not for me.

When my younger daughter started saying she wouldn't eat any refined flour (or Maida, as we call it in any number of Indian languages), I had to start substituting it with wholemeal, or atta. We can't get brown bread anywhere in the Dooars, and we can only find it once in a while in Siliguri. Even then, it isn’t convincingly brown - it looks as if it's been coloured!

I started turning out simple breads from 'The Good Housekeeping Cookbook' and 'Woman's Weekly Magazine' recipes to fulfil this new demand for brown bread. Here I should make something very clear. I'm not a very industrious or self-sacrificing person. A recipe has to be quick and simple if I'm to try it out. No one ever tells my family how lucky they are to have this earth-mother-goddess turning out amazing food for them all the time. And there is no danger of it ever happening either. Wholemeal scone rounds and wholemeal picnic lunch loaves have simple, two-step recipes. I wouldn’t touch them if they didn't. The breads are all baked with baking powder as the leavening agent, and though delicious (if the recipe is followed correctly), they tend to be a little heavier than yeast breads.

And then Jayati, a friend who is much younger than me, said they'd been baking their own brown bread, with fresh yeast bought in small quantities from the bakery in Hamiltonganj, a town close to their garden. Her enthusiasm infected me. Should I try, just one more time? I bought 100 grams of fresh yeast from the bakery in Banarhat town, and opened the 'Good Housekeeping Cookbook' again. I found a wholemeal bread recipe that doesn't call for the dough being 'proved', or allowed to rise, twice. It is all done in one shot. Mix, knead, prove, rest, and bake. Hmm. Right up my street - and there's even a 'rest' thrown in there. So I went at it with great energy. Kneading and pumelling the dough was a fantastic stress buster. To my delight, we got lovely, soft, delicious brown loaves. See the picture? The husband said that he would no longer worry about what to do if the tea industry came upon bad times - he could run his wife's bakery shop.


Arti said...

A cook after my own heart! Can I pleeeasssse have the bread recipe. Ajay and I love a good loaf of whole wheat bread - but I've always been too scared to try. Plus, I have this thing for one-bowl, one-shot recipes, which pretty much restricts my endeavours in the kitchen.

Viji said...

"he could run his wife's bakery shop."

And could he also keep all the dough he kneaded ??


That bread is simply asking to be gobbled - so lovely and delicious looking.

Viji, ha ha!

Kamini said...

yes Gowri, recipe please. I too like a one pot, one shot recipe

Maiji said...

Your brown bread looks great; my mouth waters. Congrats.

Did you really bake it, or did you get the picture from your recipe book? ;-).It is just too much, Gowri, congrats again.

Happy Kitten said...


Even I have tried my hands at bread making but gave it up.. too long a process I should say..dont remember how it used to be done in those good old days on the iron stove fed with firewood..

but your account inspires me to try again.. please.. can we have the recipe?

Gardenia said...

Dear folks,
Thanks for all the nice comments.
Here is the recipe for all of you who asked for it! It is from the 'Good Housekeeping Cookbook' - not verbatim of course.
Here goes:-
All ingredients to be at Room Temperature. Working area to be reasonably warm.
Mixing bowl to be warm, and placed on a warm surface - insulate your kitchen counter with a thickly folded towel, before you place the bowl on it!

225g. Maida, or white refined flour - Sieve after measuring.
225g. Atta, or wholemeal - do not sift; it tastes better with the bran.
2 level tsp salt
2 level tsp sugar
15g. fresh yeast - say one rounded tablespponful.
Some 25 to 30 grams soft butter - I used home made makhhan.
300ml tepid - blood warm - water.

One 700g. or 1and 1/2 lb. loaf tin, greased, and warmed before filling.
Oven temperature - 230 degrees C.

Mix all the dry ingredients together by hand in a large bowl or a 'paraath'. Rub the butter into the flour. In a small bowl, blend yeast and water together until smooth. If you wish, leave it to stand for 10 minutes - not on a cold surface!
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients all at once and mix well. Now knead well, until the mix is elastic, and smooth, and no longer sticky. (if you feel you need more water, just dip your fingers into warm water and integrate that into the mixture). The dough is more like bhatura dough than chapatti dough - definitely more moist. Knead well with the 'heel' of your hand - the base of your palm, pushing it away from you. Knead it for 10 minutes -you'll see traces of fermentation.
Spread the dough out, patting it with your hands, into a rectangle which is as wide as your loaf tin is long. Now roll it up like a Swiss Roll. Now place it in the loaf tin,seam side down. Tuck it in, (coo to it, if you will), and leave it in the same warm place, covered with a bit of oiled cling film. In an hour or so, it would have doubled in size. By this time, your oven should be all ready. Pop it in, give it anything between 35 and 45 minutes. (keep checking)If one side looks like getting scorched, open the oven quickly, and turn the tin around. When it is done, it'll be firm on top, and the bottom of the tin will sound hollow when you knock on it. (Wear oven gloves while handling!) Take out your loaf tin, and cool it on a wire rack - covered with a napkin. When it's cool, turn the loaf out, and keep it in a napkin to preserve the moisture. Do not refrigerate on the day it is baked. Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Ummm.. a veritable Mrs. Miggins!

Indrani said...

Hi good one.
I have saved your last comment on this post! :)

kallu said...

Gowri, loved the post and the pic too. Thanks for the recipe. I love the smell of baking bread. And like you, I like easy recipes.
"No one ever tells my family how lucky they are to have this earth-mother-goddess turning out amazing food for them all the time".
I just loved that line. removes so many of those underlying guilts:-))))
May our tribe increase
Where are you setting up shop?

Happy Kitten said...

Thank you.. Thank you.. for the recipe...

the weekend has arrived for us here and let there be fresh bread...hopefully:)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this with me. It was wonderful to see pictures of the place you live in. It is absolutely beautiful. Your narration about Baruah and his baking and the pictures brought back lovely childhood memories of my life in Dehra Dun. When I was growing up we also had household help very much like him.
- Minu