India’s bread revolution: Bakers and their new variants of traditional white loaf

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Read full article By Shilpi Madam @ TNIE Photo: Representative Image

From big cities to small towns, from neighbourhood bakeries to supermarket shelves, restaurant tables to home dining, a variety of breads is edging out the traditional white loaf gradually

Marie Antoinette was far ahead of her time. “Let them eat cake,” would today mean “let them eat bread”. Artisan bakers are popping out of neighbourhood ovens like hot buns during the pandemic, conjuring up scrumptious versions such as bread cakes with Oreos, coconut cream lime bread, sticky orange marmalade bread cake, chocolate syrup, vanilla, whipped cream cherry and spiced apple challahs—creating divine visions for the modern Marie. India has come late to the Bread Revolution, but now that it has, bread is equality, liberty and fraternity indeed. Bakers are taking liberties with dough to make cheese and rosemary brioches, apple cider oatmeal and classic beer breads.

iberty is freedom from the jingle ‘Mummy Mummy Modern Bread’ which is Oh So 1960s AM Radio and to indulge in the mystic mix of a corn cheddar bubble loaf. Fraternity is bonding over bread-spotting on the shelves of huge supermarket chains such as Modern Bazaar, Delhi, and Spencer’s, Chennai, and the neighbourhood baker’s whole wheat honey oat flax bread. Shops are stocked with a range of breads Indian millennials had never seen while they were burning their toast.

Dietitians have been horrifying people with packaged white bread stories about obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Popular alternatives? Yeasted sourdough bread made from a fermented mixture of flour and water has a soft, chewy centre crust and large air bubbles. Whole-wheat bread made from flour that has both the bran and germ contains more nutrients and fibre per slice that would have been lost in processing otherwise. Rye bread with its strong rye flavour is made mixing bread flour and rye flour with caraway or dill seeds added to give an earthy flavour.

Its crumbs do not crumble. Pastrami gets its unique flavour from rye bread. It is a Scandinavian constant that has stormed the healthy breakfast set. A single slice has two grams of fibre, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and is good for cardiac well being. The Italians have arrived in la moda with focaccia and ciabatta. Focaccia is flat bread, usually flavoured with fresh herbs and garlic with an olive oil coating to make its crust crunchy. Ciabatta is baked with wheat flour, salt, yeast and water, and is used to make sandwiches and paninis.

Btw Ciabatta means slipper in Italian, so putting your foot in your mouth is a taste of its own. The French brioche has flown from elite tables to supermarket and mom and pop stores: it is the almost ephemeral French bread made with eggs and butter with a soft golden crust, tight crumb and a seductive sweetness. Hand-crafted loaves that suffuse your mouth with umami, naturally leavened keto specials, heirloom wheats, millet loaves, and more are now as popular as rava idli in a Konkan home—a classic case of taste and tell with the bread renaissance that has swept across the country over the past few years. The growing bread cult, often confused, staring at a stunning variety of bran, multigrain, brown, whole wheat breads jostling for attention on shelves is a new religion.

A far cry from the good ol’ white slices the grocer sent home every day. “We have gone off wheat completely at home, but enjoy a good sourdough once in a while,” says homemaker-baker Resham Deodhar, in Mumbai. Another homemaker-baker from the city, Aradhana Barua’s preferential factors are bread with flavour and nutritional value. Says Shruti Gupta, owner and pastry chef at The Baking Culture (@the_baking_culture on Instagram), “We make croissants, focaccia and slicer buns besides homemade whole wheat bread, white bread, pav buns and spiced pizza bases. During the lockdown alone, we sold at least 15 kg of bread every day.

We’ll soon start babka buns (braided bread done in chocolate).” Meanwhile, Glacage Fine Baking in Hyderabad, which calls itself a tiny kitchen with a big heart, a venture by Taanya Kalsi, claims to make 100 percent whole wheat (home-ground) bread, ragi bread, multigrain, savoury bread, etc. “Our breads don’t include preservatives. The people of Hyderabad are quite experimental. Recently we came out with Korean cream cheese garlic buns. It has sold really well,” she says. …….

Candida Rodriguez Certified Pastry Chef and owner, @sugarbowl_cochin, Kochi

“I remember when people arched their brows if I baked using rice flour and suji. Now the idea is to come up with nutritious options, educate and sensitise people. Millet bread is a resounding favourite, as are loaves made using nut-based flours, oats…”

Skills

Posted on

January 11, 2021

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