Basic Brown Bread
Basic. Brown bread. Most times, that means bread made from unrefined, wholemeal wheat flour. In India, that usually means bread made from regular flour with a little caramel added for the color. If the baker’s conscience is slightly cleaner, he’ll add a bit of atta or wholewheat flour as well, but that generally makes the bread dense.
Artisan bakeries are still a rarity in Mumbai as are bread flours. For the past many years, I have been trying to work with local ingredients (as I usually do) and produce a light, fluffy, real brown bread loaf. I was succeeding in part (as you know from here) , but the finely ground atta is unsuitable for baking. I had to accept that. I finally picked up that pack of Strong Brown Bread Flour from the Waitrose section at my local supermarket and half-heartedly plonked it on the table. When I opened the pack, I was happily surprised to see a coarsely ground flour with a lovely nutty aroma.
The flour was easy to work with, and I loved its texture. It rose twice as much as my atta doughs do, and I ended up with a picture-perfect loaf, rising well above the tin. It was nice and hollow when knocked on, and the texture is nice and airy, too. And it makes me feel like I’m eating the real brown bread.
Conclusion: Bread flours make better bread
This recipe is dedicated to the memory of Raji Shanker or Miri of Peppermill as most Indian bloggers know her, who passed away suddenly this morning. Miri had a special love for baking. I had only interacted with her over the encouraging comments she left on my blog and through a couple of Facebook discussions. Always coming across as one with great positivity, it is a shock to know that she had been suffering for a while. I always felt restless if she didn’t comment on one of my posts, and I know I am going to miss a dear friend—one who I never had a chance to meet. May she find peace wherever she is now, and may her family find the strength to cope with the loss.
Miri, I will always think of you when I click “Publish.”
- 375 gms. strong brown bread flour (or coarsely ground atta + 2 tbsp. wheat bran) + for dusting
- 1 tbsp (15 gms) fresh yeast
- 2 tsp. (10 gms.) sugar
- 2 tsp. 10 gms. fat (I use ghee/butter/oil depending on availability) + for greasing
- 1 tsp. 5 gms. salt
- 1 glass Lukewarm water
- In a glass of lukewarm water, dissolve the sugar and add the crumbled yeast. Allow to stand for about 10 minutes until frothy.
- In a large mixing bowl or basin, measure out the flour.
- Add the yeast mixture and form a soft dough, adding more water if necessary.
- Cream the fat and salt separately and work into the dough. Tip onto a floured work surface and knead for about 3-4 minutes until elastic.
- Form into a ball and return to the mixing bowl. Cover with cling wrap and leave to rest for 15 to 20 minutes until double in size.
- Knock back the dough (punch it in the middle and let all the air escape) and knead again for a few minutes.
- Transfer to a greased and dusted loaf tin or simple form a ball and place on a baking sheet.
- Make two or three shallow cuts on the surface of the bread.
- Leave in a warm spot (like on top of a pre-heating oven) for about 15 minutes until double in size.
- Sprinkle some water on top and bake in a pre-heated oven at 175 degrees centigrade until the surface is browned, the bread is risen, and sounds hollow when tapped (about 20 mins.).
- Remove and cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.
By the way, I made my—ahem—TV debut this weekend. It was a blink and miss it appearance on The Foodie, a food show on Times Now, hosted by Kunal Vijaykar. It was an episode on Food blogging with a focus on Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal. A few of us food bloggers, Harini of Tongue Ticklers, Kalyan of Finely Chopped, Nikhil of Nonchalant Gourmand, and me, made a small appearance at the end with a few dishes we had made. You can see me chomping away and smiling unnecessarily along with my Strawberry Pavlova (coming soon on My Jhola) here. I appear in the last part; but watch all three to see Rushina’s fantastic recipes!