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.”

Ingredients:

  • 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

Method:

  1. In a glass of lukewarm water, dissolve the sugar and add the crumbled yeast. Allow to stand for about 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or basin, measure out the flour.
  3. Add the yeast mixture and form a soft dough, adding more water if necessary.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Knock back the dough (punch it in the middle and let all the air escape) and knead again for a few minutes.
  7. Transfer to a greased and dusted loaf tin or simple form a ball and place on a baking sheet.
  8. Make two or three shallow cuts on the surface of the bread.
  9. Leave in a warm spot (like on top of a pre-heating oven) for about 15 minutes until double in size.
  10. 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.).
  11. 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!

Comments (20)

  1. Harini February 13, 2012 at 5:10 am

    Hey Saee, I had the same 'awakening' experience when I tried with the strong flours from 'Waitrose', and that loaf of yours looks stunning. Also feeling a little lost what with another blogger friend passing away. I hope Miri finds peace where she has reached.:(

    I feel so good having made my first TV debut with a bunch of my favourite food blogging friends.

  2. Anjali February 13, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Sad to hear about Miri. I didn't know till I read this 🙁
    The bread looks nicely leavened for a brown bread.

  3. The knife February 13, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    I think miri would have written in saying that the bread looks so perfect that I feel inspired to try it 🙂

    Well I do. We did a wholewheat bread at the class at Le 15 turned out a bit dense but felt good.

    I returned past midnight last night after dinner and a movie and realised there was no bread for breakfast. There was no flour but was tempted to make a brown bread dough…but by the time I had freshened up it was 1 am so i gave it a miss

    mixing the dough in a large bowl is a good idea. btw have you by any chanced missed out putting the amount of time required to bake the bread?

  4. Priya Sreeram February 14, 2012 at 12:17 am

    nice bake and hey sad to hear about your friend miri- may her soul RIP and nice TV debut !

  5. Ambika February 17, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Hi Saee, the bread looks fabulous. Just discovered your blog through FB, nice page you have here!

  6. Deeps @ Naughty Curry February 29, 2012 at 12:47 am

    im so glad i bumped across this post, been trying to make whole wheat bread with aata & although passable its definitely noyt what i was looking for.. like u said it doesnt rise as much. this on the other hand is eaxctly what i was looking flor… tall, dark & handsome! 😀 gonna look for strong bread flour that u mentioned. congrats on the tv debut, how thrilling!

  7. Reshmy January 15, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Hi! Absolutely love baking breads, do so very often (2 to 3 times a week) and have tried several times to bake with aatta but with inconsistent success. I too have turned my nose up at the imported flours and never gave it a chance thinking local has to be as good, if not better. I cant help but feel that these are less trustworthy in terms of additives than our own local stuff.
    However, you now tempt me to try the strong brown bread flour and I will. 🙂

  8. vama March 28, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Can I use dry yeast instead of fresh?

    • admin March 31, 2013 at 5:26 am

      Sure! But if you’re using Indian brands,you may need to use 1.5 times the quantity of yeast in the recipe. Instant yeast you can use in the same quantity as fresh yeast and the results will be great too!

  9. deepli May 12, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Can u pls help..? what is waitrose section..?

  10. Venkatesh July 31, 2013 at 5:22 am

    Hi, Could you please tell me where did you buy Strong Brown Bread Flour in Mumbai? Thanks

  11. shereen September 15, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Hello,

    Iam a newbie to baking.. I dread using yeast — will it not lead to a yeast buildup in the body.. can we bake bread without yeast?

    Regards,
    Nuzhath

  12. Nitya December 13, 2015 at 1:24 am

    I have been trying to make whole wheat bread with little or no success. I want to try out this recipe. So basically means – can I try with Indian whole Wheat Flour + Bran + 2 yeast. Fresh yeast do not get easily. So try with 2 tbsp Red Star – Actove Dry…will that do.

    • admin December 14, 2015 at 2:50 am

      Red Star is fine. As is the Whole wheat flour and bran ratio. These days, I also add a little ground oats to the mix (I would substitute the 75 grams here with ground oats) and I find that this results in an airier crumb.

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