Baking Basic white and brown Bread in India

11:30 AM

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight...

[Bread making is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread."

And how I wanted to be a part of that homely ceremony of bread making, to experience that joy, to be hypnotized with that incredibly sweet aroma of freshly baked bread wafting out of my oven and filling all the corners of my home. Yes! that was a long long looong standing wish of mine to bake bread in the cosy nook of my kitchen.  And this wish aggravated every time I watched the cookery shows on where they made all types of fancy breads with every flavours imaginable.  I equipped me with gathered all the knowledge possible regarding the techniques, the measurements and all the know hows of bread baking. I exactly knew how much flour to sieve, what should be the temperature of the warm water to mix the yeast in,  I knew how long to knead the dough till it becomes springy and satiny to touch, I knew how to tuck the kneaded dough underneath to give the buns a smooth finished look. I could even sense the silky smooth stretchable dough in my hands.
So many times I dreamed of mixing the flour and the yeast and then pouring the water and the oil, giving it whatever falvour my mind fancies at that point of time and then kneading that dough to give it a silky springy texture to bake the most incredibly soft and flavourful bread of my life. Every time one of you baked a bread, it instantly gave me a high. I imagined going through this whole process again and again. I wanted to lose all my anger and pain and frustration on the dough while kneading it vigorously as all of you mentioned.  But every time I tried it in real life the yeast made me fail miserably. Not once, not twice but thrice. Can you imagine what a heart break that was! But I refused to give up and almost tried all the brands of dried yeast available in the market. Anyone who mentioned Bangalore and bread together in their post I kept on asking 'which brand of yeast did you use'?

Ask Archana who patiently listened to me and gave me suggestions and told me how to proof the yeast, or our very own baking genius Champa whom I flooded with queries.  But knowledge is nothing (only for bread baking!!!)  Unless you find out that obidient yeast who will listen to all your orders and will rise when asked for (not like my 2 year old, who refuses to do so).  But finally and thankfully I got the real thing I have been looking for, for such a long time. When I saw Suma (an amazing, amazing baker. I really wonder how she manages so many things with such ease. Even after taking care of her home, her work, two growing kids, she manages to bake such gorgeous, delicious, luscious goodies on a daily basis…go and check her blog for every baking recipe imaginable) baking some great breads I asked my usual question “which brand” and she gave me the key. The key to make perfect breads every time. And from that day onwards there is no looking back and no more store bought breads for us. Even my family including parents and Brothers are so hooked to it that they don’t like outside breads and pizzas anymore.
Though I have a long way to go and try all the recipes I have bookmarked for so long. Still today I am sharing two basic bread recipes, basic white and 100% whole wheat brown breads.

But before I start let me tell you something about yeast, which is not very easily available in Indian markets. As much as my knowledge goes I have seen 3 varieties here
Fresh Yeast
Dry Yeast
Instant Yeast

If you are in USA you would be spoilt for choices. Here is a great article to guide you through the many varieties available there.

The instant yeast is the most potent one and comes in coarse powdery form. You can directly add this to other ingredients before proceeding to make the dough, whereas this is most difficult to get in India. I use the brand called Gloripan available here.

Dry yeast, is also available in India, which comes in small granular form. You need to proof this before using it in the batter. Mix the sugar with lukewarm water mentioned in the recipe. Mix in the dry yeast and let it rise for 4-5 minutes. You can choose from many brands available in India but personally nothing worked for me.
Fresh yeast could be availed from your nearby bakeries. They come in cake form and have a very strong aroma. Proof as mentioned above.

Here is a quick conversion table sourced from here
1 teaspoon instant (aka instant active dry)=1-1/4 teaspoons active dry or 1-1/2 packed teaspoons fresh cake yeast


for every 150gm (5.3oz, 1 cup) of flour in the recipe to use either of:
3 gm compressed fresh yeast (0.1 oz, 1/6 cake)
2 gm active dry yeast (0.05oz, 1/2 tsp)
1 gm instant active dry yeast (0.04oz, 3/8 tsp)

Another thing that I would love to clarify is this long and detailed post is meant for everyone  who wants to bake bread in India. We don’t get many good ingredients here and  I have learnt from my mistakes to arrive on a system that works for me. This is an attempt from my side to guide everyone who tries to bake bread in their Indian Kitchen.

Basic white bread:
Plain Flour/ Maida/ All Purpose Flour: 3 cups
Powdered sugar: 1 tbsp; (you can use granulated sugar too, but powdered sugar dissolves easily)
Instant yeast : 2 tsp
Salt: 1 tsp
Olive oil or butter or any vegetable oil: 1 tbsp+1tbsp
Lukewarm milk: ¼ cup (just warm, I warm it in my microwave for 10 seconds)
Lukewarm water: 1 cup (in humid climates use less)

The white bread dough is very sticky so prepare yourself well to handle it. Tie your hair, remove in rings from your fingers and roll your sleeves for a 10 minutes vigorous massage session.

Mix in the salt and the flour in a big bowl.  Clean the counter top and grease it properly.

In a bowl or ceramic cup take the ¾  cup water, dissolve the sugar and mix in the yeast. Give it a quick stir. Pour the milk and 1 tbsp oil. Stir and add to the flour bowl.

Combine everything together to get a sticky batter. If needed add the reserved water little by little.
Take out the dough on your greased counter top, grease your hands and start kneading with the heels of your palm. Stretch the dough away from you, fold again stretch and fold and then give it a half turn. If its too sticky try to grease your palm and the countertop with the reserved oil.  If needed add in more oil. Don’t add any more flour that will make the bread heavy.

Keep on kneading till the dough feels dry to touch but is soft and supple. It should spring back when poked (about 7-8 minutes).

When done gather the dough in a ball and place in a greased bowl with enough space to let it rise. Lightly oil the dough too to prevent it from sticking. Cover with cling film and place it in a warm place. I generally place it in my microwave. When the weather is humid and cloudy I keep the light of the microwave on. let it rise for 1-2 hour or till its double in size (mine generally gets done in a little more than 1 hour.

After the first proofing take out the dough carefully on the counter top. Fold it on itself 7-8 times to release the air trapped in it.

Give it any shape you want and neatly tuck the loose ends underneath to give a nice smooth surface on top.  Lightly oil the top, cover and again let it rise till it doubles in size.

Towards the end of the second rise, preheat the oven at 190C and bake the bread.
For free standing loaf, braided bread or bread tin loaf bake it for 45 minutes or until the top is golden. If the top browns fast, loosely cover it with foil after 20-30 minutes and bake for the rest of the time.

For small buns bake for 8-12 minutes.

Every oven acts differently and you should be the best judge. But my submission would be to keep an eye after the first 30 minutes.

Once the bread is baked take it out from the oven and brush the top with butter or olive oil for a softer crust.

Let it cool for 5 minutes and then cool on wire rack. This is very important otherwise the steam would not escape and you will end up with soggy bottoms.

Once it cools down completely, slice with a long serrated knife…which I am yet to find.

100% Whole Wheat Bread without vital gluten
This recipe is adapted from the King Arthur Flour website. I am saying ‘adapted’ because I had to change many a things to suit my conditions. This recipe works for me every time like a charm and yields light fluffy 100% whole wheat flour without vital gluten.

Whole wheat flour/Atta: 31/2 cups (I use Ashirwad or Pillsburry)
Lukewarm water: 11/4 cups+2 tbsp or more
Oil: 2 tbsp+2 tbsp
Sugar: 2tbsp
Instant yeast: 21/2 tsp
Salt: 1 tsp
Non fat dry milk: ¼ cup (like Nido)
Milk: 2 tbsp (low fat cow milk or any fresh milk. It should be boiled and cooled)
Any dry powdered milk: 2 tbsp (I used dairy whitener like everyday)

Mix the yeast to 2tbsp warm water.

In a big bowl mix flour, salt, sugar and powder milk. Add the oil, yeast mixture and 1 cup of water. Mix and add more water if needed.  Depending on the quality of the flour, sometimes I have to add 11/2 cup or more water. So its always better to keep another cup of water ready. The flour mixture would be sticky.

Grease your counter top and your palms and start kneading it by stretching, pulling, folding, turning and throwing on your counter top. Trust me its fun. Knead for 8 minutes. Cover with an inverted bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Again knead till its springy for almost 7-8 minutes.  Grease your palms as and when needed. It could be sticky but not too sticky. As they say it should not flatten on itself like a pancake when gathered into a ball. It should relax a bit like someone sitting in an armchair. J
Oil the dough lightly on all sides and transfer it to another big oiled bowl. Cover and place in a warm place. I always place it in the microwave with the lights on.

Let it rise till puffy for 1-2 hrs (I give it little less than 2 hours in this humid and rainy weather in Kolkata). Basically the volume should double.

Take it out carefully from the bowl. Fold it on itself for 9-10 times to release all the air and shape it in a neat log with loose ends tucked underkneath.

Place it in a greased loaf tin (mine is 8.5”x4.5”). Oil the top, cover and let it rise for 1-2 hours till it doubles.

Towards the end of the rising time preheat the oven at 175 C. bake for 30 minutes, then loosely cover the top with a foil and bake for another 30 minutes.  But check after 45 minutes if its done. Mine always takes close to 1 hour.

Take it out and brush the top with butter. Cool for 4-5 minutes, take it out and cool on a wire rack.
Slice and serve anyway you want.

A Homemaker’s Note:

Don’t add the water mentioned in the recipe at once. Add ¾ of it at the beginning. Read the recipe and check what kind of a dough the recipe calls for and then keep on adding as required.

If you are using active dry yeast proof it as mentioned in the packet.

For basic loaves like mentioned above don’t add flour even if the dough feels sticky, rather use oil to grease everything and keep on kneading.

Giving a resting time between kneading is a good idea, as it will help the gluten to relax and redistribute, yielding a light bread.

Keep an eye during the proofing time too as after a certain period of times the dough will collapse and loose all the air it developed.

First time my post is being yeastspotted with these breads.

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