There are times when incomplete drafts come to use. Exactly 3 years and this is what happens. I had written this 3 years ago in November 2015. My Story of Baking a bread.
Bread has been an integrated part of my growing up since I remember. Although there were several brands, some local and some reputed, but we were “Modern” Brand loyalists. There were few local bakeries in Chandannagore but somehow, I have grown up knowing that Modern is the most trusted one. Sometime later, when I started shopping for grocery (much to the anguish of my parents as I was not supposed to waste time in doing these but to only study), I knew this was one thing which was sold in pound and not in Kg. Much later, physics taught me MKS and FPS.
Bread has been a Food friday (like a Man friday) for the household. My mother single handedly managing the kitchen with couple of clay ovens (one for veg and one for non veg, as we had my grandma who was a widow) and at times using the LPG, which was considered expensive those days depended heavily on bread. Sometimes bread would be for Baba’s and mine tiffin boxes with some nicely spread Kissan Jam or Amul Butter. Other times, bread would be soaked in milk with some sugar sprinkled. My all time favourite was when Ma used to fry the breads in mild oil with an egg, shredded onion and chili on top of it or what we call French toast in India. The same jam and butter bread used to turn from boring to magical when Ma would make bread chop out of it. Mashed potatoes mixed with spices and encased in a slightly wet bread and then fried in oil was nothing short of heaven for me.
Soon a time came when bread started getting classified in brown and whole wheat and many more, but somehow, the half pound and one pound breads coming in the white blue and red checkered packets is what I miss the most.
In one of the discussions with Madhushree, the idea of baking a bread struck us . It’s not that we had not done that earlier but this was special. We came back from Farmers market by Karen Anand in Kolkata. The Burrata that we had tasted and later bought from there was amazing. This prompted Madhushree to prepare a bread and serve it with some fresh buratta, roast chicken and salad. The roast chicken and salad happened. We are not ashamed to confess that the first time of bread baking was a disaster. (Wonder how many food bloggers would confess to such disasters)
Fast forward to a year end evening of December 2018. Baking a bread
A father son duo, both equally bored of unable to go anywhere during winter break, sits down for baking. Two first timers and the elder one is deeply impressed by Ace baker Sujit Sumitran and wants to get into baking. A recipe gets pulled out and measuring spoons for baking and other ingredients are assembled on the dining table. The lady goes off to put the daughter to sleep. Just like one of those trekking in extreme climatic conditions, Tugga and I start our journey.
Flour, yeast, white oil, water and the dough has to be made.
The dough has to be sticky too.
Then leave it covered under a damp cloth for proofing. 40 mins, year end, slow music and anxiety.
Start Daredevil Season 3 on Netflix. No, even Wilson Fisk getting released is not giving me kick as I don’t want to fail.
The dough has risen and the first obstacle is crossed.
Punch it hard so that the air is knocked off and divide it into two for the baking tins.
Adventurous me wants to make a design on the surface. Alas that does not happen on a normal yeast dough.
The tins go inside the OTG and for me closing the door of the OTG was no different than closure of the main doors of an Operation theatre and the red light starts glowing. 200 C, 40 mins
Back to Netflix. Karen Page, Matt Murdoch and Foggy Neslon unite but somehow I am not that ecstatic. I get up around 30 mins to check up on the breads. The aroma is a positive sign.
On a December midnight, with heart beats which can be heard from far off, I open the door and as soft as possible I touch the outer texture – its tough. Can’t wait for the remaining 10 mins.
The judgement hour. I have seen how fortunes change with baking of breads. Madhushree had got jinxed and silently I said a prayer – No, it should work with me.
They come out, just like the paedetrician had come out when Brishti was born. It’s a jackpot. ‘Its perfect’ sounded almost like ‘it’s a girl’. I missed Tugga, my fellow baker who was deep asleep by now. We even dreamt of opening a baking company and started thinking of names.
The breads remained covered by a damp cloth for some time to soften the crust. It’s 12.30, I go to bed to hug my fellow baker Tugga and sleep. The rest is history. Have you ever gone to bed with house filled with baking aroma and dreaming of breaking the bread after baking it too?
Must say here while I was doing this, I sought out help in twitter. Monika Manchanda, Nisha Shah and Mini Rebeiro came out to help. You can check out these two links for baking help which helped me also.
Basic Bread Recipe
- 5 cups All purpose flour
- 2 tbsp instant yeast
- 2 tsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Salt
- 2 cups warm water
- 1/4 cup cooking oil preferably sunflower oil
- Take a large bowl and add 4 cups of flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Mix it all together with hand and make a well.
- In the centre of the well, add the oiil and warm water and combine with a spoon or your hand.
- It will all be sticky but keep combining and adding a bit of flour from the remaining one cup to knead the dough. Remove the dough from the bowl on to a work surface dusted with more flour and keep kneading till the last cup of the flour has nicely incorporated and the dough has become smooth and elastic.
- It takes about ten minutes of kneading using your fingers and the heel of your palm. Once it is done, transfer to a bowl which has been greased with a little bit of oil and cover the bowl with a damp cloth and keep it in a warm area of your kitchen for rising.
- What I did was keep the OTG running at 160 degrees and the bowl right next to the otg. You have to keep it for 1/2 hour after which you will notice that the dough has doubled in size.
- At this point, grease two loaf pans with oil and keep them ready. Knock the air out of the dough with a punch and then knead it again for two to three minutes.
- Cut the dough in to two parts and shape them lenghtwise (the same lenght as the loaf pan).
- Place the two doughs into the loaf pans and again keep the loaf pans next to the oven or a warm area to rise.
- Give it about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes to rise. In the meanwhile, increase the temp of the OTG to 200 C .
- The dough would have risen to almost the edge of the pan or a little below the edge. Once that happens, put the pans into the oven.
- Bake for 40 minutes and when you see the beautoful golden colour, take it out of the oven Take the loaves out of the pans and cover then with a wet towel to soften the crust.
- I baked at midnight. So I left the loaves with the wet towel overnight and in the morning the towels had dried out in any case. And we had fresh bread for our breakfast with homemade marmalade.