For some reason making bread at home has always seemed challenging and even frightening to many of us. I was certainly scared of yeast and was sure that it wouldn’t work for me if I tried. So I didn’t.
Then I met Saee Koranne Khandekar on Chef at Large and she assured me that yeast was not an enemy at all, in fact, it could be a very good friend. And with her help I baked my very first loaf of bread. That moment, when I took that loaf out of the oven and stared at it in wonder, I felt triumphant and stupid at the same time – triumphant that I had made bread right there in my own kitchen and stupid that I had feared it for so long!
I have never encountered a book that explains all this in the Indian context
The reason many of us fear bread making is probably because we don’t see our mothers, grand mothers or aunts making bread at home – at least not the yeasted varieties. We’re all so used to buying bread from bakeries and shops we don’t think we could easily make it ourselves. For those of us who contemplated making it, the recipes were daunting – unfamiliar flours or the need for fancy equipment made bread sound difficult. Most recipe books written by Indian authors dealt with Indian breads like rotis, naans, kulchas, parathas, etc. till Crumbs! Bread Stories and Recipes for the Indian Kitchen came out. This book fills a big gap in the Indian recipe books space making breads, both Indian and International, seem easy and doable in our home kitchens.
What’s In the Book?
Crumbs! takes you through the basics about bread – Its history, the kinds of bread, etc., and then demystifies yeast, proofing bread, oven temperatures, kinds of flours, the tools required, the techniques and methods of bread baking, and a section on troubleshooting where Khandekar explains what to do in the little crises that can happen while baking bread.
I have never encountered a book that explains all this in the Indian context and bits like the Proofing Time Guide for Your Climate – a tabulated guide that tells us how long to prove dough in the different climates we have around the year – are a godsend. The detailed explanations of terms like APF, strong white flour, etc., in easy to understand language and with examples will make even a first time bread baker more confident.
The recipes cover basic breads, international favourites, artisan breads, classic Indian breads, unleavened Indian breads, and there’s a bunch of ideas for what to with leftover bread. Since most of us eat our bread with some accompaniment or other, Khandekar has also included recipes for nut butters, chutneys, flavoured butters and jam. The recipes are simply written and technical terms have been explained in detail. Each recipe is preceded by general information about the bread. The book is interspersed with illustrations explaining kneading, folding and shaping techniques making it really easy for the reader to understand and follow. There’s also a bunch of colour photos in the middle and black and white photos scattered in the rest of the book showing the different breads in the book.
For the more experienced or adventurous baker Khandekar has given a step by step guide to making a sour dough starter, and many tips on how to care for it. The instructions are detailed and there is a great sense of ‘don’t worry, it’s not that hard’ in the instructions which I found very reassuring.
What I liked even more about this book is that it’s not restricted to recipes only but there are stories – evocative narratives that take you to the author’s childhood encounters with bread and her later experiences in bakeries and with bakers. You get a glimpse of a day in a Goan bakery as they churn out piles of fresh Poee, a peep into the innards of an Irani bakery in Mumbai, stories of hot bhakris eaten with salt in a humble hut long ago, and much, much more. It is quite evident just how close to the author’s heart bread in all its forms is, and in this book she shares her love for this staple in its myriad forms, quite unabashedly with her readers.
If you like bread – eating it, baking it, or simply reading about it, Crumbs! is written for you.
Here’s a recipe that I tried from Crumbs! with slightly tweaked ingredients for flavouring the bread. The original recipe uses sun dried tomatoes and olives while I used fresh basil leaves and with sun dried tomatoes and garlic too.