Our daily bread: Bringing excitement to twists and turns of flour (Book Review)

Title: Crumbs! Bread Stories and Recipes from the Indian Kitchen; Author: Saee Koranne-Khandekar; Publisher: Hachette; Price: Rs 450, Pages: 256

There’s a lot more to bread than what goes with your breakfast — coated with jam or munched with an omelette or scrambled eggs. Similarly, there’s a lot more to rotis than what you dip in a gravy for the sheer pleasure of warmness.

But did you know that there’s a whole lot of this stuff that can be easily made at home, giving multiple twists to their taste, molded into different shapes and turned into delectable recipes? Saee Koranne-Khandekar’s latest book is a discovery of an array of recipes for breads, rotis and naans.

“My aim in this book is to try and demystify yeast and fancy terms such as ‘bread flour’ so that bread-making can be brought into the everyday Indian kitchen,” the author writes in the introduction.

Being a food writer and consultant since 2008, Koranee-Khandekar draws from her earliest memories of home-made bread with Radha Kaku – her great grandaunt who baked small, dense and chewy loaves in Amul processed chesse tins with their edges carefully filed and smoothened out.

“As a child, I much preferred the white sliced bread that was so soft; it would feel almost insubstantial compared to the dense, moreish loaves baked at home. My brother and I just loved gorging ourselves on white sliced bread in every fathomable form,” Koranee-Khandekar writes.

“With my love for bread firmly established in my formative years, it was no surprise that I decided to enroll in a junior college that will allow me to choose bakery and confectionery as optional subjects in my arts programme,” the author says.

For the author, the kitchen laboratory relaxed every muscle in her body with its nutty, lactose sweetness – the aroma of freshly baked bread.

The book then tells the story about how bread was brought into existence — born accidentally and not an artistic creation. The earliest leavened or yeasted bread is said to have been found in ancient Egypt, where the first sourdough made an appearance. The book also details how tools evolved over years – easing the bread-making process.

The most exciting part of the book is the mouth-watering recipes that begin with the art of making basic breads. It then comes up with recipes for a variety of stuff, for instance, dinner rolls which are usually referred to as ‘aath number’ in Mumbai because of the tightly coiled ‘8’ shape.

Thereafter, there’s Focaccia Italian bread; Pita which she first encountered in school – fat, sponge-like – sliced horizontally through the middle and filled with tomato and cheese slices; brioche – the very versatile classic French bread; the Turkish-origin Lavash used most often to wrap meats in; Baba au Rhums -traditional yeast cakes soaked in a syrup liberally laced with alcohol; soda bread for those who cannot stand the yeasty smell; and sun-dried tomato and olive bread – the first recipe that she shared in a newspaper column, to mention just a few.

She also loads the book with recipes like Sheermal – a soft, mildly sweet bread, infused with the warm aroma of saffron and an occasional punctuation of a fennel seed; Iyengar bakery style masala bread; Malabar porotta; and thaalipeeth – spiced multigrain flatbread.

In the latter half of the book, Koranee-Khandekar also sketches some of the people who own and run traditional Indian bakeries across the country like the Kyani Bakery — her first visit to an Irani restaurant — the Yazdani, Military and Merwan bakeries and even Dorabjee’s in Pune that’s over a century old.

Towards the end, the book is spiced up with recipes for jams, chutneys and butter. For those who love experimenting with wheat and barley the book is a must-have treasure on the kitchen shelves.

(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at somrita.g4@ians.in <javascript:_e(%7B%7D,’cvml’,’somrita.g4@ians.in’);>)



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