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Loafing around

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ADVENTUROUS BAKERS ARE FILLING UP THEIR BREAD BASKETS WITH UNUSUAL AND EXOTIC FARE, SAYS ARUNDHATI BASU Photographs By Rashbehari Das, Gajanan Dudhalkar, Sanjit Kundu And Jagan Negi Published 22.02.09, 12:00 AM

Want to know what an Earthquake Cheese Toast is? It’s a loaf of bread that once warmed and sliced, oozes with a voluptuous lava of delicious cheese. You know your wasabi? Now please meet the Wasabi Loaf. Pungent and a tad green, it’s a spicy treat if ever there was one.

If you’ve taken pride in filling your bread basket with the standard (but yummy nonetheless) French loaves, wholesome multi-grain or garlic breads, it’s time to change your bakery. Just revisit some of the most happening bakeries in the vicinity and dig deeper into their bread baskets.

The New Age bread-makers are an inspired lot and have firmly elevated the chore of baking the humble loaf to an art — and you’d better believe that. “They say in France that one needs to have a licence to make bread because the French consider bread-making an art. Their Indian counterparts have followed in their footsteps and are taking their breads very seriously,” says Chef Daniel Koshy, pastry chef at The Chocolate Box, at Delhi’s Radisson MBD hotel.

Lovey Burman (top) bakes her breads (below) with Oriental pastes made with Chinese red chillies, herbs, lemon grass, basil and sesame soya sauces.

Adventurous bakers are going wild and you are likely to encounter ingredients like papaya, zucchini, lemon grass and freshly shredded apples as you bite into a slice of divinely fragrant loaf. And you’re sure to come back home triumphant, with bags full of Wasabi Bread or even loaves that are spiced up with dark chocolate, black cherries or imported linseed and barley. The price is special too — you have to part with Rs 75 for a loaf.

Crisp or chewy, flavoured or plain, fluffy or flat, new bread varieties promise a rich ‘mouth-feel’. And their gorgeous textures guarantee that each loaf of bread is a little bit more exotic than the other.

Going east

The cool, white interiors of the delicatessen of Afraa, a luxury dining restaurant in Calcutta, offers you a very local taste on the one hand, and a global experience on the other.

So you can dig into the Panch Phoron Bagel for a taste of the five whole spices that are synonymous with Bengali cooking or try out the sharp taste of bread infused with kasundi (a mustard paste).

Carrots and spinach go into the bread sticks at Theobroma

Sumanta Chakrabarti, executive chef, Afraa, is also busy churning out the exotic Japanese Bread that’s baked with tempura batter. For good measure, Chakrabarti throws in wasabi sauce, which turns the colour of the loaf into a light green while the bread tastes pleasantly pungent. The chef recommends a dip made with the Japanese rice wines like Sake and Mirin, brandy and a bit of the Japanese Kikkoman sauce. Make life simple and just buy it off the shelf at the Afraa Deli.

At Theobroma, Kamal Messman’s favourite is the Chutney Bread that uses ingredients from a Parsi fish recipe to spice up breakfast affairs;

“Bengalis like their dishes hot, so for them we have the Mexican corn and chilly bread that’s served with a kind of tomato-based sauce called the Ranchera sauce. And if they want a hotter version then there’s the Rogu sauce,” says Chakrabarti.

Lovey Burman, proprietor of the popular Kookie Jar in Calcutta, has been playing with the dough too. A while ago she tried folding in fresh peaches into her breads, which she admits didn’t work too well.

So instead she started baking breads with Oriental pastes — that’s chilli pesto pastes made with Chinese red chillies, herbs, lemon grass and basil and sesame soya sauces. And these are simply flying off the Kookie Jar shelves.

By the sea

Chef Daniel Koshy of The Chocolate Box dishes out dark rye breads and sourdoughs (below)

Spice is the watchword when you pick up the Chutney Bread at Café Theobroma, a small café-cum- patisserie in the heart of Mumbai that is also known for its melt-in-your-mouth desserts. The ladies behind the restaurant, Kainaz Messman and her mother Kamal Messman, use the chutney that traditionally goes into Patrani Machhi, a Parsi fish preparation, to create the now famous Chutney Bread.

“Have it anytime. Slice it, toast it or butter it. The sweet and sour flavours of the chutney make it a tasty snack,” says the senior Messman who likes to flavour the Theobroma bread sticks with carrots and spinach. “I am into vegetables, so I thought of putting them into the breads as well,” she says, smiling.

On the road leading to the Gateway of India in Colaba is Indigo Deli which has more to it than its charming décor.

The chef, Jaideep Mukherjee, is enthusiastic about flavouring the breads, so you can bite into two varieties of the slightly sweet Kugelhupfs and Stollens that are baked with ingredients such as Nilgiri vanilla and Myers’s rum.

But the flavours are not crowded into a single loaf. So the Pesto and Parmesan Buns are flavoured with a fresh basil pesto, toasted pine nuts and an 18-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano, a Parmesan cheese.

Baking at Indigo Deli is a “labour of love’’, says Mukherjee and some six to 12 hours go into baking just a few loaves while the elaborate cooking techniques are not altered for convenience. Prices don’t go over Rs 95, and they begin at Rs 18.

Tushar Dhingra (top) specialises in the Jewish Challa, German sourdough and the Pumpernickel bread

In the kitchens of the Salt Water Café in Mumbai, Chef Gresham Fernandes is busy perfecting the recipe before he rolls out the Porcini Mushroom Focaccia and puts it on the shelves. At other times, he purées grapes to serve as starter for the sourdough he bakes once in a while.

Delhi delis

Meanwhile in the Capital, it’s raining breads too and Chef Daniel Koshy is a busy man. The pastry chef at The Chocolate Box has quite a bread menu on offer. The winners in his arsenal are the oven-fresh breads made with imported soya granules and dark rye. Some loaves are spiced up with shredded apples, dark chocolate and black cherries while imported linseed and barley go into others.

The Chocolate Box is not a lone example in the city. Other bakeries are also going all out to woo bread lovers with the smell of freshly baked exotic loaves. Check out The Oberoi Hotel’s revamped patisserie and even Defence Bakery, one of Delhi’s oldest bakeries. You are likely to catch pastry chef Tushar Dhingra experimenting big time with the ingredients.

The dough puncher in Dhingra makes him turn out the Pumpernickel bread, a German bread traditionally made with coarsely ground rye, the German sourdough and the Jewish Challa (pronounced ‘halla’) which is known for its braided shape. He says: “The idea of the Jewish braided bread came from a customer who suggested we start making it. We make it rich with eggs, therefore it has a light, airy texture and further we give it an egg wash for a nice shine.”

At the Indigo Deli, Chef Jaideep Mukherjee flavours breads with ingredients like Nilgiri vanilla and Myers’s rum

You could walk in to Bread Talk, a Singapore-based chain that is doing brisk business in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The price for its Earthquake Cheese Toast goes up to Rs 130 for a loaf. Says Uday Kiran, operations and HR manager, Bread Talk India: “Heat it, slice it and just watch the cheese drip off.”


• The hallmark of a good bread can be gauged by how thin the dough is. “You should be able to read a newspaper through it,” says Chef Daniel Koshy of The Chocolate Box.

• Baking bread without yeast — as it is at Theobroma — is a challenge, but then the breads are organic. The Messmans make do with a yeast-free starter.

• If you are a die-hard dieter, worry not. Some of these breads will fit into your diet plan. A tip from Koshy: look for very hi-fibre breads such as German health breads that have five to eight grams of fibre per slice, which is almost as much fibre as there is in a bowl of cereal.        

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