The first time Ruchira Sonalkar baked bread was almost five years ago. She remembers making garlic pull-apart rolls for the family. They were a hit!
After trying her hands on many a recipe (with the help of videos and blogs), Ruchira decided to learn the finer techniques of bread making. That’s when the amateur baker stumbled upon My Jhola, a blog featuring traditional Indian food and baking recipes by Saee Koranne-Khandekar. She even signed up for the popular food blogger’s baking classes!
It is evident that the hands-on class taught Ruchira a thing or two about breads. What it also gave the novice baker, was a newfound passion – to make her own loaf of bread at home!
Saee's mission is simple. The Thane-based food consultant wants Indians to bake their own bread, and her debut cookbook, Crumbs! Bread Stories And Recipes For The Indian Kitchen aims to do just that.
Crumbs! is not just about recipes. Saee goes a step further by offering her personal touch to the book. You can expect little anecdotes from her childhood, stories about Irani cafés in Mumbai apart from some real food photography. It not only talks about processes and techniques, but also helps you to understand ingredients like yeast and explore Indian alternatives to international recipes and more.
“I looked through the Indian market and found that all the existing bread cookbooks were only related to parathas and rotis; none with recipes for a baguette, for instance,” points out Saee. Unable to find appropriate ingredients listed in international bread books in the Indian market, she decided to pen one herself. “What was strong white bread flour or stone ground wholemeal flour? We only get maida and atta!” You can therefore find recipes using ingredients that are easily available in an Indian kitchen in the book.
Baguette proofing and Akki Roti. Photos: Saee Koranne-Khandekar
Crumbs! is essentially meant for the novice domestic bread maker in India. It is for those who want to make restaurant-style naans, pavs and kulchas, and also international favourites like focaccia, brioche and baguettes. But, bread as we know it is the kind we normally don’t make at home. The reason being our everyday rotis are considered as unleavened bread, which do not require any raising agent like yeast. Saee plans to “hand-hold the average yeast-fearing, dough-despairing home cook” through the entire experience with her book.
Ask Saee what is the most-baked bread at home, and she says, “Sourdough breads using whatever combination of flours I have handy. My family also loves the multigrain bread from the book. A family favourite is the naan stuffed with Maharashtrian-style garlic and coconut chutney!”
Crumbs! also stands out for its fine illustrations and food photography; credit for the latter goes to Saee. “I have always done all the writing and photography for my blog myself, and I thought the book should be an extension of that. So, all the photographs have been styled and shot by me in my home studio,” she quips.
Any advice for the novice baker? “Try not to get intimidated as baking bread is a very therapeutic and fulfilling art. Follow the recipe carefully when you start off and keep at it, baking at least once a week. As you do it more often, you will be able to eyeball the recipe,” she says.
Order your copy if you are curious or fascinated by the idea of baking your own bread. Or for a good read, as Saee puts it, “You may not bake from the book but you may just take it to bed to read about the Irani cafes in Mumbai!”