Monsoon: Perfect Bread-Making Weather

Well, things have certainly been a bit quiet around here – I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.  

Not much blogging but a whole lot of kitchen and garden envy

It seems like every summer I head off to Scotland with the very best of blogging intentions and every summer Eat and Dust lapses into near-silence. We had a wonderful time at home catching up with family and friends though.  At my sister’s house I even contracted a severe case of garden and kitchen envy:  my brother-in-law has built an amazing outdoor kitchen in the woods behind their house, along with barbeque area and bunk house – how cool is that?

I want this kitchen


 I also want a garden that produces fruit like this

We also spent a week in Corfu where our friends Jane and Emilios have a house.  Jane and her daughter cooked up all sorts of Greek wonders ( I’ll blog about them soon) which I’ve been trying out since we got back. But first…

What’s a hot sticky  monsoon kitchen good for? 

Before I go off into an Ionian reverie, I need to give you a recipe to use right now, a recipe that is so utterly  perfect for our  humid, Monsoon Indian kitchens that you mustn’t waste another second before making it.  

It’s also something everyone is always telling me is impossible to make in India.

Good bread (loaf-style as opposed to flat), they say, can’t be done  here because we don’t get  strong bread flour. Well this recipe for ‘Whey Bread’ proves that you can make a loaf better than anything you can buy with the humble plain/all-purpose/maida  flour available in every corner shop.  

It must be true – Dan Lepard says so

I’ve been making bread, mostly variations on this recipe in fact, ever since I’ve been in Delhi – I use bread flour if I have it, plain if I don’t and I’ve not really noticed any difference.  

I was chatting to Dan Lepardbaker extraordinaire, one day on Twitter and he basically said – ‘you can make a respectable loaf out of pretty much any type of flour.’  He also said that Indian plain flour is perhaps less refined than western versions so innately better suited to bread making.  Well, how about that?

This recipe is as easy as can be and very adaptable.  Don’t have cream? Use milk.  No Whey?  Water will do just fine.  But the beauty of it right now is that the humid warmth of our kitchens is the perfect environment for yeast to do its work. You’ll have a full blown rise in no time.

Here’s what I wrote on the subject (followed by recipe) for Mint…..

Last month saw the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Chorleywood baking process.  I say celebrations, but you may well feel that commemorating the invention of pre-packaged, long-life, tasteless white sliced bread is not necessarily a reason to start popping champagne corks. Whatever your point of view, back in 1961 a revolution in bread making occurred and Britain led the way in replacing wholesome, nutritious, hand-baked bread with limp white sliced loaves tasting of cotton wool.

The Chorleywood baking process is named after the town in Hertfordshire where scientists at the British Baking Industries Research Association devised a means of turning cheap low-grade flour into mass-produced bread.  The means, of course, were a highly mechanised mixing process and a cocktail of additives.  Traditionally, a loaf of bread takes up to 20 minutes to knead – the Chorleywood chaps reduced this to three by radically speeding up the mixing process.  Proper bread, though, needs proper flour and the inferior variety used in sliced white has to be enhanced with salt, sugar, fats, flour improvers, emulsifiers and enzymes.

In India, the Chorleywood process is responsible for the ubiquitous Britannia loaf and a billion bread pakoras. In fact, it accounts for 80% of bread produced in India and the UK. But if a mouthful of cotton wool ‘enhanced’ with sugar, salt and chemicals isn’t to your taste, and you’re crying out for a pukka loaf, then you’re in tune with a new generation of  food revivalists urging a return to real bread making.

As there are very few artisan bread makers in India, making it at home is the only option. And turning out a loaf at home couldn’t be easier, especially at this Monsoon time of year when kitchens are hot and humid – ideal conditions for encouraging yeast to work. This recipe, as well as being a great way of using the whey left over in paneer making, uses a method introduced to me by British baker extraordinaire, Dan Lepard. Incidentally, if you’re at all interested in starting to bake bread at home, Dan’s book The Handmade Loaf is the only one you’ll ever need. Follow him on Twitter, too, for daily dough-y wisdom.

You will need to buy some imported Fast Action Yeast but it’s well worth the investment.  On the upside, there’s no need for expensive ‘Bread Flour’, the home grown maida makes a loaf far, far superior to anything you could buy in a packet.  Dan also introduced me to a new way of kneading: instead of the traditional long knead and long rest, the kneading and resting is broken up into short bursts over a few hours.  Having tried both methods, I can confirm that Dan’s produces a much better loaf. Try it – you’ll never look at Britannia again.

Whey Bread

Makes 1 large loaf

125ml cold cream (malai)

250ml whey

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 sachet (7g) fast action yeast

550g plain flour  (maida)

A few drops of sunflower oil

  1. Heat the whey until hand hot (not boiling) then pour into a large bowl with the malai.  Add the sugar, salt and yeast.  Whisk gently to mix then add the flour.
  2. With your hands mix quickly until you have a soft, ragged slightly sticky mass – no need to knead a this point – then cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.
  3. After 10 minutes, smear a few drops of oil on a clean work surface.  Tip the dough out and knead for 10 seconds. Put the dough back in a clean bowl and leave for 10 minutes.  You will notice that the dough has already changed structure – the yeast has already started to work on the flour, making it springier and more elastic.
  4. Again, knead for 10 seconds and leave for 10 minutes.  Give the dough a final knead, it will now be quite soft and pillowy.  This time leave the dough, covered, to rise for 1 hour, until it has doubled in size.
  5. Lightly oil the inside of a loaf tin.  If you don’t have a loaf tin, you could make a freeform loaf on a baking tray.
  6. Tip the bread dough onto the work surface and pat it into a shape that fits in the tin or an oval shape if you’re going freeform.  Put the bread into the  tin and leave to rise again for about one hour
  7. Heat the oven to 200­ºC and bake the loaf for about 45 minutes.  If you like a crustier loaf, take the bread out of the tin and bake for a further 5-10 minutes.

17 thoughts on “Monsoon: Perfect Bread-Making Weather

  1. A pukka loaf it is . I make my pav ( for pav bhaji) using malai n maida and make my whole wheat breads using very little oil in it….I know once you bake a bread at home the brittania or “that harvest something” tastes like cotton wool actually. I was not aware of The Chorleywood baking process , your post is very ingredients can’t make good bread.

    I love kneading the dough using my hands and feeling the dough coming alive under my palm 🙂

  2. Hi Pamela, I have a question. Wouldn’t whole wheat atta (and with the choker or the bran added to it) be a better choice than maida? Indian nutritionists mostly seem to advise against maida. (Though I haven’t a clue about how well the atta dough would rise.) I’m sick of the fraudulent “atta” bread that’s sold in the market; it’s the same as maida bread with brown colour added.
    Also, would you be knowing where one can purchase loaf tins in Delhi?

  3. Every time I decide to try something new, along comes Pamela with something great to give it that extra zing. This edition of eat and dust is no different. Thanks for the Whey Bread recipe Pam, my return to bread making will take me to new heights this time. And a new book recommendation to add to my burgeoning cookery library – life would be so ordinary without you!
    Thank you so much

  4. Hi Pamela,

    Have been following your blog for a few months now and it’s really enjoyable reading; I am new to Delhi, just 3 months old! Before coming out here, people kept telling me how disappointing the bread is and after living in the UK for three years and enjoying brilliant breads, I arrived in Delhi armed with Richard Bertinet’s book Dough and been practising regularly. Have been loving it so far. But suddenly I’ve been under attack from weevils and their dastardly offspring crawling and wriggling all over my maida flour!!!!!!!!!!!! Is it the season?? Is there anything you do to ward off these persistent little creatures? I subsequently stashed my packets of maida in the freezer in sheer desperation, and sifted before transferring one packet to my kilner jar, and still found one stray larvae (still alive??!) while working the dough just today.. If you have any other methods for weevil prevention, please send them my way!

    the pathetic worm phobic! 😛

  5. Hi Divya. Well, you could use atta but it would be a completely different bread! Personally, I try not to pay too much attention to nutritionists – culinary killjoys – when was the last time you saw a nutritionist with her face in a Pav Bhaji? Freshly-baked soft white bread, whether it’s the pav, baguette or whey variety is one of life’s great joys and I’m not in the business of denying people joy. That’s not to say there aren’t days where I prefer wholegrains but let’s not be so prescriptive. By the way, Fabindia sell wonderful organic atta as does the Altitude store (as well as many other interesting grains). Loaf tins are readily available in Khan Market and the kitchen shop at Citywalk. I’ve also seen them in Lal Kuan, Old Delhi. All the best

  6. Thanks Jenny – if you’re really into bread making, I recommend following Dan on Twitter. The bread book is fab and he also has a cake book coming out in September. Good luck with the whey bread.

  7. Hi Safira – ouch, the annual weevil attack! It’s one of my annual kitchen rituals: when we get back from our summer holiday, I have to chuck out nearly everything that’s not in a sealed container. The lesson I never learn is not to hoard too much especially at this time of year. I’m not sure

  8. Hey Pam. The recipe sounds nice. I’ve tried making bread with indian yeast brands but it does not rise properly. which yeast brand did you use and where can i get it in delhi

  9. Hi Rashmi The yeast I used is an imported ‘fast action’ yeast ie a yeast which is added straight to the flour without having to activate it with warm water and sugar. The one I use is a Tesco brand which is available in INA market and at Modern Bazaar in Vasant Lok. Good luck

  10. Have found that sticking a few neem leaves into your jars for lentils or flour keeps weevils away. They’re medicinal and not harmful if consumed. By humans, that is 🙂
    Thank you for the recipe. Been struggling with getting a rise out of atta 😉

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  12. I have fresh yeast I sourced from a local bakery. If I have to use this instead of the fast-action yeast, how much should I use? Thanks! Eager to try your recipe.

  13. Hi i’ve been scouring the net trying to find a bread recipe to use in tropical weather and this sounds wonderful. Before I give it a go, need to ask do you leave the dough between kneading sessions just covered and out in normal room temperature or in the fridge? Just that i keep coming across articles that talk about proofing or over proofing dough in hot humid conditions. Appreciate your advice. Thanks. Cheers.

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