Baking woes

12:29 PM

One tip to anybody planning to move to India :

Take your baking supplies if you love to bake!

And even then, I might add you will have some issues, a couple of years ago I had trouble finding cookie cutters for my holiday baking project, and whenever I saw a baking tool somewhere I would buy it knowing far too well that one day you will find muffin trays and then tear your hair off when really looking for one because no one is selling them anymore. Ditto for cake tins, quiche mould, and pie dishes. So much so, that when in Switzerland last July, I went to a speciality store to buy new cookie cutters, mini-pie pans, and baking paper. I curse myself for not remembering to buy good quality dry yeast though. 

Ingredients don't always come easy in India. I found that the baking powder quality or yeast quality is mediocre here. For cakes it does matter less than for bread though, because a low quality baking powder (and they almost always fall in this category around here), you double or triple the dose recommended in the recipe and end up with a good rise and edible goods.

But here is where I blank completely :

Bread making! I used to be (ok still am) a great baker. I enjoy making bread but all my attempt in India failed miserably. No matter how much yeast I use it NEVER EVER rise.
I even tried sealing it overnight in a plastic box. Kept it in the sun under a towel, put the dough in the switched off oven to make sure it is really oxygen deprived. I even tripled, quadrupled the quantity of yeast, and put the dough in a warmed up oven.
All failed miserably! Even during the baking process when there is a lot of heat my buns will remain flat, uncooked in the middle and dough-y.

To clarify things even further, I'm forced to use dry yeast around here. But, this normally shouldn't be a problem as it has the same property as fresh yeast and should make the bread rise in a matter of hours.
My guess is that no one really complains about yeast because no one really bakes bread other than naans and chapaties around here.

In fact bread lovers of Europe, be prepared to have the choice between : sweet toast bread, milktoast bread, whole wheat sweet toast bread, sandwich toast bread, glucose toast bread...and maybe a mushy toast bread that is called "french loaf" (but really isn't).
You could even, if your lucky (sarcasm here) score and find soft panini bread, spongy foccacia bread flavoured with tomato ketchup, moist and soft dinner rolls, mushy brioche, and pav bread (which is a soft loaf used for a famous dish called "pav bhaji". 

And very occasionally you may find a "french baguette" that clearly lost its way. This one will double as a cricket bat as it's usually hard as stone.
All bread are soft and basically taste the same no matter the shape.

For someone who grew in Europe. Where we have croissants, soft and crunchy french baguettes, dinner rolls with a golden crust, whole grain speciality breads, and my particular favourite : "Sils bread" which is made with a German Bretzel dough and goes wonderfully well with just plain butter this is a big culture shock.

Just today, I found the recipe for that particular bread which is a fairly easy one to make at this. I decided to try yet another brand of dry yeast, and yet again it failed.
The crust came out of the oven correctly. The bread even smelled more or less right. But it never rose, and even though the buns are not supposed to rise too much, the inside was yet againas compact as playdough, and practically uncooked! No fluffiness, nothing!

I know I should ask a baker for fresh yeast, but the only one professional enough is miles from my place. The one down my street is more keen on eyeing my boobs and fails to understand when I just want sandwich bread and butter, so I don't really feel like asking him about fresh baker's yeast.

I'm now seriously toying to add "dry yeast" to the list I will send DH before he comes back from Zurich.

2015 Update:

If you landed on my blog here, on this very old post, know that things have changed. You now can find quality dry yeast in India


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