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November 24, 2009

Baking bread

I got interested in baking bread a couple of years ago when I had come across Andrew Whitley’s book, “Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own” in the magazine Resurgence. While I was curious, I stayed away from buying a copy since it seemed expensive and I was not sure about my interest in baking.
Later, chatting with a friend about whole wheat bread options in Bangalore, we talked about Daily Bread. Among other things, they sell a brown bread and a whole wheat bread. I had looked up the ingredients of brown bread (which appears to be white flour with a little whole wheat flour and some coloring agent that turns the bread miraculously brown!), wasn’t impressed and had naively assumed that the whole wheat bread was made of what it was meant to be made of. After this chat, I looked up the ingredients and was surprised at how many chemicals were listed. Also, it wasn’t clear how much whole wheat was actually present. So I just went off bread for many months.
I love to eat bread with my tea, especially bread toasted with butter. I missed my toast. The cuppa wasn’t as much fun anymore. So I decided to move my butt and bake my own. My first whole wheat recipe was from a friend’s sister-in-law and I baked a small loaf, so solid that cutting it was not easy. Apparently she meant it when she said the dough should be sloppier than the regular roti-dough we mix. I had ignored that point and did not like sticky hands, so the loaf was a brick. The next one was better but it still wasn’t fun with tea (that was my goal – to bake bread that I can have with my tea :)).
Around this time, I visited the bakery in Auroville and got a chance to watch them knead and bake. It was good to see how hydrated the dough needs to be, as I was still making doughs that were less hydrated. Then I bought a copy of Whitley’s book and bread making apart, it makes a good read about the state of bread today. I got attached to one particular sponge-and-dough recipe that uses very little yeast and an overnight sponge. The bread turned out tasty. And the breads have been turning out quite tasty over time. I recently got myself a couple of Reinhart's books and they've got some nice whole wheat/grain breads as well. And most of them go so well with my tea - life is good :)
Here are some pictures from my baking experiments:
One of my better first breads

Post-Auroville Bakery

From Whitley's book
Mushroom bread From Reinhart's books. Scoring is fun and you can create your art on the bread
Signature, artisan bread - observe my 'a' Bread and tea - life is good.

February 21, 2009

When life gives you a lemon...

you know the rest...but I have some lemonade to share :).

The beginning of this year our office moved from the nice quiet 2km distance from my home to Outer Ring Road. While I biked the comfortable 2 km in the inner road having to travel down a few km on Airport road as well as ORR pretty much ruled out my bicycling. We had decided to move closer to work again. We found a really nice house designed by Krishna from Thulir and have decided to move there 1st March. But, it still left two long months to figure out my commute.

I had let people know that my bicycling that had been going on and off for a good 4 months (and covered a good 350 km) was coming to an end and my ecological footprint was going to get bigger again (though the two France trips from work pretty much maxed it out I believe :).) Anyway, as part of my "sharing" a couple of friends suggested that there was a back road that went up to my office. This was exciting and I took my Activa the first day to explore, but finally ended up taking the ORR. But, with a little faith and some google maps I found the patli gali on the way back. That was it I decided that I would take this as a chance to get some exercise as part of my daily life to do something useful like getting to work. The distance was some 11 km in a day and the results are telling :).

But, it has not been easy. The new office is a bit interesting in how they monitor the time you spend at work (though a system lovingly called absentia, might I add). The need to work with my French counterparts which usually happens later in the evening. Being able to find a schedule that can get me to (easy) and back (not-so-easy) with there still being some ambient light has required some discipline and thinking outside the box.

This month they also closed out a part of the road that now requires me to go through the Airport road for some distance and get in a few more kms a day, but on the whole it has been fun and though we move over the weekend has made the last two months memorable and active.

I'll be completing 400 kms in the months of Jan and Feb of distance that I needed to travel that I choose to travel on my bicycle. Not bad for a new year!