A slice of watermelon bread with a piping hot cappuccino takes under two minutes to devour. Aditi Handa, co-founder and chef at Baker’s Dozen took six hours the previous day to bake three loafs of green, white and red at her central kitchen in Wadala.
It was a challenge we put to her after a loaf of watermelon bread created by Jimmy’s Bakery in Yilan County, Taiwan, took social media by storm last fortnight. “The team’s only apprehension was getting the green right since initial trials gave us a lighter parrot green,” says Handa, who co-founded the bakery two-and-a-half years ago.
On a Tuesday afternoon, Handa calls to confirm that she will start baking at 2.30 pm.
Prabha Chauhan beats the dough with natural colouring
Three mounds of dough are created, each of a different shade, and the red blended with raisins is folded into the white
I reach the kitchen and the smell of yeast and flour chokes me. Despite the fans, the kitchen is humid. I make my way to the far end of a rectangular table to stand beside Handa, who is offering instructions to senior chef, Prabha Chauhan. Whole-wheat flour, sugar, salt, yeast and water along with bottles of red, green and black natural colouring agents sit beside a bowl of black raisins, plump after soaking in water.
A French chef might call this misen en place. “All our chefs worked on the first trial after you set us the challenge, offering inputs and designing the recipe,” says Handa.
Chauhan hand mixes ingredients for the dough, which she alternately pounds and kneads, before dividing the batter into three mounds. Dropping one mound in a beater, she drizzles in green colour. “To the green, we add a little bit of black to give us that dark spinach tone,” says Handa. The next mound is mixed with red, and the third is left as is. The dough balls are allowed to prove (ferment) for 25 minutes to help up their volume.
The black dough is cut into strips, placed on flattened green dough, and rolled into one form
The white mound is then folded into the green and black flattened dough
At 3.25 pm, Chauhan takes the red mound and flattens it on a board with a rolling pin. She spreads a handful of raisins on either side, applying mild pressure with her palm. Next, she rolls the white dough — a little wider and wraps it neatly around the red. “It is like trying to make a baby wear clothes without waking it up,” Handa laughs. As if to stitch the fold, she pinches the two ends of the dough together.
The black dough is flattened, cut into strips and evenly placed on the flattened green dough before being rolled into one form. This becomes the outer skin for the red and white dough, forming the outermost skin of the work-in-progress melon.
Chauhan has made three mounds that will become boule (round), batard (oval) and log loaves (rectangular).
Bring on the heat
At 5 pm, the team decides that the dough has been given enough rise time, and preps it for the oven. While in there, the dough will release two gases — ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. “The latter needs an outlet, so we score it, making a cut on the top portion,” explains Handa, as Chauhan gets onto a step-stool to shove the bread into the stone oven, set at 180 degrees Celcius. With a practiced jerk, the dough flies on to the hot stone from the board. All three in, she sets the baking time to 20 minutes. The beauty of baking, I realise, lies in the waiting, for that’s when the action begins. The aroma wafts through the air, numbing the ache in our feet from having stood for long.
The batard and log loaves just out of the oven. Pics/Tushar Satam
All eyes turn to the oven when the alarm goes off. The other two bakers in the kitchen, who up until now haven’t moved gaze from preparing focaccia and slider breads, huddle together at the table, as freshly baked ‘watermelons’ are brought out. The batard has ripped from the centre top, revealing a bright spot of red, black raisin centre, white outline and green skin.
Tempted to taste it, I reach out to tear a piece. Handa taps my hand. “It must cool for two hours before you dig in. It’s sticky right now.”
She follows the rap with some good news. The watermelon bread is likely to soon sit proudly in baskets at her Prabhadevi, Bandra and Kemps Corner outlets. May we name it SMD Melon Loaf?
6 million: Hits that the YouTube video of the watermelon bread by Jimmy’s Bakery, Taiwan, garnered