Bakers turning sour
The obvious and growing popularity of sourdough calls for an inquiry into the new interest, especially in a city with a vibrant bread culture. Experts demystify the trend. Plus, best dishes made with the bread
In a city with a nuanced legacy of baking, how does a bread from across the world gain increasing popularity? Travel, exposure, social media, are all equally important factors ushering in the new and visible interest in sourdough, a fermented bread with a hard exterior and pillow-y centre. But more than these sociological markers that have naturally contributed to this phenomenon, it's the conscious and concerted effort of city chefs and subsequently, the increased availability of the bread that needs our attention.
Aditi Handa, founder of The Baker's Dozen, a food service that specialises in handmade artisanal breads started her venture in 2013 with the aim of making quality and skillfully made breads available to Mumbaikars. Ostensibly, Handa's delivery outfit was the first one in the city to make sourdough available commercially, before which the coveted bake was available only at five star restaurants.
"We eat bread every day, so why not eat those that are authentic and of good quality?" she inquires, adding that the goal was to serve healthier versions of a food item that has over the years become integral to the Indian diet. Handa clarifies that while at the outset, sourdough may sound "fancy", at its heart, the concept is basic. "What do we do with curd? We take some old curd, and mix it with milk and it sets on its own without any added preservatives.
Sourdough employs much the same logic," she says. Divesh Aswani, head chef at Magazine Street Kitchen, says this is a veritable reason behind it's growing popularity. "Making sourdough is an art and it takes a long time to wrap your head around it. This adds to its allure. And it's also got a lot to do with people eating preservative- and sugar-free foods," he shares.
At chef Alex Sanchez's Fort-based diner, Americano, which opened earlier this year, there is a live sourdough culture. The beauty of this bread, as the Californian chef rightly points out, is that it employs "as if nothing" — flour, water, and salt. "Sourdough is leavened with wild yeast as opposed to commercial yeast. It's been around forever, but has seen a resurgence of late as people have become more aware of international cooking styles," he adds.
But in a city, where the foodscape is partly defined by its breads — think, dabeli, misal, vada pav, samosa pav, brun muska, laadi and kadak pav — where does sourdough stand? More importantly, will it ever resonate with the layman? "There's a crowd who understands and appreciates it.
There are others who simply don't. Besides, other factors like, accessibility, price and user-friendliness need to be considered. A lot of people, for example, request us to slice the bread for them because it's hard for them to do it at home. It's hard to say really. I wouldn't eat avocados with pav, or kheema with sourdough," Aswani clarifies. If you fall into the other half, that loves the bread's crusty and sour profile, here's where you can savour it.
All in one
"Sourdough is a true expression of a baker's abilities as well as the wheat's. A natural, age-old process that yields a bread with character and crust, and an aroma unmatched by other baked goods. It toasts beautifully and makes eating it with toppings a delight," says chef-partner at this bistro, Manu Chandra. Here, the soft egg and andouille sausage on sourdough toast is crunchy, decadent, spicy and creamy.
At Toast & Tonic, Jet Airways-Godrej Building, BKC.
Time 12 pm to 12.30 am
Cost Rs 400
A grab-and-go kiosk at this diner called Goodness to Go offers dishes made with fresh, local produce. On the menu, there's a chicken Waldorf sandwich made with roast chicken, Waldorf salad and sourdough. Elaborating on the dish, brand head, chef Jaydeep Mukherjee says, "This is a take on a classic chicken and mayo sandwich. The apples and roast chicken along with a homemade honey mustard mayonnaise and walnuts work amazingly well with the sourdough bread."
At Smoke House Deli, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel.
Time 9.30 am to 12.30 am
Cost Rs 190
Chef Deepak Punetha who helms the kitchen at this drinkery makes wonderful use of sourdough by re-imaging it as a pizza. Called El Chapo, this flatbread comprises salsa verde, sun-dried tomato, cheddar cheese, homemade guacamole, fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, crushed black pepper and olive oil. "The sourdough crust is soft at the centre and crispy at the edges. Since it is naturally leavened, it's easier on your gut," he shares.
At Thirsty City 127, Todi Mill, Lower Parel.
Time 6 pm to 1.30 am
Cost Rs 500
Raise a toast to this
Sourdough blends well with a lot of different flavours. Plus, it has a longer shelf," says chef Rohan D'Souza while telling us about his sourdough toast board recipe, which comes with an avocado purée, peanut butter, ricotta and hummus. "This makes for a perfect and varied breakfast dish. The avocado spread and hummus is healthy; the ricotta is indulgent, and the peanut butter is for those with a sweet tooth!"
At Silver Beach Café, Nichani Kutir Building, Juhu.
Time 7 am to 1 am
Cost Rs 420
Classic with a twist
At this gastropub, the ham and cheese sandwich has been re-imagined as a smoked ham, spotted cow tomme and sourdough baguette sandwich. Owner Pankil Shah says, "We had to experiment quite a bit. While we were certain about using the creamy tomme de Bombai, we had to run multiple trials with ciabatta, brioche, etc. Sourdough was a perfect match because it has a nice crunch and a distinct flavour."
At Woodside Inn (Colaba and Andheri).
Time 11.30 am to 1 am
Call 22875752 (Colaba)
Cost Rs 645
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