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Q&A -- A Sampling of North Indian Breads


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Just one word describes this class EXCELLENT.

Chef Sudhir Seth's proffessionalism is so beautifully captured.

Two questions

1. How are the sweeter breads like Peshawari naan and sheermal eaten, as a regular bread, a snack, with tea or do they constitute a seperate course?

2. I was intriguied by the texture of the wholewheat breads' dough. They seemed darker than what most restaurants use and appeared to have more bran. What flour did you use? the one we use is milled in Canada and labeled as Dhurum Flour for chapatis and poories.

Thanks

bhasin

Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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Monica and Chef Sudhir Seth,

Your breads look so good that they are probably illegal in many jurisdictions. I've made naan quite a bit but have to try some of your variations, plus, of course, all the other breads you have demonstrated.

Think I've probably said this before on eGullet but it is worth repeating--naan is hands down the best tasting bread straight out of the oven that I've come across. It somehow makes any meal an occasion. Well done, both of you.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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Monica and Sudhir Seth by far the best demo of breads.

Sudhir: this one is specially for you.

What's the difference in Hyderabadi or Muslim's Bakharkhani (Bread)?

Also I have seen Sheermal done in a couple of different ways. With yeast or baking powder and sometimes with NO yeast or baking powder.

I have had not used neither eggs, yeast or any baking agent. Except being a little flatter they seem to taste great.

Do you use Saffron in Sheermal?

Do you use cardamom in sheermal?

Good seeing your very professional work on the gullet...WOW

Prasad

:wacko::wacko::wub:

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Thank you both for taking the time to do this for us... it is greatly appreciated.

I'm going to make the naan & paratha this afternoon, I'll pester you with questions then if I have any. :smile:

". . . if waters are still, then they can't run at all, deep or shallow."

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Thank you thank you for a wonderful class! We are so fortunate to have people like you share your expertise with us.

I would like to male an Indian meal for my DH's birthday. Our kitchen table is in the kitchen near the oven :angry: Can I make naan ahead of time and keep it warm in the oven? I just can'tsee how I can all the other dishes done and make naan at the same time!

Help!!

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Thank you thank you for a wonderful class! We are so fortunate to have people like you share your expertise with us.

I would like to male an Indian meal for my DH's birthday. Our kitchen table is in the kitchen near the oven :angry: Can I make naan ahead of time and keep it warm in the oven? I just can'tsee how I can all the other dishes done and make naan at the same time!

Help!!

Why dont you make the dough, roll it out and cover it with a damp cloth. Then when you are ready to eat, place the rolled out dough in the oven. It is best to do it fresh

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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Monica and Chef Sudhir Seth,

Your breads look so good that they are probably illegal in many jurisdictions. I've made naan quite a bit but have to try some of your variations, plus, of course, all the other breads you have demonstrated.

Think I've probably said this before on eGullet but it is worth repeating--naan is hands down the best tasting bread straight out of the oven that I've come across. It somehow makes any meal an occasion. Well done, both of you.

Thank you -- I hope you will try these breads and post your results here for all of us :smile:

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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How about adding a minor amount of Sooji (Cream of wheat) to the Sheermal recipe. Do you think you get a little bit if that crumbly an dbuttery texture with the addition of sooji.

:raz:

Sooji will make it flaky as you mentioned. My recipes do not have it in them -- I will check in some of the older Indian cookbooks I have to see if they use sooji. At your restaurant -- do you make yours with sooji?

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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How about adding a minor amount of Sooji (Cream of wheat) to the Sheermal recipe. Do you think you get a little bit if that crumbly an dbuttery texture with the addition of sooji.

:raz:

Sooji will make it flaky as you mentioned. My recipes do not have it in them -- I will check in some of the older Indian cookbooks I have to see if they use sooji. At your restaurant -- do you make yours with sooji?

Yes, I do :wacko:

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From Chef Sudhir:

Hello Breadlovers

This is Sudhir and I am really honored at the response that this class of North Indian Breads has generated. I wish I was half as good on the keyboard as I am with the knife.

Fisrt of all a brief on the Indian food habits - in a country with limited resources and over a billion to feed carbohydrates play a huge role, especially when you consider the ease in harvesting them and the calories they yield. Hence the tremendous variety that has evolved over the subcontinent where locally grown ingredients have lent a host of different flavors and cooking styles.

Sorry if this appears like a nutrition class but to help understand better one has to know the three different parts of any cereal-wheat, rice, millet etc. The bran or the outer covering which is the roughage in any grain. The Germ which has got the proteins and the little oils which give the kernel its flavor. The Endosperm which is largely the starch or carbohydrates. In advanced milling the three are separated, ground as desired and then mixed in different proportions to achieve various required products.

Durum flour which bbhasin mentioned is basically fine ground endosperm of hard spring wheat 'DURUM' with a high gluten content ( the same endosperm when ground roughly is called Semolina / Sooji). The whole wheat flour that I prefer to use is the full WHEAT kernel and owes its color to the high fiber and seed Germ content. General Mills has the best in my opinion for its full flavor and texture. All purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat-grain.

In India the use of clarified butter, egs, cardamom, saffron, milk, raisins, dry fruits, nuts etc. is to make the product richer and more flavorful. To leaven any dough in India traditionally a mixture KHAMIR is added which is actually a starter made of wheat, sugar and water in a continuous fermenting state. One uses it and replenishes it by adding the above ingredients for the next day. It is more complex than the cultured Yeast(with limited kinds of fungus) which is prevalent in today's baking and it also imparts a lot more flavor. The presnt day use of yeast and baking powder has its advantages - a more consistent product and readily available ingrdients under the present day refrigerated facilities.

In my limited experience I have seen Sheermal being eaten with kormas, nahari and even paya(trotter) curry. The Bakarkhani that I have tasted is very similar to Sheermal as Prasad says but it has a lot more shortening- in some parts of eastern India it is even pan-fried like a Paratha. As written earlier any leftover bread in India gets eaten at breakfast time by either frying them lightly in a pan, dried like a rusk or roasted, powdered and eaten as cereal.

Maida and All-purpose flour are similar- the difference is the variety and grades that are available now in US for different purposes. Most common being High Gluten for leavened breads and Diabetic breads,cake flour which is milled very fine, durum flour for pasta and egg noodles.

For those of you who are not yet confounded I recommend a visit at the following site to learn the diversity of use of Cereals in India.

www.indiaprofile.com/cuisine/breakfast.htm

I know this has ben a rather dry discourse on something very basic but I hope your breads when they come out of the oven will seem tastier.

Thanks to you all

Sudhir

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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Hello Sudhir,

Thank you for a very interesting class. I'd really appreciate it if you could elaborate a little further on the role of gluten in Indian breads. For example, how does gluten behave when the bread is baked, deep-fried or shallow fried? I am quite interested in this, but whatever literature I have found refers to Western breads. I am not asking you to get all scientific, although I'd be thrilled if you did. For example, it would seem to me that you'd get soft chapathis with a lower gluten (adding oil reduces the gluten, makes softer chapathies) and yet you get good results when the dough is kneaded well, which only encourages gluten-formation.

That really puzzles me.

Thanks,

Suman

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Dear Suman,

You may find the following useful:

Hanslas, VK [1986] Chapati and bread making properties of wheat. Pages 233-236 in DK Salunkhe et al. [eds.] Quality of Wheat and Wheat Products.

Qaroomi, G [1996] Flat Bread Technology.

Also, Haridas Rao, Leelavathi and JS Sidhu, in various combinations:

Cereal Chemistry 53:457-469; 63:297-303; 66:329-333.

J. Food Sci. technol. 23:10; 27:311-313; 29:153-158.

J. Food Science 53:1563-1565.

The durum wheat we use for chapati flour is a teraploid, 4 sets of chromosomes, and different from the General Mills whole wheat flour mentioned by Sudhir, which comes from bread wheat, which has 6 sets; two different flours.

In India, chapati flour comes mainly from bread wheat; the interesting thing about north indian wheat is that grain filling occurs when temperatures are on the rise; these relatively high temperatures cause damage to the starch grains in the kernel; this damage alters the hydration properties of the flour and contributes to the softness of the chapati ; the optimum level for chapati appears to be 6.5-7% of damaged starch. Regarding protein content, sort of equivalent to 'gluten', the best chapati flours in India contain 9-10.7% protein, in addition to 6.5-7% damaged starch. Also, the particle size of Indian chapati flours differs from that of US Flours. Finally, the type of milling in local grinding machines in Indians neighborhoods differs dramatically from the roller mills of the US in terms of temperature and extraction. Oxidation of flour re: the time it takes to rach the consumer differs; for whole wheat, the fresher flour consumed in India makes a huge difference in organoleptic properties; for white bread, the aged white flour gives better results!

Cake/pastry flour in the US has roughly 9-10% protein

All purpose flour ~10.5%

most white Bread Flour for yeasted breads average 11.5-12.5% protein

Hard red winter wheat ~13%

whole wheat flour from dark Northern spring wheat is up to 16%

Some of your queries re: shortening and gluten development may also be found in Qaroomi's ' Flat Bread Technology". Hope this is of some use.

Best Wishes,

gautam

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Hello Gautam,

I'm looking at you :shock: open-jawed in admiration. Are you a food scientist? You've given me exactly the information and resources I've been looking for. THANK YOU - you're a font of knowledge. If I'm not troubling you too much, would you be able to give me the ISBNs of these books?

:shock::shock::rolleyes:

Thanks a million,

Suman

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Dear Suman,

Thank you for your kind reply. Here are the ISBN nos. I have been able to find. Do you have access to interlibrary loan in Ireland? If so, the author and title, or journal citation, should be sufficient for the librarian to locate the material. Please note the typo in my last post, which is corrected here.

Jalal Qarooni 1996 Flat Bread Technology . Kluwer Academic; ISBN# 0412081113

Hamed A. Faridi & Jon Faubion, eds. Wheat End Uses Around The World. ISBN# 0913250872 [other titles by Faridi, esp. Rheology of Dough well worth looking into]

A few sites that may be of interest:

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$departme...sf/all/crop1274

http://www.sardi.sa.gov.au/pages/field_cro...D=646&tempID=44

http://www.nass.usda.gov/nd/whtvar03.htm

http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/...ains/a1067w.htm

Knowing of your interest in South Indian foods, here’s one more book: NR Reddy et al. eds, Legume-based fermented Foods.

I am a plant physiologist, with a passionate interest in fruits and vegetables. Since you are so fortunate to be in Ireland, and this is the apple season, please do try to taste the following cultivars: Sam Young, Kerry Pippin, Ashmead’s Kernel, Pitmaston Pineapple, Egremont Russet. The UK is treasure trove of exceptional fruit varieties, Ireland 100x so. Please also do try to taste the Hautbois strawberry, Fragaria moschata, still available in Ireland but rare in England. Should you have a little space, there a number of exceptional strawberries and raspberries you could grow; I would be happy to suggest a few, if you should so wish.

Best wishes,

Gautam.

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm going to make the naan & paratha this afternoon, I'll pester you with questions then if I have any. :smile:

I just needed to get this off my chest -the guilt has been eating at me. I posted this and had every intention of going off to start the dough right away. It didn't happen quite the way I expected and the naan and paratha didn't happen (then with all the TG ruckus...).

I didn't want to have it seem like I went off and made the bread, then had no questions, or at the least, some sort of comment on it. So I felt I should come clean. :unsure:

I was and am excited that this class was done. I guess I'm just waiting for the mood to hit for a naan and paratha making spree.

Meg <---slacker

". . . if waters are still, then they can't run at all, deep or shallow."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Monica and Chef: A wonderful job! A question: I don't have a tandoor, but I do have a wood-fired pizza oven with a clay interior and floor, which I would love to use for Indian breads. Part of the reason for the success of that oven is the fact that it gets very hot (up to 900 degrees F.!), and cooks the moisture out of the dough quickly. For extra crispness, I use a spray bottle of water, and squirt the pizza a couple of times as it cooks. Could this work for Indian breads, and if so, is the spraying a good or bad idea?

Bill Klapp

bklapp@egullet.com

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  • 3 weeks later...

Would you want extra crispness in naan? My biggest problem has been getting that soft, flexible texture all this time!

I made the basic naan the other night, improvising with a well seasoned cast iron skillet instead of the oven. It's not because I thought the oven was a bad idea, but because that part of the recipe didn't print out and I was too lazy to go look it up by the time I got around to cooking the naan... :biggrin:

I'd previously made only yeast leavened naans and now I think I see where I was going wrong... I think I was using the bread flour...and too much of it.

This recipe turned out the texture I wanted - light, soft, flexible, flakey. Very tasty... I only wish I'd had something made up to go with it, but it was one of those impulse cooking sprees.

Would it be a bad idea to sub more yogurt for the milk? I like that tang in the bread. Will the extra yogurt require any adjustments to the leavening?

I'll probably go ahead and try it anyway & find out, since I need to use up the yogurt in the fridge, but then again, it may take me a month or two at the rate I'm going, so any input is great.

". . . if waters are still, then they can't run at all, deep or shallow."

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  • 4 weeks later...

For North American participants in this forum, it is well scrutinizing the all-purpose flours available in your region. I live on the Canadian prairies, the very heartland of hard (high-gluten) wheat flours. The all-purpose flour I usually buy has a protein content of 12.5%, which is very much at the high end of the scale for all-purpose. In other regions, all-purpose flour can be in the 10.5% protein range, which is much less suitable for western breads but good for Indian breads.

Of course, flours are not usually labelled with their gluten percentages. To calculate the percentage of protein, look at the nutritional information located on the side of many popular brands. This table will list the nutritional values of the flour based on a standard portion size; on my bag, for example, protein accounts for 4.4 grams of a 37 gram serving size. Simple math gives the percentage I'd quoted above.

What I've been using in recent months is standard-issue Canadian whole-wheat flour with the larger flakes of bran sieved out; and cut half-and-half with all-purpose flour. I'd culled that idea from one or another cookbook (probably one of Madhur Jaffrey's) and it seems to work well.

For anyone who hasn't made these breads before, I'll second the emphasis on observing the resting times for the doughs. Chapatti, puri, and paratha are all breads I make regularly at home; and when I've made them in a hurry (insufficient resting time) the texture is just not the same.

I've found that a conventional oven can make reasonably good naan with a bit of help from a cast-iron skillet (an improvisation in my International Cuisine lab at school). Reasoning that heat from the walls of the tandoor was just as important as the hot air (conduction *and* convection), I preheated the skillet on the stovetop; patted the naan into the skillet; and then placed it in a very hot oven. It took some trial and error to find the best temperature for the skillet, but the bread was very satisfactory.

This school is a great idea. I've been a dedicated home cook for 25 years or so, and I'm soon to graduate from a more conventional culinary arts program; but I love the free-wheeling atmosphere here! I'm looking forward to exploring more of these courses.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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