Pune Bakery

Finger Millet and Whole Wheat Bread


The experimentation with millets continues. Today I made a bread of 1/4 Finger Millet and 3/4 whole wheat with fresh yeast.

I baked two loaves, one in the round and the other a standard loaf shape.The round one rises better in the pan and is softer.

Home made bread is so head and shoulders above commercial bread and actually worth eating !

Here is the recipe I used:


3 1/2 cups whole wheat

1 cup Timbaktu Organic Finger millet flour

2 cups warm water

34 gms fresh compressed yeast.( equivalent to 2 packets dried yeast)

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/3 cup Timbaktu Organic Peanut oil

2 tsps salt

1/2 cup brown sugar.

Dissolve 1 tablespoon of the brwon sugar in the warm water and then dissolve the yeast in it. Let stand for a few minutes. Now add the oil to the water.

In a bowl mix  3 cups of the the wheat flour ,1 cup of the finger millet flour, the salt and sugar. Slowly add the water and yeast mixture and gather up into a ball of dough. Knead for 15 minutes by hand, slowly adding additional flour if required till the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

Let the dough stand to rise in an oiled bowl. Turn once after oiling. Cover and keep in a warm place for an hour or till doubled in bulk. Punch down and divide trhe dough into two. Roll out one half into a long rectangle and roll up into a 3" x 8 " loaf turning the ends under. .Make the other half into a round. Place both into oiled tins and cover. Let rise till doubled in bulk for 1 hour.

Bake in preheated oven (200 C) for 15 minutes. reduce heat to 175C and continue to bake for half an hour more.

Remove from oven and tip out on racks to cool.

It taste yummy with a bit of butter and a slice of cheese.

This bread freezes well.




Challah- Jewish bread

Challah-2 The other day someone was manhandled for taking photographs of buildings abutting a public road . This is a man who has dedicated his whole life to the preservation of heritage buildings and he might have been recording the fact that there are precious few left in Pune. Every day large sheets of corrugated tin are propped up along old walls edging a listed heritage property. Behind these shoddy covers breaking and digging go on at a great pace. All to make way for the new. New owners, new money, new buildings.

Do they imagine that when the old is razed to the ground that people will forget it was ever there. It is like trying to erase history. Not possible.

One lucky thing is that some of the larger and best kept heritage structures are on major public roads. Like the Synagogue on Moledina Road . While it might cross many corrupt minds that the land could be put to very profitable use, thank god nobody has as yet attempted to veil the stucture with corrugated tin sheets and carry on demolition regardless, trying to erase history behind a curtain of cover ups. There are political parties who are known for doing this.

The Ohel David Synagogue or Lal Deval as it is known locally i.e. The Red Temple, built by funds donated by Sir David Sassoon in 1863, is one impressive building which is well kept , painted and clean, unlike Pune's other heritage structures.

This is wonderful as there are not more than 150 Jews left in Pune. Most of them are from the Bene Israel community and they speak Judeo Marathi which is wriiten in a Devnagari script. I don't know if baking Challah bread was ever part of their rituals but I like to believe it is.

In fact the following document proves that most of their food they ate is Maharashtrian and their bread was definitely bhakri.446px-120_Bombay_1890 

This challah ( pronounced Halla ) is different as I did not add the usual large number of eggs nor did I add any extra sugar. It is not braided as most challahs are. I believe round ones like this are made only for Rosh Hashanah commonly known as the Jewish New Year which will be celebrated this year from September 18 onwards.


15 gms fresh yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
300 ml warm water
650 gms flour/maida
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
4 tsp poppy seeds

Mix the yeast  with the sugar and 50 ml of warm water. Let it stand for a while. Mix the flour and salt in a big bowl. make a well in the centre and pour in the beaten egg reserving a bit for the top later on. Add 250 ml of  warm water and mix to form a ball. Knead on a floured surface for at least 10 minutes. Put this in a lighly oiled large bowl and cover. Keep in a warm place to rise for about an hour.( I am told that doubling the rising time makes it even better but I have to try that out.)
Punch the risen dough down into a medium sized ball. Turn out onto an oiled baking sheet. Brush with the beated egg and dizzle poppy seeds on top.  Stand in a warm place, which is basically anywhere in this weather, and let it rise for another hour.
Heat the oven to about 220 degrees. Cook for 15 minutes then reduce the heat and cook for another 15 minutes.
Knock the bottom of the loaf with your knuckles . It should sound hollow.
Cool on a wire rack.
This is one of those loaves you can clasp to your bosom and hack off hunks of bread with a large knife to share with friends and family.
Very satisfying...both the process and the result.

. Adapted from a recipe by Sue Lawrence "On Baking"

Cinnamon Biscuits and why the same food tastes different in every country

 Cinnamon-cookies I still remember my horror when tasting my alu gobi at an Indian dinner I had cooked in Holland for friends. While everyone was oohing and ahhing over the meal, I took a bite of the gobi and- almost spat it out. It was nothing like the real thing! It was positively ghastly!
However nobody seemed to notice or mind. To this day I can't figure out what went wrong with that alu gobi.
Now,years later, I know there are several reasons why the same recipe produces different results when cooked in different countries.
Generally speaking the main reason why food tastes so different is that the ingredients are not exactly the same as can be found in the country of origin. This is true for the "lamb" that goes for 'mutton" in the west. The "curry powder" or "garam masala " that is used instead of separate spices; even the vegetables and herbs themselves. For example, in India vegetables are smaller in size and have a stronger taste. Most Indians would find the vegetables available in the west beautiful, huge and in perfect condition but with a watered down taste or even sweet. Some seem to have no flavour at all. Our vegetables, in comparison, are packed with taste. If a recipe calls for one onion in India what would one use in the US- five? The same goes for the garlic and ginger- three  cloves and a one inch piece would yield no taste at all in another country.

Finally it may be the fact that all these vegetables and herbs are of distinct groups and varieties and so the taste can never be replicated.

In spite of knowing this it came as a surprise to me that what we use as cinnamon in India today is actually the inner bark of the cassia tree. Scientifically known as Cinnamomum cassia (Blume ) it is thicker and somewhat bitter in taste as compared to Cinnamomum zeylanicum or “true cinnamon” which is the paper thin, fragrant and delicate flavoured cinnamon grown in Sri Lanka and South India. Cassia, different species of which also grow in Indonesia, Vietnam and China, has replaced cinnamon in popularity in the US and in fact the name is interchangeable in that country.However cinnamon and cassia are distinguishable in the UK where the original Cinnamomum verum i.e. zeylanicum is imported and highly prized for its flavouring, perfuming and medicinal qualities since ancient times.

Dalchini used in curries must have a strong taste and so the cassia type will suffice. When it comes to cinnamon cookies, biscuits, breads and toast the ‘real thing’ is imperative. Strangely enough “true cinnamon” is hard to lay your hands on even though it is grown in Kerala. Farmers there are now facing difficulties, as the Indian government imports and encourages the growth of more cassia varieties.

For the following cookies which are absolutely scrumptious, I used some of the lovely ‘true’ cinnamon quills brought for me from the Andamans by my nephew Vivek. They ground up into a fine powder very quickly unlike the usual dalchini which makes a god awful noise when milled and practically annihilates my grinder.


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup milk
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup walnuts, broken

 5 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon , powdered.

Beat the softened butter lightly. Add the powdered sugar and whip with a electric whisk till light in colour and creamy. Beat the eggs seperately and then add to the butter and sugar mixture. Now add the milk and give it another stir.

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together and add to the butter mixture. Mix well. Fold in the nuts.

Keep the mixture in the fridge to firm up. Mix the sugar and cinnamon and put into a small bowl or plate. Make small lemon sized balls of the dough and roll each one in the sugar/ cinnamon mix.

Place on a greased baking tray  and cook at 200 degrees C for about 10-15 minutes. (This depends on how hot your oven actually gets and I find each one different. The thing is to check after 8 minutes or so to see that the base of the biscuit is not turning black. When the bottom is a nice deep golden brown the biscuits are ready.)

This is one of those recipes which turns out great whatever you do. However if you use dalchini powder sprinkle it with a light hand over the cookies once they are rolled in the sugar or you will get an awfully bitter biscuit.