In July this year, I was initiated into the wonderful world of bread making during a 2-week Camp Sourdough by TWF Flours, conducted by Goa-based sourdough expert Sujit Sumitran. His breads are supposed to be the best in this country, and if his patience with over 50 home bakers is anything to go by, his patience and efforts with the bread he bakes are sure to lead to wonderful flavours. (I've also been told the same by my friends in Goa, who have tasted his fabulous sourdough loaves).
During the workshop, Sujit was grateful enough to share his breadmaking secrets with us, and will also be speaking as part of Dough Talks'20, a 3-day conference from October 30 - November 2, for anyone who wants to start/expand/scale their enterprise around breads. Get Rs 500 cashback with the code ALIPORE500 at checkout here.
I had a chat with Sujit about his love for sourdough, baking rituals, and how he's sustained his excitement for bread over the past six years:
When did you fall in love with bread, specifically sourdough?
I’ve always loved good bread. And during the early 90’s, I remember driving to Alsa Mall in Madras, where Hot Breads used to have a bakery. I loved how the complexion of the bred could be almost transformed, flavour-wise, by just adding key ingredients. Then somewhere in early 2014, I bought a Bread Maker for my wife but I just couldn’t keep away from it. In about a year, I had gone through a book dedicated to making breads in a bread maker and had moved onto sourdough. I guess I've always been in love with good bread. How many loaves of bread have you made in your life? Does it ever get boring or tedious?
Oh. That’s a tough one. I wish I had kept count but during the first year, I was baking about two loaves every week and then after I got onto sourdough, it increased because I was giving away a lot of bread but it's obviously been quite a lot cause its been more than six years since I started baking bread. Does it ever get boring or tedious? Hell no! I keep adding different things to my breads to keep experimenting. So it doesn’t.
What’s the most experimental/unique loaf you’ve ever done?
A tough one again. I tend to play with what I have on hand. So a while ago, I guess it could be baking bread with sheets of Nori Sushi in them. It ended up as a bread with a very aquatic feel to it. Then there was bread that I’d infused with dehydrated lemons from Iran - so fragrant that I ended up just inhaling the bread for a while. Lately, a friend has been dehydrating fruits like oranges and limes and I've been adding these for a burst of flavour in the bread, while still maintaining the flavour of good bread. You get the drift?
Do you have any baking rituals before you get started?
Yes, I love ensuring everything that I need is within arm's reach. I also love to have some music streaming in and that depends almost entirely on my mood. Sometimes, it's retro stuff that i grew up to in the 70’s and 80’s. Sometimes it's jazz and sometimes, it's just old and possibly new Hindi songs. So, no fixed menu!
Does anything about the process still excite you like the early days? What’s your favorite step?
What I find most exciting is always the moment when the Dutch Oven exits from the oven and the lid is lifted off. That is the moment that makes the entire 18-19 hour process completely worth it.
How are you coping during the pandemic? I know you’ve been busy teaching hundreds of us the right technique of making sourdough. But what else is keeping you going?
In addition to the virtual classes and the endless stream of posts and queries from participants, what also keeps me going is the hope that there will soon be a vaccine for this wretched virus. I’m also looking forward to beginning work on our rammed earth home which should hopefully see us moving into the new place in a year's time.
What do you think of the sourdough and banana bread trend worldwide? Everyone's a home baker now.
Most of the recipes for sourdough and banana bread include baking soda and baking powder. That’s not my idea of slow fermented stuff.
What is your favorite flour to bake with?
My favourite is whole grain bread as it's not only delicious but nutritious to.
Any parting tip for newly inducted bakers like myself?
Keep at it. And use a good quality flour, even if its costs a lot more. The results are always worth it!
Follow Sujit's baking experiments on Instagram.
Sujit will be speaking as part of Dough Talks'20. The conference is set to cover different aspects of crafting a quality product - including things like building the right product, how to market it, how to create/scale infrastructure and how to balance costing, etc. There will be seasoned bakers from across the world tuning in to share their insights, as well as panels with key personalities in India.
Early bird tickets for Dough Talks '20 can be bought here, and costs Rs 1499 per head. Our readers get an exclusive Rs 500 cashback on each ticket, so do apply the referral code ALIPORE500 at checkout!