Pathare Prabhus too have a unique wild yeast sourdough summer recipe and the peculiarity of this ‘bread’ is that it’s typically paired with aam-ras!
The summer after we got married, my wife and I were invited to a ceremonial dinner at a relative’s residence in South Mumbai.
On our arrival I immediately sensed the aroma of the baking sourdough – which my wife attributed to their humid stuffy kitchen and probably some food gone rancid in their bin!
Imagine her shock when I revealed that the smell which she found offensive was actually from the prep of an integral part of our dinner that evening!
The hot humid Mumbai summer offers near perfect conditions to cultivate this yeast and is equally conducive to the fermentation process so critical to get the right texture of these leavened breads.
The yeast starter and the resultant product have a unique aroma – unless you’re familiar with the smell, it will certainly strike you as strange and maybe even unpleasant (like overly sour buttermilk or the aroma while making homemade ghee).
Take 2 fistfuls (½ cup) chana dal in a container with a narrow mouth (कळशी).
Add the peel of a potato, a pinch of soda. Put this container into a dabba with a lid that shuts tightly.
Fill the inner container with a lukewarm mix of milk and water upto it’s neck. (equal proportions – 1 cup each) Shut the dabba and leave it undisturbed for at least 10-12 hours in a warm place. (Preferably overnight).
An old PP housewive’s tale narrates how the starter making must be kept completely secret.
Legend has it that if your neighbours find out about your plans before the starter is successful, your bread is destined for disaster!
Making the dough (batter)
Collect the fermented liquid and the froth on top in a large glass bowl. Discard the potato peels and chana dal. Ensure that not a single peel or grain of dal gets into your batter – I’ve been told that it can cause the resultant product to taste bitter – have never tried doing it, hence can’t vouch for this fact.
If you think you need a little more liquid to get the right consistency, add some lukewarm water to the chana dal and rinse off – use this to adjust the consistency of batter.
Add a teaspoon of honey, ½ a teaspoon of salt and a quarter cup of melted butter / ghee into the batter.
Bake the moulds in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes or till the tops turn a lovely golden colour.
The resultant bread should be airy and resemble the texture of a moist light muffin.
Serve these with aamras and if you think that’s too radical, have them with a hot cup of chai with some butter sprinkled with grain sugar or smeared with some jam.