Masala Bread with curry leaves and turmeric

Flavor in Indian cooking comes from the tadka, when oil is infused with dried spices. This oil carries the flavor to the vegetables, dals, rice. This masala bread uses the same technique. The flavor really comes through and the bread is a lovely bright yellow. This is delicious with regular tomato soup and in a grilled cheese sandwich.  I’ve modified my favorite bread recipe (Olive oil dough) in my favorite baking book- the New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. If you want to understand bread, I’d suggest you start with this book. Here is how I made this bread.

This is enough for two 1 lb loaves approximately.

Step 1: heat 2 tbsp of olive oil or regular oil- add 1 tsp of mustard seeds and wait for them to sputter, then add 1 tsp of cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp of turmeric, a pinch of asafetida and 1 tbsp of chopped kadipatta leaves (curry leaves). This is the tadka that will flavor the bread- let it cool

Step 2: make your no-knead dough. Mix wet ingredients (oil, 1 1/3 cup of lukewarm water, 1/2 tbsp of sugar, 1/2 tbsp of kosher salt and 1/2 tbsp of instant yeast) to 3 cups of bread flour (if you use all purpose- it comes to 31/4). I use a danish whisk- the idea is to make sure all the flour is moistened, do not knead- this will be a shaggy dough.

Step 3: Rest at room temperature till the dough rises and falls- this took much longer than the routine 2 hours – my first rise took 4 hours or so

Step 4: Refrigerate for at least 2 days – this is important for the sourdough flavor to develop. The dough can be used within the next 10 days or so

Step 5: Baking day!! Remove half of the dough and shape. Shaping is critical and should be done gently. I baked one loaf in a loaf pan and one free form boule. Both are shaped differently. For the loaf- grease a 1 lb loaf pan (8 inch), remove half the dough on a floured surface- flatten into a rectangle with 8 inch length and then tightly roll and seal seam. For the boule, flatten slightly and then pinch each end to the center to form a tight ball- roll it slightly. The dough should be covered with a thin film of flour and the top should be smooth.

Step 5: final rise- room temperature for 1-2 hours till the dough is well proofed- when you poke it with a floured finger- if the indentation comes up slowly but not completely- it is well proofed. If it comes straight back- you need more proofing, if it stays deep- it is over proofed and likely a loss- still tasty most of the time.

Step 6: Bake in a 450 F oven with steam. I use a dutch oven or a cloche to do this covered for 15 minutes and then remove the cover for the last 10 minutes. Cool the bread for at least 2 hours before slicing.

No Knead Rye Bread

My life changed when I read Mark Bittman’s column on no-knead bread.  I found out that professional baking ovens had steam injectors which injected steam at the start of the baking process. This is what led to the shatteringly thin crust and soft centers of the artisan boules I loved. Jim Lahey said- just start the baking in a dutch oven- bake your loaf covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered. Brilliant in its simplicity!

The no-knead recipe not only saves time but allows complex sourdough flavors to develop with regular active dry yeast. 5 minute artisan bread a day by Jeff Hertzberg is my favorite bread cookbook. This recipe is inspired from his book.


3 cups lukewarm water (680 gm)

Active dry yeast – 1 tbsp

Caraway seeds- 1.5 tbsp

Kosher salt- 1 tbsp

Rye flour 1 cup (120 g)

All purpose flour 5.5 cups ( 780 gm)

Cornstarch wash: Boil 1/2 cup of water with 1/2 tsp of cornflour in the microwave till glassy (1-2 minutes).  Cool

Add the yeast, salt and caraway seeds to the water and stir till they dissolve. Dump in all the flour and mix without kneading. I use a danish whisk and mix it till all the flour is hydrated. This will form a goopy, wet dough and the whole process shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.

Rest covered till doubled in size (2-4 hours)

Refrigerate for at least 24 hours. The dough will undergo a second slow rise in the refrigerator and can be stored for 14 days.

Baking day! Remove 1 lb of dough. Dust your bench and your hands and fold the dough onto itself till it forms a smooth ball. This is the trickiest and most important step and should be quick (less than 2 minutes) . The flour dusted smooth surface is critical for the final rise and texture of the bread. There should be no crags or cracks on the surface. Rest for 40 min- 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Heat a cast iron dutch oven or a baking cloche for 30 minutes.

Just before baking , brush boule with cornstarch wash, sprinkle with caraway seeds. I place it with the parchment in the cloche and bake covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 5-10 minutes till top is brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

Rest the bread for 10 minutes before slicing.

No Knead Focaccia

Kenji starts this article stating the absolute truth “It’s difficult to make good bread today, but it’s darned easy to make hot, fresh, world-class bread tomorrow”. I should know, I have made lots of average bread when I’ve tried to bake the same day. I’m a huge fan of no-knead bread and I will always be grateful to Mark Bittman for popularizing Jim Lahey’s technique. I use the recipe in “Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day” by Jeff Hertzberger. A long slow rise that works the gluten for you and develops a rich sourdough flavor, a closed Dutch oven to mimic the steam in professional ovens – it’s genius. I’m all set with the basic boule recipe. My focaccia though doesn’t always turn out the way I want- till now. Kenji’s recipe works for the most part- I had to add 30-50 cc more water, the dough has to be moist and tacky at the end. He made his focaccia with olives, rosemary and pistachios. I made mine with vegan hot dogs bits, rosemary and olives. My top started to burn at the 550 F temp- I covered it with some foil. Next time I’ll start the baking with the foil cover and remove it 10 min in. Still a delicious bread- I served it with spinach soup.