There was an Iyengar bakery in every corner of Madras in the 90s. There was one very close to my school. I’ve had so many slices of the spicy, fragrant masala bread from there, our bicycles parked outside, laughing with friends.. such happy times. Even now the aroma of cumin and onion and green chilies evokes memories from high school for me. Of course, this recipe is a bit more milder, mainly because my kids don’t like it too spicy.
3 &1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small bunch of cilantro,finely chopped
1 bunch of curry leaves, finely chopped
1 onion,finely chopped
1 tbsp green chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 pinches of salt
1 tsp of turmeric
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1) Make masala:
Heat 1tbsp of oil, add cumin. Then add onions, chili, curry leaves, salt & turmeric. Saute for 4-5 min, turn off the heat and add the cilantro. Let the masala cool.
2) Make Dough:
Warm the milk in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (Milk should be luke warm).
Add sugar and yeast and mix well. Let it sit for 10 min till it becomes frothy.
In a big bowl, mix dough, oil, yeast mixture and salt. Add the water and mix till the dough is homogenous.
Add the masala and mix once more.
Then knead the dough on a floured counter for about 10 min, till the dough isn’t sticky, but soft and springy. (you can do this whole thing in a stand mixer too)
Shape into a ball, place it in an oiled bowl, and cover with a tea towel. Let it proof in a warm place for an hour- 90 min.
3) Shape the dough:
Punch the dough to de-gas.
On a floured counter, flatten the dough to a roughly rectangle shape. The width of the rectangle should be the same as the length of your loaf pan.
Fold the lengthy side of the rectangle (which is closer to you) a little past the half way of the length of the rectangle. Fold over the other side, overlapping slightly. (It is like folding a letter to put in an envelope, except for the overlap).
Seal the seam tightly by pinching together (so that the top of the loaf is nice and taut).
Place in the greased loaf pan seam side down.
Cover with a oiled plastic wrap loosely (the loaf will rise over the pan and you want it to rise).
Let the dough rise till the center is about an inch over the loaf pan sides (about an hour-90min)
4) Bake the bread:
Preheat your oven to 375F.
Brush the top of the loaf with milk/butter.
Bake for 45-50 min, until the top is golden brown. Turn the pan around 180degress halfway through baking, so it bakes evenly.
Take the bread out, let it sit in the pan for 10 min, turn out on the cooling rack, and let it cool completely before slicing.
Slice with a serrated blade (motion like a saw) for uniform slicing.
Alternately, you can also shape the dough into buns, dinner rolls etc. Baking times would vary: about 20-25 min for dinner rolls, 18-20 min for buns.
Herbs can be varied: you can use dill or parsley instead of cilantro. And you can make your bread more spicier with more green chilies.
Since the bread has no preservatives, it will harden after 2-3 days. Don’t throw it away, it makes amazing ‘spicy french toast’.