Leavened Bread Versus Weather

A. loves channa-batura, a delicious Indian combination of chickpea curry and bread. This meal, however, cannot be whipped up immediately. Batura is a leavened bread, which means that the dough needs between 8-12 hours to rise. Since we were in a rush, we went out to our local Indian restaurant to enjoy the meal. Much to A.’s dismay, the batura that we were served was burned – instead of its normal golden hued puffy and light appearance. Upon sending it back, we received another that looked exactly like the rejected one with an explanation that “you can’t help the weather,” apparently daring us to complain again!  Although we were disappointed, this is a common occurrence with bread that uses leavening agents like yeast.

Yeast, after all, is a living organism. Yeast cells grow and multiply best at 78°F creating bubbles of carbon dioxide that cause dough to rise. The only way to guarantee this steady temperature is by leaving the dough to rise and rest in a bread maker. Without a bread maker, it is still possible to make leavened bread despite the vagaries of weather.

There are also a few other factors that can help in the fermentation process of dough left out at room temperature. Here are a few of the ways to ensure optimal conditions for dough to rise.

  • Flour – sift to aerate the flour until it is loosely packed.
  • Yeast – add a ¼ – ½ tsp more if the temperature is going to be below 78°F, and add less if the temperature is higher. Mix yeast with warm water so that the temperature of the mixture is raised when the yeast is added to room temperature flour.
  • Salt – add less as it hampers yeast cells growth. A ¼ tsp. is plenty (as in the below recipe).
  • Water – adding more water to the flour mixture is typically good, even though this may cause the dough to be sticky. Yeast cells like moisture. After the dough has doubled in volume / risen, more flour can be added as needed to knead the dough.
  • Time and patience – do not rush the process. The longer the yeast has to work with flour mixture, the more time for the dough to double in volume.

Batura (Fried Leavened Bread)

Flour – 2 cups, sifted

Dry active yeast – 2 tsp, mixed with 2 tbsp warm water

Oil – 2 tbsp

Yogurt – 1 tbsp

Salt – ¼ tsp

  • Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Knead and shape into a ball.
  • Cover with damp cheesecloth or towel.
  • Keep aside for 12- 14 hours. (This is where the weather comes into play. On a damp, summer day, it took more than 14 hours. Be patient.)
  • Roll out the dough into 4-inch disks (or into a size that can be submerged in a wok or deep pan with oil) on a lightly floured surface, adding more flour if the dough doesn’t hold shape or warm water if the dough is too dry.
  • Heat the oil in a small wok or deep frying pan.
  • Add the flat disk, pushing down the dough lightly with a spatula so that it remains submerged in oil. It will start to rise and once a large bubble has formed, flip the disk over to the other side until it has a golden-brown color.  If the dough starts to brown too quickly, lower the heat.
  • Remove and place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.

Note: Serve Batura with chickpea curry or with any dish that has a sauce.

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