Thursday, February 6, 2014

Baking Pav (as in Pav Bhaji) at home

Joining  a bread baking class was one of those spur of the moment impulsive decisions... Sure there are a lot of sites that teach you baking bread, my favorite being the King Arthur Flour site. But thought a practical demonstration would maybe teach me  the nuances of baking bread  which would make understanding recipes on the net easier .

The class by Preeta of Crusts & Crumbs focused basically on 'Pavs'. I wasn't aware that the name Pav came from the fact that the dough used to be kneaded with legs and hence comes from the hindi word for legs 'Paon/ Pav'. Ouch!! I also understood from the animated discussion in the class that the pavs available in Singapore is not a touch of the original pav available in Mumbai. I had been totally clueless till then. :) :) 
Anyway, here goes the recipe.

Ingredients :

  • 3.5 cups of 12% high protein flour.  ( High protein flour is also known as bread flour)
  • 1 tspn of dry active yeast. ( Preeta advised using this over instant and also to store them in a refrigerator to ensure the yeast remained in form) 
  • 1 tspn of salt
  • 1 tspn of sugar
  • 3 tbspn oil
  • 350 ml lukewarm water.


Mix the flour , salt , sugar, yeast . Then add half the oil.. Add  the water and knead. Initially the dough will be very sticky and look something like this.

This is the time to add any flavor in case you are not planning to bake a pav. I wanted to bake buns to go with a soup. And so I added some  sun dried tomato pesto which I had at home.  I added two generous tablespoonfuls of the pesto. I would maybe add more the next time for a stronger flavor. And maybe add crushed dried basil too for added flavor. You  need to accordingly decrease the amount of water  considering the amount of liquid you are adding. If you are adding dry herbs, seeds  - then you may add  most of the 350 ml water stated in the ingredient list. Since  pesto is semi-liquid, I let a little bit of water remain of the 350 ml stated in the ingredient list.

Keep kneading, adding dry flour and a little oil from time to time till it becomes a little less sticky. Now take it out of the bowl you were kneading it in. Take a large flat surface, say a clean kitchen slab. Sprinkle some dry flour on it and place this dough on it. Keep kneading for around ten minutes. Stretch it ahead ( that is why u need a flat larger surface) , fold it , turn over clock wise or anti-clockwise  and stretch again.   Keep adding flour and the oil as and when u feel the need for it . In ten minutes the dough will become less sticky and will more or less become a condensed mass like this.

Over kneading does not help  and so do take care not to overdo the timing of the kneading.  Now take the dough in both your hand and squeeze it lightly with one hand and then the other  around six times, lightly rotating it so that the entire ball has been more or less pinched. This apparently creates surface tension . Now oil a deep container and place the dough in it. Keep it in a warm area  and let it remain there for 45 minutes to an hour till it doubles. If it doesn't double in an hour , let in remain a little longer. The idea of oiling the container before placing the dough is to ensure the dough does not tear off when we reuse it for further processing . When you are letting the dough double, do ensure that it is kept in a place where it receives no jerks. It should be handled with care to ensure that no tear or jerk releases the carbon dioxide inside the dough. 

Now take the doubled dough and punch it lightly from all sides --  for say five minutes. Again create surface tension by pinching with your palms. This is the time u shape your dough. Take the baking pan u plan to bake your bun in. Oil it lightly and dust it lightly with flour. Place the buns on it.  Cover it and let it again rise till it doubles . This should take another 45 minutes to an hour. Take care that the cover does not touch the dough. If u are covering it with cling film, lightly oil the cling film in the inside so that the cling film can be removed smoothly without tearing the dough.

In this picture you can see the buns are touching each other as they have doubled.  I took three other buns and very lightly shaped and depressed it and placed sausages in it.

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees centigrade. Bake the buns for 20 to 30 minutes. This will vary from oven to oven. I baked mine in the convection mode of my microwave and it took me thirty minutes. A fellow student baked hers in a regular oven and hers were very brown at the top -- just as the one we see in shops. The darkness of your pan also contributes in baking browner buns. I plan to bake the sausage buns for a longer time the next time I bake them and also create a incision in the sausage as I found the sausage a little dry. The sausage buns may not seem as fluffy as the regular buns as the weight of the sausage pulls it down. Remove them from the pans and let cool on wire racks or they will become soggy from the bottom. Let them cool a little before serving. 

We had them with a  butternut squash clear soup and it certainly was yummy... What do they say about chopping your own wood making you warmer?  Bon Appetit!!

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