For the loaf of sweets: Mumbai chefs on how bread raises desserts to new levels

The city of Mumbai loves its bread. After all, it is home to bread-y treats such as the spicy vada pav and the classic Bombay sandwich. While these are savoury, bread is also a hot favourite with pastry chefs here. “Bread is extremely versatile since it adds texture in different formats from soft to crunchy. It also absorbs liquids well like in a classic French toast,” says chef Rachel Goenka, founder of The Chocolate Spoon Company. For her cookbook Adventures with Mithai (2019), Goenka reimagined the Mughlai dessert ‘shahi tukda’ as cinnamon rolls in a dish called ‘Shahi Tukda Cinnamon Rolls with Rabri Cream’.

The US celebrates ‘Real Bread Week’ between February 19 and February 27 every year to encourage eating bread from local bakeries. Mumbai doesn’t particularly need an excuse for that because it does so daily anyway. Mid-day Online asked pastry chefs to talk about the sweet possibilities of bread. 

While Chef Irfan Pabaney uses brioche to make the Sweet Pull Aparts (left), Chef Rachel Goenka has used simple sliced bread to make Shahi Tukda Cinnamon Rolls (right). Photo Courtesy: Olive Pizzeria/The Chocolate Spoon Company 

Proof in the pudding 
Goenka’s love for bread extends beyond her restaurants, where the team experiments with bread often. For her cookbook dish, she decided to make use of easily available sliced bread so that it would be easy  for anyone who wants to make it at home. Apart from the rolls, Goenka has also made a kala jamun bread and butter pudding, where bread is the star ingredient. 

At Smoke House Deli, another city restaurant, bread is used in a variety of ways including accompaniments, bread baskets, burgers and sandwiches and even an annual Christmas pudding. City chef Rollin Lasrado takes the famous bread pudding and makes it his own. It has been a part of the menu since March 2021. “A bread pudding is a classic European comfort dessert and a perfect example of how to use leftover bread. While it is something that I have grown up eating, we have worked and tweaked the recipe to make it one of our signature desserts,” he explains. 

Like Goenka, Lasrado also believes in the simplicity of making desserts with bread and using whatever is easily accessible. In fact, while the former makes use of the sliced bread, the latter says making this dessert is the perfect opportunity to use leftover bread. “One can use any kind of bread that you like for this recipe, even a mix of different types. This recipe is an excellent way to reuse leftover bread or cake sponge for breakfast or a dessert.” He notes the kind of bread also influences the kind of flavour and texture of the dessert. While Indian desserts like shahi tukda and double ka meetha are typically fried, Lasrado says the restaurant makes a more French and English style of pudding using bread made in-house. “We try to stick to the classic with this dessert but add freshness to it by using seasonal fruits and flavours to accentuate the classic,” he adds.  

City-based chef Amit Shetty innovates with the classic French toast, something he has grown up eating, by using brioche. Photo Courtesy: Cafe Noir

Fun with brioche
While Goenka and Lasrado find joy in reinventing the shahi tukda and bread pudding, Amit Shetty, city-based head chef at four-month-old Café Noir transforms the classic French toast, a dish he ate for breakfast while growing up. He explains, “I have quite a few memories of eating a classic French toast for breakfast since childhood. So, this time I have put my imagination into making a deconstructed version of the toast with lemon curd.” 

For the dish, he makes use of brioche, the French-origin bread, which he says is a very rich bread with high protein and fat. The bread is also used while serving Eggs Benedict at the restaurant. Shetty, adding to Goenka’s observation, says, “Bread plays a good role in dessert as the gluten strand soaks up all the flavour and you can easily twist and turn the dish according to your palate.” 

Shetty isn’t the only one experimenting with brioche, Chef Irfan Pabaney at Bandra-based Olive Pizzeria also converts them into delights called Sweet Pull Aparts, which are a part of the new menu launched this month. “We created the Pull Aparts because we were inspired by childhood memories of eating tutti frutti breads and more recently Cinnabons,” says the chef. Together with sous chef Sudeep Kashikar, he arrived at using brioche for the pull aparts because the bread has a level of softness that is suitable for a good dessert. “Bread is so versatile – one can pair it with chocolate, caramel, fruit or even custard. It’s neutral enough to not overpower the food, but be more of a carrier of flavour and adds into the texture,” adds Pabaney. 

Oishi Nag and Dhanesh Gandhi, the chef duo behind Chez Oi Patisserie are experimenting with sourdough bread to create the Sourdough Miso Caramel Banoffee, their take on the traditional Banofee Pie. They replace the pie base and dulce with honey toasted sourdough slices and miso caramel. Bread being a breakfast staple at home for Nag as a pudding or pie, it was always up to her to come up with interesting combinations from ingredients available at home. She explains, “On one of my visits back home recently, we had some leftover sourdough bread and bananas so I thought why not try making a banoffee pie.” She added some Shiro miso for umami to the caramel, rather than sea salt, to make miso caramel and used that instead of the traditional dulce de leche, and was surprised by the burst of flavour.

The special twist that sourdough bread brings along excites her.  “As a sourdough enthusiast who grows her own starter, I believe every sourdough loaf tastes different and unique, as every starter is fed differently,” she adds. Like the others, Nag believes in the versatility of bread, especially for desserts. While it currently isn’t on the menu, they hope to include it on the dessert menu as a breakfast option in the future. 

Chef Oishi Nag gives a twist to the classic Banoffee Pie by using honey toasted sourdough slices instead of the traditional pie base. Photo Courtesy: Chez Oi Patisserie 

Smoke House Bread Pudding by Chef Rollin Lasrado

Ingredients: (The recipe is for 16 portions)
Milk – 600 gms, cream – 600 gms, sugar – 300 gms, white chocolate (broken or grated) – 190 gms, eggs –
12 nos, zest of 1 orange, bread (any type) – 600 gms, butter – 150 gms, vanilla essence – 10 ml, raisin – 75 gms, almond flakes – 50 gms. 

1. In a mixing bowl mix milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, orange zest and egg, make sure sugar and egg mix thoroughly to get a homogeneous custard mix.
2. Soak the raisin in warm water to soften. 
3. Cut or tear the bread into cubes and arrange in a layer in a baking mould, pour the custard mixture into it and sprinkle the raisins and the white chocolate. Let the bread soak the custard completely. Keep layering until you use up all the bread. Pour over any leftover custard on top of the bread and leave to absorb. Top with the almond flakes.
4. Bake at 160 degrees Celsius in a water bath for 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for 15-20 minutes before demoulding. 
5. Serve warm with a citrus crème anglaise, fresh berry compote or ice cream of your choice.  

1. One can keep the bread with the custard in the fridge to soak overnight and bake it the next day as well. In that case, ensure that there is a little more custard poured over the bread. 
2. You can add any dry fruits you like instead of the raisins. 

Shahi Tukda Cinnamon Rolls with Rabri Cream by Chef Rachel Goenka

Bread slice (large) – 6 pieces, Unsalted butter (softened0 – 100 gms, cinnamon powder – 10 gms, castor sugar – 200 gms, ghee for frying, rabri – 300 gms

1. Cut the crusts off the slices of bread. Using a rolling pin, lightly flatten the bread slices. 
2. In a bowl, cream the butter with cinnamon powder and sugar. The mixture should increase in volume and turn a paler colour. 
3. Spread the cinnamon butter generously on each slice of bread and roll the slice like you would a Swiss roll. 
4. Allow all the rolled bread slices to set in the fridge for 2 hours. Slice each roll horizontally to create individual swirls. 
5. Thread the swirls with a wooden skewer so they don’t unravel when fried. 
6. Heat ghee in a deep saucepan, pouring enough to immerse the swirls. 
7. Deep-fry the bread swirls till golden brown, then drain on a paper towel. 
8. In a bowl, combine the castor sugar and cinnamon. Toss the warm swirls in the cinnamon sugar, then remove the skewers. Serve warm, with warmed rabri.

Sourdough Miso Caramel Banoffee by Chef Oishi Nag
Sourdough slices – 4 nos, butter for toasting – 15 gms, honey – 5 gms, castor sugar for caramel – 95 gms, heavy cream for caramel – 45 gms, glucose – 15 gms,  Shiro miso paste (mild miso) – 6 gms, butter for caramel – 75 gms, banana (large) – 3 nos, chocolate shavings – 15 gms, whipped cream – 120 gms.
1. Toast the sourdough slices in butter and apply honey.
2. Layer at the base of a deep pie or baking dish.
3. Heat the castor sugar till it turns golden brown and gets caramelised.
4. Stir in warm cream and glucose.
5. Add in the miso.
6. Add in the butter in parts.
7. Pour the miso caramel on top of the toasted bread.
8. Slice bananas and grill them slightly.
9. Place the bananas in an uniform manner on top of the caramel.
10. Whip some heavy sweetened cream and top it over the bananas.
11. Lastly garnish with chocolate shavings and keep it in the fridge to set and cool.

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