Delhi is always ready to embrace new trends – be it Sushi, Lebanese or Thai food. But bread, the stuff of life, is yet to capture the imagination of the city. Maybe it is that we have plentiful choices from amidst our own borders – naan, sheermal, roti, paratha, puri, bhatura, dosa, kulcha, baqarkhani, and so on. But surely, this city must too have caught up on some latest food trends, notably, the international leaning towards artisan bread?
What exactly is artisan bread? It's any kind of bread cooked in small batches for a discerning clientele, not something that comes mass produced or that you will find wrapped in polythene at the neighbourhood grocer's. L'Opera, the French patisserie and boulangerie trusts no one but their own to fashion their bread. "There are so many factors that go into making bread – the temperature, the quality of the flour, the humidity, etc. Currently we make all our bread at our factory in Noida", explained Shraddha Singh, Managing Director of L'Opera. Being a French establishment, with a French head chef, the firm specializes in French bread. Singh also explained that they mix and match Indian and imported flour to get the right effect. "Certain kinds of bread like sour dough bread or breads with hard crusts require enriched flour which you don't get in India because people here mostly consume soft, milk breads like the pav. We source those kinds of strong flour from abroad", Singh says.
What exactly is artisan bread? It’s any kind of bread cooked in small batches for a discerning clientele, not something that comes mass produced or that you will find wrapped in polythene at the neighbourhood grocer’s.
Others like Sugar and Spice and Choko La also stick to baking their own bread in their factories in Guargaon. SwissGourmesa in Ghitorni makes everything from imported ingredients, which include various seeds and grains but stick to Indian wheat. They will even deliver hard-to-find breads like Zopf, pumpernickels, volkorn bread, dark rustico bread, etc. to your doorstep. But for smaller places like the one-of-its-kind Tattva organic kitchen, it is not always possible to manufacture all the bread at the small restaurant kitchen. "We get some of our bread made outside, and some we bake at our own kitchen. Whenever we outsource it, we make sure that the bread is made strictly according to our recipes, and all the ingredients used are organic", says owner Anuradha Madhusudhanan. Fresh batches can be found every morning and evening, and they get the stuff baked at a small German bakery in Paharganj, and a "very local" baker in Sarvoday. "The gluten free bread is made exclusively at our kitchen though", Madhusudhanan says. Recently for Christmas and New Year, they stocked specialties like pretzels and Christollen, a German specialty bread eaten around Christmas time.Image 2nd
Surprisingly it is not hard at all to find affordable artisan bread. At the heart of the capital is one of the city's oldest outlets, the good ol' Wengers. Charanjeet Singh, their manager tells us that though Wengers always baked stuff like buns, baguettes, and bread sticks, the large part of their bread menu dates back four years. "The restaurant owners keep travelling and they bring back new ideas. Now we sell brioche, ciabatta, farm house, german rye, onion fougasse, jalapeno, sundried tomato, and more" Singh adds. Easily the cheapest of the lot we surveyed, Wengers offers variety without ripping you off.
Our conclusion? – Delhi is yet to come up with a dedicated artisan bakery, one that actually experiments with bread, and doesn't just churn out the regular varieties. But if you are willing to overlook that, then there are enough outlets dishing out fairly good stuff. If you are adventurous enough, try approaching them with your recipes, and they might just bake something special for you.