“Yeast, salt and sugar — if any of the three are not in proportion, the perfect bread will not happen. Baking is what I have done since I joined this profession 17 years ago. I haven’t done any course in baking, rather watched and learnt. I have been with Regal Bakes for a little over five years now and was with New Tops bakery before. At Regal, we make an assortment of breads. Apart from the regular bread, we do buns, wheat breads, croissants and loaves. According to me, buns are the easiest to make. Of late, a lot of new varieties of breads have come in.
Circumstances brought me to this job. A friend of mine had a bakery and I ended up joining him. At home, I don’t remember venturing into the kitchen much. Initially, it was difficult, not so anymore. The work, per se, has grown easier with time, especially with technology coming into baking. Baking was cumbersome earlier, done on arch-shaped set-ups and using coconut shells. We would keep our fingers crossed when we worked on that system. With coconut shells, the heat variation in the oven would be immense and at times, breads would get burnt. In such cases, it would be double the work for us, having to begin from scratch again. But now the job itself has grown easier and comfortable. Bread-laden trays just have to be pushed into the oven and the timer turned on. The work is done. Earlier, some one would have to be near the oven all the time to check if the breads are properly done.
I begin my day at 7 a.m., coming here from Balussery, and usually stay on till 5 p.m. To ready a batch of bread, it easily takes over an hour and half. Every bakery would have a secret step that gives a signature touch to their breads. Bread is judged by its softness. The bread is cut into slices an hour after it is out of the oven. If you cut immediately, you would see the insides are not done well.
Breads are a one-day stock. Here we make about 70 pieces of breads and buns a day, apart from croissants and loaves. We do a small number of wheat and oats breads. There are regular customers who come seeking it. Even for our bread, there are regulars who come from afar. So we usually keep aside their share for they would be hugely disappointed if we run out of stock.
Of course, hiccups happen. I remember one day we baked a batch of bread and one of our regular customers called the owner to say something is amiss. The owner had it and found something missing too. Then we realised, we had forgotten to add salt.
Now I keep my eyes open and take a look when I find new recipes. So too, when I find good bread. The demand for breads and bakeries have only grown. Even in villages, one gets to see fancy bakeries now. People come in here for everything, be it sweets for an occasion or their daily dinner.”
(A weekly column on the men and women who make Kozhikode what it is.)