The first thing I do when I land in Mumbai the first thing I do is have a cup of cutting chai, you know I am super crazy about Chai, I probably have 4-5 cups everyday.
The second thing I do is have Vada Pav. I have fond memories of traveling in the train and eating Vada Pav, served with spicy sautéd green chili and garlic chutney. I have a recipe for Vada Pav
Vada Pav is a popular street food in Mumbai, in fact Mumbai has amazing street food in general. Pav Bhaji, Pani Poori, Vada Pav, Tawa pulav, Ragda Pattice, Kutchi Dabeli, the list just goes on and on. When you talk about food like Kutchi Dabeli, Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji, you quickly realize that Paav/Bread is a critical element for these.
In Mumbai this bread is called Laadi Paav. Laadi is the tiled floor, when you see the sheets of this bread, you understand why it gets that name.
The bread came to India with the Portuguese, as I was reading more about this it seems like this Laadi Paav is similar to the Portuguese bread, Papo Secos. When I visited my sister in Miami, I tasted a Cuban bread, Pan De Agua and it was very smilar to the Ladi Paav.
My family is crazy about Pav Bhaji and Kutchi Dabeli, I end up making these at least twice a month if not more. In California I tried using Burger buns, dinner rolls, Kaiser rolls, but nothing tasted like the Paav I was used to eating growing up in India. So I talked to many people, read books, watched videos and came up with a recipe that works perfect for my family, I feel it comes closest to the Paav I have eaten.
Paav is made with simple ingredients like Yeast, Flour, Sugar and water. When I talked to some of the bakeries, I was told that its a poor man’s food so no fancy ingredients like Milk Powder or milk are used.
The trick is in the process and I feel that these three things are important:
- High hydration dough- The dough should be quite lose, this allows the yeast to create large air pocket while baking.
- Gluten formation- The dough needs to be kneaded so that strong gluten forms which can stand up to those air pockets while baking.
- High temperature baking- Baking at high temperature for a shorter time is critical to get that crust.
I feel bread making is just as much an art as science, do even though I have given the exact recipe, I have also made a video which shows all the steps in detail.
Once you master this, you will be able to make them at home with the ingredients of your choice, I use unbleached organic flour and organic butter.
Pav Bhaji, Batata vada or kutchi dabeli, these all dishes are incomplete without a perfect Paav. This easy to make recipe will remind you of the Ladi pav from Mumbai.
- 190 gms Water About 3/4 and a little more
- 7 Gms Instant Yeast About 2 1/4 Tsp or 1 packet
- 2 Tbsp Sugar
- 250 gms All Purpose Flour
- 3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter melted
- 1 Tsp Salt
Heat the water to 100F. I use a thermometer to check because this is critical for the yeast to rise.
Add sugar and yeast and set aside for 5 mins
Add melted butter to the flour and mix. Add salt and mix it a little more.
By now the Yeast mixture should be frothy, this shows that the yeast is active
Add the yeast mixture to the flour and mix until it comes together.
Now take the mixture on the counter and knead for good 10 mins. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture is wet, as you knead you will see that it comes together.
Dont be tempted to add more flour. Lose dough is key to a fluffy and soft bread
Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let it rise for about 50- 60 mins. The dough should double, so if the temperature is cold, let it rest for 60 mins
After 60 min, take the dough on the counter, deflate and knead for 3-4 mins
Divide in 12 equal pieces. I use a scale. Equal balls ensure that the bread is of same size and also cooks uniformly
Grease and dust with flour a 9×13 pan. I use the Wilton Brownie pan.
Roll the dough pieces in a tight ball and arrange in the pan. Make sure when you roll, you are making the surface taught, and also the seam side should be down. This ensure that when the dough rises, all air gets nicely trapped, making for a spongy bread
Let the balls rest anywhere from 60-75 min. They should be visibly plump
Heat the oven to 450 F
Bake the bread for 8-10 mins. After 10 mins even if the crust does not look super dark brown, dont be tempted to bake longer
Take the pan out and immediately brush with a little butter
Cool on the baking rack.
Enjoy the Paav is ready