Wheat Ladi Pav (Bread rolls)

I stay in the state that is known across India for the classic Indian fast food, street food extraordinaire - Vada Pav. Vada Pav for want of a better description is like a burger - except it's nothing like a burger. A soft white bread roll is stuffed with a deep fried potato patty eaten with a lasna chi chutney (garlic chutney) and deep fried chilli. And the best time to have it (and this my totally personal preference) is during the interval of a late night Marathi play from the theatre's canteen. Also if you are not into theatre, then from any of the hand carts. I don't think there is any official count on how many hand pushed food carts exist in any given city in this state, and I wouldn't want to put an estimate on that. But on an average, there must be at least one food cart on every street and more on busier junctions.

The other street food favourite is Kachhi Dabeli - which is a spicy potato filling stuffed in the bread roll and garnished with sev. And this has it's very own identity, taste, and of course fans. Then there is Misal - a seriously spicy sprout curry - that's so fiery that you might feel the smoke coming out your ears - but even with all that spiciness, the chili never masks all the other flavours. Misal is also usually served with Pav. And then there's the eternal favourite - the Pav Bhaji - and every shop, restaurant, food cart selling 'Indian' fast food will have their own version of this dish. The really good stuff is served in Gujrat, but these days, it really depends on your taste - because I am not even sure if there is an 'authentic' version.

The thing common to all of the above is the Pav or Pao - essentially a bread roll that's small enough to hold in one hand and soft enough to not need a knife to slice it in half. Another special thing about these Pao - and I don't  how it happens, and I wouldn't have realised it until my aunt pointed it out - is that they are springy. The bakery or your food vendor will wrap it up so tight - you'd think you will have to eat squashed wrinkled pao by the time you get home, but you open the packages et voila - the pao spring back to their original shapes.

Most grocers,bakeries and corner shops store Pao bread in Maharashtra but there's a glaring lack of the wheat versions. Now, I know how this sounds - all that deep fried, starchy something something you stuff within is fine - but white flour isn't? But there are times when you want to make stuff at home, eat some homemade vada pao because you really don't want street food (because you saw the carts and saw their ingredients), or just want to feel good on having made bread - that too with real whole wheat! Whatever your reason, just bake bread in your kitchen, and you may end up offering making pao for everyone.

Wheat Ladi Pav
Recipe adapted from the class

I figure you can make this completely with whole wheat flour and leave out the plain flour. But those can be very heavy, so if you have made bread before or are reasonably confident, replace the entire plain flour. Also please use instant, fast action or fresh yeast only. The active dry yeast more commonly available (in India) might not give such great results and I know this because I have tried it and even in the thick of summer - the bread I made with it barely rose.

About shaping the rolls - I don't know how the traditional bakeries do it - but you can replicate the shape at home by using a square cake tin. Grease and dust it well. If you don't have a 20 cm square and have a larger/smaller or a rectangular tray, feel free to use that. Shape each roll into a rough rectangle and then place it in your tin. The next roll should be placed slightly apart. Keep a distance of about 0.5 cm between each roll.

You need:

100 gm whole wheat flour
150 gm plain flour/maida
1 1/2 tsp fast action/instant yeast or 2 tsp fresh yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
200 ml tepid water
1 tbsp butter

To make the rolls:
1. Sieve the 2 flours together (You can reduce the flour if you want and increase the whole wheat, but I recommend adding at least 50-80 gms maida). Make a well in the centre, put the yeast, sugar and some water in the well. mix lightly with your fingers until it activates (starts bubbling).

2. Sprinkle the around the flour (it should not come in direct contact with the yeast). Slowly mix together into a very soft dough. You may need more water or you may need less. Knead for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

3. Keep it in an oiled bowl, covered with a wet tea towel for 1-1.5 hrs till double in size. punch the air out, knead again for 2 minutes, and divide it into 8-10 equal portions.

4. Grease and dust a 20 cm square cake tin.

5. Shape each part into a roll and arrange them side by side in the tin. set aside for about 45 minutes till double.

6. Preheat oven to 200 degree C.

7. Bake the pao for about 15 minutes till risen and golden. brush with melted butter as soon as you take them out.



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