‘Kefir’– is it some magic potion?
The cauliflower-like grains of kefir culture were thought of as having amazing healing powers as far back as the 18th century, and great care was taken by the North Caucasian families who bequeathed them from generation to generation as a source of family wealth. From here it came to Russia and then spread to Europe and America and other parts of the world. The slow-acting yeasts, late in the fermentation process, break lactose down into ethanol and carbon dioxide and very little lactose remains in kefir. It is good for people with ‘lactose intolerance’, provided the number of live bacteria present in this beverage consumed is high enough (i.e., fermentation has proceeded for adequate time).
Why Kefir in breads?
Simply because my endeavor is to experiment and develop bread recipes which are healthy and more ‘organic’. Kefir contains lactobacillus bacteria so it can be used to make sourdough type breads. So I wanted to try it out. Also, I often use buttermilk in my baking recipes and Kefir seems to be a healthier substitute.
Milk Kefir & Kefir Breads
The first step is the most difficult one or so one thinks. In fact we keep postponing any new stuff for we are afraid of failures. Knowing fully well the benefits of Kefir and its varied uses as a healthier substitute for milk and curd, I self learnt the theory part thanks to Sunaina and Shanan and much thanks to Shanan, my baker friend, who shared some Kefir with grains and my ‘kefir’ journey commenced.
Baking ‘healthy breads’ is my passion and my vision is to make a self-sufficient loaf – which has all the required nutrients but at the same time is also very delicious and wholesome! Well that is my commitment for my baking community and ‘once I have done commitment I do not listen even to myself’ ! (This is our favorite dialogue from the Salman Khan starrer film ‘WANTED’ and oh so true!)
Kefir bread recipe:
- 2 cups wheat flour (280 grams)
- 1 cup maida (120 grams)
- ½ cup oats and mixed seeds (soaked in warm water)
- 1 cup kefir (250 ml)
- ½ cup water (120 ml)
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp jaggery powder or honey
- 2 tbsp milk powder (optional)
- 1 tbsp chia seeds (soaked in warm water)
Dough for softer breads
In all the bread recipes, to make soft and less dense breads, the key is to make soft dough and have more hydration (i.e. the liquid content). The general rule is that hydration should be 50% to 60% (i.e. if flour is 100 grams, liquid should be 50g to 60g, or 50ml to 60ml).
Remember, while using wholewheat flour (which is less refined and absorbs more liquid), the breads improve with more hydration. In my recipes, I keep hydration upto 70%.
Do remember to include all wet ingredients such as oil, butter, milk, water etc. in the liquid content that you add to the flour.
Mix all the dry ingredients and sift the flour well, as aeration helps in baking well structured breads. Do not add salt now, as it interferes with the activity of yeast. We will add it later.
Add the wet ingredients gradually, stir well and keep the dough aside for ½ an hour or so. This process is called autolyse. It helps in breaking down the enzymes and gluten formation for well structured and flavoured breads. We can now add salt to the dough.
Add salt and knead well for 10 minutes or so. Enjoy the temporary mess — the dough will become more stable with the yeast feeding on sugars in the flour. Keep kneading, stretching and folding it on itself (like folding a sheet of paper in half), for about 10 minutes for gluten to develop properly. Add some flour or olive oil to make the dough soft and smooth, as needed. The dough will become smooth over time. Keep at it.
After the dough becomes smooth, start molding the dough in a large ball. As shown in the clip, place the ball on the kneading surface and drag it towards yourself. Repeat this a few times.
Many of you have asked about this. Place the dough on the mat, and drag it towards you.
Place the ball in a large greased bowl (preferably a glass bowl). Cover and keep the bowl in a dark and warm place. The fermentation process will double the dough in size, so make sure your bowl is large enough. The dough should not over ferment (i.e. the dough should not rise more than double its original size, else it then sinks).
In my experience fermentation time in an Indian kitchen in warm weather would be around 45 minutes to 1 hour. In cool weather, it’s about 1&½ to 2 hours.
Gently take the dough out from the bowl. Because of the greasing it should slide out. Do not pull it out else you disturb the activity of the yeast. Again gently deflate the dough with your fingertips — I call it dimpling. Deflate very gently using your fingers. Once deflated, pull the dough from the edges towards the center, so that the smooth side is out. Place it seam side down. Collect into a large ball, seam side down.
Shape the dough into a loaf or buns, as you please and let it prove for about ½ an hour.
Bake at 180 to 190 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes, till done. For best results spray some water in the heated oven just before baking.
Is that all?
Voila! The loaf with the goodness of KEFIR along with oats, seeds etc. is done. Enjoy it plain with dips, as sandwiches, or just toast and enjoy with some soup and salad.
The breads made with Kefir are very light on stomach, have a tangy taste and smell heavenly! So go for it and share your experience with our baking community!
Happy Teacher’s Day! Keep learning, teaching, and enabling others!