One of life’s simplest pleasures is freshly baked home made bread - that lovely wonderful aroma wafting through your home just starts your taste buds tingling from the very first whiff. I know that making your own bread sounds a bit intimidating, but it really needn’t be! Believe me, if I can do it – I’m sure you can too! I’ve never thought of myself as a baker, but this basic recipe is so simple and so easy - the yummy end results will speak for themselves.
Mumbai is very famous for it’s Ladi Pav – where “ladi” means slab (named after the appearance of the bread rolls before baking) and “pav”, which translates directly into bread. Ladi Pav are delicious Indian dinner rolls that go well with just about anything such as butter, jams, preserves, chutneys, Indian pickles…. But Ladi Pav’s most tasty role is when they are eaten as Pav Bhaji – a beloved Mumbai street food dish where these delicious Indian rolls are served with a spicy mixed vegetable mash. It may sound odd, but the combination is truly fantastic!
Now traditionally, this bread is made using all-purpose flour (maida) but you can just as easily make it with whole wheat flour (atta), bread flour or also self rising flour. Bread flour is made from hard wheat and has a much higher gluten content making it perfect for bread making, especially if you like your bread with a slightly chewy texture. You can use any variety of bread flour such as multi-grain bread flour or oat bran bread flour. Plain bread flour can easily be found in any large grocery store but the specialty bread flours are usually available in mainly organic & health food markets. Now self rising flour typically contains baking powder & a pinch of salt – using this type of flour will give you a very soft bread with just a little top crust. Personally, I prefer to use self-rising flour to make my Ladi Pav ☺.
LADI PAV (Indian Bread Dinner Rolls)
3 cups self-rising flour, sifted
2 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 packet is fine)
1¼ cups lukewarm milk
¼ cup lukewarm water
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp oil (or melted butter)
½ tsp salt, to taste (use 1 tsp for other flours)
2 tbsp melted butter or ghee (or an egg wash)
all purpose flour as needed
In a large mixing bowl, combine the warm milk & the warm water with the yeast. Stir well to combine and add in the sugar. Mix well and allow the mixture to sit for about 10-15 minutes. The mixture should be frothy, indicating that the yeast is active. Then add in the oil, salt and milk. Stir well and add in 1 cup of the flour and mix to incorporate all of the ingredients. Slowly continue to add the flour (½ cup at a time) until the dough comes together (the sides of the bowl should be clean) & the dough is not sticky.
Now on a nice smooth surface or counter top, liberally sprinkle some all purpose flour. The fun part is playing with your dough, so go ahead and knead the dough for at least 5-6 minutes. The dough should be elastic and not sticky. Now form the dough into a round ball & transfer the dough to a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Then spread a very light layer of oil on the top surface of the dough as well. Using a clean kitchen towel, cover the bowl and place it in a warm place. If it is cold outside, place it in an oven right under the oven light (even this little bit of heat & warmth will help). If it’s very cold outside, you may need to place the dough in a very low oven (heat the oven to 100-150 deg F - depending on how cold it is in your area of the world, then turn the oven off & simply let the dough bask in its lovely warmth).
Let the dough sit for 1-2 hrs, by then it should have almost doubled in size. Then punch the dough down and transfer it to a well floured surface and knead the dough for another 4-5 minutes. Then form the dough into 10-12 small balls & arrange them about 1½” apart in a well oiled baking pan or on a baking tray. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it sit for another 30-45 minutes allowing it to rise again.
Don’t forget to preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Lightly brush the dough balls with a little melted butter (or an egg wash) on the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. The rolls should be brown & crispy on the top bottom. Remove the bread from the oven and allow it too cool (about 30 minutes) on a wire rack before removing. Serve the rolls with a little butter, your favorite jam and enjoy!
You can make these rolls with a combination of all-purpose flour & whole wheat flour, the ratio is up to you but for a healthier version – use more whole wheat flour.
This bread recipe can also be made with any bread machine. Just follow the basic recipe using the same ingredients & quantities, but add the ingredients in the correct order suggested by your specific bread machine's manufacturer. Then simply set your bread machine to the "dough" setting & then follow the rest of the bread recipe as directed above.
You could add whatever you like to this basic pav recipe such as:
2” piece of ginger, peeled & finely grated
2 tsp freshly ground cumin powder
8-10 small green Thai chilies, finely minced (to taste)
6-8 fresh curry leaves, finely minced
½ cup freshly minced cilantro leaves (or you can use mint leaves or a combination)
Mix the dough and then add in the ginger, ground cumin powder, green chilies, curry leaves & cilantro leaves.
You can also add some fresh rosemary or garlic chives instead of cilantro leaves. You could also add your favorite spices to this recipe like freshly ground fennel seeds or coriander seeds.
I also love adding Kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) & some toasted unsalted cashew pieces to this bread.
Feel free to sprinkle the top of the pav with some white sesame seeds or black poppy seeds just before baking if you wish.