Breaking Bread: Sujit Sumitran And The Art Of Baking Sourdough Bread
In a quiet corner of Goa, home baker Sujit Sumitran opens up his hearth and his heart to strangers looking to learn the art of baking sourdough bread.
If Sujit Sumitran could make enough sourdough bread for everyone, regular bakeries would shut shop, and so would a few MNCs. A self-taught home baker, Sumitran, who runs a lifecoaching consultancy called The Yellow Submarine in Goa, is usually up to his elbows in flour at home. He’s grinding whole-wheat flour from heirloom wheat berries, mixing in natural yeast and anything else he can find in the fridge and creating intricately patterned loaves of warm, crusty sourdough bread. “I’ve always had a soft corner for bread,” he says of his passion. “I would constantly be on the lookout for bread that was better than the mass-produced industrial bread I grew up on. Then, one day, my wife talked about a bread machine, and before you could say Jack Robbins, I had researched and got one home for her. While it was a gift for her, I just couldn’t stay away from it, and I found myself churning out bread day after day, till I got a handle on it. It was almost like bread chose me instead of me choosing bread.” The loaves that are pulled piping hot from Sumitran’s cast-iron Dutch oven are packed with flavours — green chillies and cheese, berries and seeds, coffee and cranberry, caramelised onion and black pepper.
The fruits of Sumitran’s labour feed an entire community, both online and offline. His detailed but lighthearted documentation has inspired numerous followers of his blog (www.glutenforgluttons. com), and he regularly barters his wares at local events for other artisanal goods or just feedback. At regular intervals, he holds workshops in his kitchen for other bread enthusiasts, sharing stories and a drink or two, while the delicious smell of fresh bread envelopes his home. “It’s almost like the world has become smaller and a better place thanks to bread,” he says. Even as his bread travels into new hearts, his biggest loyalists are found closer to home. “Almost everyone who’s eaten good sourdough bread will say that the flavour and texture of sourdough bread win hands-down. The other day, my maid told me that after she started eating my bread, she finds it impossible to eat store-[bought] and bakery bread.”