When Sujit Sumitran got off the plane from Goa, he was bringing an ancient artefact to Delhi to show to the participants of his bread-making workshop. It was the Paigambari, a kind of wheat that dates back to the Indus Valley Civilisation that has been brought back by a few farmers in north India, and which he mills at home. For the past four years, Sumitran, 56, an executive coach, has been championing sourdough, a process of bread-making that goes back 5,000 years. Yet, Sumitran’s passion is not history but health and nutrition. He explains in an interview:
How did you start making sourdough?
Bread chose me instead of the other way around. About six years ago, I felt the need to slow down and do more than just work. My work, which revolved around leadership and innovation in the corporate sphere, was such that I was travelling 15 days a month. I decided to chuck the job and start my little consultant practice. I have always enjoyed cooking. Before I knew it, I started baking bread and it took about a year to play around with commercially yeasted bread. Finally, the only area that was left was the sourdough, which is the final frontier when it comes to
What keeps you passionate about sourdough when there is a variety of bread easily available in the market?
Once you get hooked on to it, it is very hard to let it go because you are playing with something that is alive. When you make bread at home, you decide what goes into it —whether you want it with maida, ragi or whole wheat.
How is making bread different from other forms of cooking?
In bread, what are you working with?
It is just flour, water and salt. It is the simplest of components. What I like to focus on in our workshops is that, you don’t need fancy ingredients to create something fabulous. What is important is that you understand the interdependancy of ingredients — what does extra water do to flour, for instance.
How challenging is the process of making sourdough?
You have to understand the medium and the ingredients and that takes some time. The consistency of flour to water could depend on what kind of day it is —the temperature outside, for instance. The challenge of sourdough making is that it is a pure process, using natural ingredients and you are dealing with microorganisms that work at their own pace. Flour, water and salt — you put them together and, suddenly, in front of you, you start seeing how the dough starts changing. You feel it growing. It is pure alchemy.
Sujit Sumitran will hold a bread workshop from May 11 to 13 in Mayur Vihar, Phase I. To register, mail: firstname.lastname@example.org