Curry leaf bread recipe

Monica Bhide's Curry Leaf Bread. Photo by Sala Kannan

Please welcome Monica Bhide, the India-born, DC-based writer/teacher/cook, author of the blog A Life In Spice, the book Modern Spice, as well as a cool new spice app, iSpice, for iphone and ipad.  Here she gives us instruction on a flavored bread (basic breads can be flavored as easily as a pasta dish—see this recipe for a corn-chipotle ciabatta for instance) as well as a lesson in some Indian seasonings, here, curry leaves which I’ve only worked with a couple times and am glad to see used here. —M.R.

by Monica Bhide

I would be lying to you if I told you I knew how to bake.

In most Indian homes, baking is not something you grow up with.  There are a few exceptions like in the western part of India where the Portuguese settled and opened some lovely bakeries. But where I grew up in Delhi, we mostly ate griddle breads and the tandoori breads (in a hot clay oven), were baked by a vendor down the street, never at home. And while my mom made amazing Indian milk desserts, she nor her mother nor her mother’s mother has ever baked a single cookie in their life.

So when I moved to the States, 20 years ago, I would find myself looking for excuses to be uninvited from cookie sharing parties.  And when my kids started school, I dreaded school baking sales. Give me a pot and a bag of spices, and I will whip you up a curry to be remembered.  But ask me to bake a cookie and I am at a total loss!

Another reason is that baking requires precision: you need to measure things exactly.  And I grew up cooking by “andaza” or estimation. We estimated spices, oil, ingredients and learned to cook by listening, watching, smelling.  I grew up making recipes that were very forgiving. Baking to me is such a rich art and such an exact science.

Necessity being the mother of invention and all, I did try my hand at baking.  In 2006,  I visited my alma mater in Bangalore, India. I stepped into one of the local bakeries that was serving cumin bread, curry leaves bread, cardamom bread and so many more. I fell in love with the taste. The baker refused to share his recipe so I came home and practiced and practiced until I got it right. Friends, who were bakers,  helped me with the measurements and taught me how to recognize important stages, such as when the dough has risen properly.

What you see here is the result of that experiment.

Curry Leaves

A little about the recipe itself: This is flavored dough where the soul of the recipe lies in the fresh curry leaves.  They are easily available at Indian grocers and now even on Amazon.com. Curry leaves are easy to grow at home, but a word of warning when buying seeds: ask for seeds of curry leaves (Murraya koenigii) not a curry plant. A “curry plant”(Helichrysum italicum) has no relation to curry leaves. Buy the shiny leaves that don’t have any signs of bruising. ()

Curry leaves have nothing to do with curry powder; they are superbly aromatic leaves that add a lemony flavor to dishes. While, they have no substitute, this basic dough can be flavored in any number of ways for a spiced bread. If you cannot find them, you can add a teaspoon of crushed carom seeds instead. These seeds add the flavor of thyme to the bread. If you cannot find those, you can add crushed fennel seeds. The recipe is very versatile and can be easily adapted.

Finally, I openly ask Michael’s (and your) forgiveness: He has asked me twice, very politely, if I had the weight for the flour. I did not. This recipe was written before I read and learned from Ratio. Next time, Michael, I promise. I will have weights!

Monica Bhide’s Curry Leaf Bread

from Modern Spice

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (or 2 ¼ teaspoons)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, pounded in a mortar or crushed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh curry leaves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup water (more if needed)
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  1. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Heat the butter, water and milk just until the butter melts. Allow to cool until warm to the touch (110 to 120 degrees F./43 to 49 degrees C.).
  3. Gradually add the warm liquid to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until a soft but not sticky dough forms. You may not need all of the liquid but if the dough is too dry, add warm water, a tablespoon at a time, until you get a soft dough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until you have a soft, smooth and elastic dough.
  5. Remove the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  6. Place the dough on a clean work surface and knead for a minute or two.
  7. Shape and place in an oiled 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pan, cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise until dough is about 1 inch above top of pan (45 to 60 minutes).
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F./190 degrees C. with a rack in the middle position.
  9. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  10. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack.

Makes one medium-sized loaf

NOTE: Since flours vary in their protein content from brand to brand and region to region you might need to adjust the amount of liquid in this recipe.

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19 Wonderful responses to “Curry Leaf Bread”

  • Ria Mathew

    I completely agree with Monica when she says baking is not something you grow up with, in India. Luckily my whole family bakes. My mom was and still is the baker in our community! I am glad that I could learn it at an early stage. But most of the homes depend on bakeries for their breads, cakes and cookies. And if someone did bake a cake, it is then a celebration! :)

    The bread looks delicious. I had already bookmarked this recipe when I was browsing through her book. All I need is some fresh curry leaves because my curry leaf plant is in a dormant stage as of now, due to winter.

    Thanks for sharing it with us!

  • Tinky

    Wow! Can’t wait to try this. And Monica, I’m bad with the weights too; I just fluff and go. Now find a curry-leaf plant….

  • Abigail Blake

    I’m always looking for more uses for the curry leaves we grow. Never thought of bread but will definitely put it on the to do list.

    One bonus of growing your own curry leaf plant is that you will find that it constantly puts out lots of little suckers so you can keep your friends supplied with curry plants too.

  • Tags

    Nari Bhatia’s nursery in River Edge, NJ is a great place for Indian ingredients. Nari was featured on Ruth Reichl’s “Adventures with Ruth,” and after fish missionary Jon Rowley, he’s my favorite subject of that show.

    http://www.bhatia-nurseries.com/

  • Natalie Sztern

    I have a problem with bread which is why I don’t bake it and try very hard not to buy it: butter is my problem…I can eat a loaf of bread and butter all by myself and I don’t realize it until it is too late…I know its psychological; like a drug.

  • Debra

    This is so exciting. I’ve recently discovered curry leaves at our Indian grocer and would love to try this bread with a simple curry some night. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Shabaritha

    Oh thank you Thank you Thank you for sharing this recipe. I have tried to make similar kind of bread with dhill but it always turns out dry. Can’t wait to try out your recipe.

  • Apple

    This looks absolutely awesome – I’ll try it this weekend after I hit up the indian grocery =) A quick question about the flour measurement – is it a sifted or unsifted 4c?

  • Ben

    This is kind of a general question on flavored bread.
    If one wanted to alter the recipe to start with a sponge and an overnight rest, would it be best to use only flour and yeast as the dry ingredients in the sponge, and then mix the spices in with the rest of the dry ingredients when completing the dough, or does it not matter?

  • Caroline

    I know an Indian woman who is exceptional cook, but uses her oven as a storage space for pots and pans. Occasionally she’ll try one of my cakes and remark that I should show her how to make it, but teaching baking to a 75-year-old who rarely measures ingredients or uses the oven sounds pretty daunting.

  • RG

    My mom has a curry leaf plant in her backyard. Its a spice that is in practically every dish she prepares and curries just arent the same without this tempering spice. Often times when she has come to visit me she brings along a plastic bag full of curry leaves. If I were as talented a cook as she I would whip up this curry leaf spiced powder but alas Im not – they end up in my freezer. Next time around I am def going to put some of those to use to make this recipe. Thanks for the idea!
    RG

  • the good soup

    Hi Monica, on the curry plant- I’m assuming that’s the small plant that looks somewhat like a rosemary bush?- do you have any particular uses for it, if not as a substitute for curry leaves? I’ve always wondered, as it grows very easily in my garden but remains neglected (culinarily).

  • faustianbargain

    thanks for this, monica. i have baked many varieties of indian spiced yeasted breads. here is my twist to it. two things i do slightly different..buttermilk and secondly, a little bit of cornmeal. i make the dough with chopped green chillies and make smaller bite sized bread instead of shaping it like a loaf. you can also place a small ball of aloo stuffing(like inside a masala dosa)…with curry leaves and a little bit lemony with mustard leaves. it will be exactly like the potato buns from the bangalore iyengar bakeries..variations: fennel, cumin…etc etc. cheers!

  • CT

    Thank you for the interesting recipe. I made it yesterday with only the substitution of fresh grated turmeric for the dried powder. I used King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour (1# 5.3oz was the weight of 4 level cups); mixing and kneading in the Kitchen Aide with dough hook.
    As written, the recipe gave me a very stiff dough. I added about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of water which helped but still noticed a slow rise and essentially zero oven spring.
    The bread has a rich aroma and a fairly dense texture. The milk gives it a soft crumb, so I would not use it for something like sandwiches, though it tastes good toasted.
    All in all, I would make it again, but would try to get the dough a bit lighter, hoping for a better rise.

  • Luis Villa

    I’d love to try this recipe, but fresh curry leaves are impossible to find in Mexico where I live. My wife brought some dry curry leaves from a trip to India. Will they work for this recipe? Should I put them in hot water first to rehydrate them?
    thanks!

  • harmonious

    Just made this bread this past weekend. It is fantastic. Topped it with some curry chicken salad. Wow.

  • Janani

    Monica, I grew up in bangalore too! I relived all my times at bangalore’s iyengar bakeries reading this post. i have flour and yeast and my pantry and have been looking for a good nudge to start baking bread. this one did it for me. thanks for sharing the recipe :)

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