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27.03.2018

In these troubled times, carbs are among the few comforts we can still rely on. So when we hear about Selvan Thandapani, former human-computer interaction design professional who’s (b)ready to re-enact half of the miracle of fish and loaves, we call immediately.

Selvan’s new brainchild, Sour House, is a home baking agency that makes and supplies sourdough bread on demand, wrapped in a brown paper bag (full marks, obviously, for packaging). After many months of kitchen experiments benefiting grateful friends, Selvan opened shop last week determined to produce truthful toast. “Read the ingredients on the back of any commercial sourdough bread you buy and you’ll find yeast!” he exclaims incredulously, as the heavenly scent of fresh bread baking wafts through his home kitchen. “How is that even sourdough?”

The Grateful Bread

His own interest in baking was sparked one fateful Christmas in England when, inspired by his mother-in-law, he decided to start experimenting with baking. Fast forward several months: Selvan, now back in India, frustrated by the quality of yeast available locally and no longer willing to rely on yeast-mules from the west, turned at last to bread that doesn’t need it.

The crusty, tangy delight that is sourdough relies on a process any good, rava idli-nomming Bangalore child is familiar with - fermentation. The same helpful bacteria that transform soured curd into our breakfasts are now the key to upping our #adulting brunch game.

Selvan has an encyclopedic knowledge of the fermentation process (seriously, it’s his bedside reading) and a determination to make this a community-driven endeavour. His bread is undeniably more expensive than department store alternatives, but Selvan promises that it’s because he seeks out the best possible ingredients and the most reliable partners with whom to produce perfect pain.

He sources whole wheat from Belgaum through Buffalo Back, a local farmer led co-op, which is then milled at a chakki close to the bakery in Ejipura. He’s also looking ahead to including farmers and millers more directly in the process: His dream is to have a space where grains sourced directly from farmers are milled in-house by people as committed to the sanctity of the process as he is, baked on site, and served to neighbours and locals who see bread as not just a matter of the body, but of the soul.

Dat Boi Dough

Loaves on offer at Sour House will vary from week to week, ranging from a mild boule that will replace your usual kirana-sourced dough to a toothsome, tangy loaf that should please even the strictest sourdough devotee. (Here’s what to watch out for: a crust as hard as your heart after a break up, a cosmopolitan crumb so widely and evenly dispersed, a springiness and bounce that rivals anything off of a Nicki Minaj video, and an aroma that will dispel any silly notions of a full stomach.)

Selvan’s ambitions don’t just end with providing you the base for your Instagrammable Sunday confection of avocado-and-pink-Himalayan-salt delectations. He is excited about all the things fermentation can produce. Once you’re used to your new sourdough fuelled lifestyle, expect kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi to be added to Sour House’s menu. Until then, a slice of this bread, glistening with butter, will help you forget dreams of yeasteryear.

Getting there: Text, WhatsApp or call Selvan at 9894062073 to be added to the Sour House mailing list. Order forms go out early in the week and 500-550 gms sourdough loaf is delivered by the weekend, prices start at Rs 180.

Sushmita Sundaram enjoys writing about funny people and odd things. Follow her on Twitter at @sushmitas.

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Food & Drink