What could be better than savouring a hot, flaky croissant that’s baked by hand from scratch, with no preservatives, and fresh ingredients with your morning java? There’s little else that warms the heart like the authentic taste and aroma of a French bakery. And that’s exactly what Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse, is doing. From the aforementioned croissants – both savoury and sweet – to bagels, sourdough bread, tea cakes, croisstatas, Babka Knots, cruffins (a hybrid of a croissant and a muffin) and cookies, this bakery (which once operated out of the Cyberhub in Gurugram) now delivers its goodies online. “Covid-19 hasn’t affected the sale of any item on our menu,” says Suchali, founder of Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse. “We’ve got an excellent response even in these testing times, and are currently operating on a pre-order basis so that we can bake fresh early in the morning and deliver to people.”
“Our baked goods are made from scratch and in a non-mechanized way,” says Suchali. “There is a lot of science that goes into the process as we need to create the optimum environment for the breads and other baked goods to develop, to get the right quality and texture. That’s why I thought adding the word ‘artisan’ would reflect on our adherence to time-honoured artisanal standards in Europe.”Suchali's Artisan Bakehouse - almond croissant
Suchali, a finance major who’s never stepped into a culinary school, knew naught about baking or cooking, but was driven by her love of eating bread and croissants as she travelled across Europe and the US. She ended up doing an apprenticeship with Born & Bread Bakehouse in Florida, USA – which gave her the hands-on experience of not only baking and creating the product, but also how to sell it. Last year, she did a ‘stage’ or internship with Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Suchali always wanted to recreate the aromas and tastes of a French boulangerie in New Delhi, and first found success with her croissants. She was soon joined by her friend and partner Mitali (who takes care of brand communication and business operations).
But let’s return to Suchali’s goodies, starting with the croissant. “Making a perfect, flaky croissant is a game of patience and good-quality ingredients, especially the type of butter you use,” says Suchali, who works on her croissants in a temperature-controlled room. “Pure croissants take four days to make. And of course, they need love!”Suchali working in the kitchen
There’s also a NYC staple on the menu, the bagel. “Making bagels is easy,” says Suchali. “All you need is a good, strong flour, and a longer resting time. They are boiled before baking to give the right amount of chewiness. And then we bake them in our stone-base oven.”
But ask Suchali if you need to use expensive high-quality French or Italian flour to bake, and she says, ”Honestly, using those really expensive imported French flours is not required at all to make a good loaf of bread. All you need is the knowledge to strengthen your dough even with local flours. There are various ways of strengthening dough. We can use different pre-ferments, longer resting times, and a process you can follow to make the final shape of the loaf before we bake it. Freshly milled flour is always better if you want to get a better bread.”Suchali's Artisan Bakehouse - a selection of sourdough breads
And baking one of Suchali’s bestsellers, her sourdough bread (eaten throughout Europe, and made famous in San Francisco as French bakers brought the recipe with them during the 1850s Gold Rush on the West Coast), is a detailed process, done over a period of 36 hours, from preparing the starter until the time the loaves are baked. “We lay a lot of emphasis on the starter/culture used in the dough,” says Suchali. “We call it our ‘Mother’. We use a higher percentage of the Mother on every loaf. We give a longer resting time to our bread, which develops the sourness in the bread. We then bake it in a hot-stone base and steam it. The dough feels different every single day, as the hydration levels change every day, and every new bag of flour has a different water absorption capacity. The sourdough bread is highly hydrated. But there is no secret recipe for our bread. Our production team in Gurugram is trained to follow their sense of touch and are taught to feel the dough every day. That's how we try and give you a perfect loaf!”
And what are Suchali’s top three baked goods from her own bakery? “I start my day with a sesame bagel every single day, make that most days,” she laughs. “I love snacking on my favourite gluten-free mocha hazelnut tea cake with my favourite cup of pour-over coffee. I even snack on the multigrain sourdough, just as it is – no toasting, nothing.”Suchali's Artisan Bakehouse - vanilla cruffin
Suchali has big plans to scale up her productions and operations by next year, and expanding to other cities. She’s also been working on introducing a few gluten-free options on her menu, along with another New York fave, pretzels. She’s all set to conquer our tastebuds, one croissant at a time.
You can order online from: https://suchalisartisanbakehouse.com/Suchali's Artisan Bakehouse - making a cruffin
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