Bengalis have a very close and intimate relationship with breads. Gone are the days when bread was meant only for French toast or the all-time favourite dim pauruti (a typical bread with eggs and toast that is very popular in Bengal). The small, local bakeries still produce the breads used in local tea stalls for plain toast, malai toast, and toast with eggs, etc., but there is bigger change happening now in the bakeries of departmental stores and certain upscale markets.
As healthy eating became a fashion, brown bread gained popularity. However, until recently, most of the brown bread available in the market was simply caramelised white bread. No one knew the difference. This is not the case anymore. The consumer is more knowledgeable and is aware of the difference. Now, it is not only brown bread that is available as a healthy yet tasty option for bread lovers, but there is also a large array of gourmet breads.
Gourmet breads first started with the whole wheat bread and the multigrain bread variety. Kolkata was perhaps a late entrant into this market. However, the market is now quite full with whole wheat bread. This is available in retail outlets such as Spencer’s, some local shops, as well as the good bakeries. Flurys is one such restaurant/café/bakery that has been rolling out breads in different shapes and sizes with enviable flavours for possibly more than a decade.
More interesting variants of gourmet breads (such as masala, cheese and garlic breads) are now the main fashion. With the opening of Deli at The Gateway Hotel and The Bakery at The Lalit Great Eastern, the city has seen the bread story being taken a notch higher. There are breads such as rye bread, oats bread, whole wheat pesto twist bread, sunflower seed bread, and so on. These are serious healthy options, are quite fulfilling and are reasonably priced.
Taking things to another level are seasonal breads, where fruits and vegetables are baked into the bread, such as mango bread in summer or carrot bread in winter. French Loaf has some breads that have olive and sausages added to them and are a meal in themselves. There are the stuffed bread varieties and some interesting dinner rolls as well. Small, local patisseries such as Creme Caramel have breads such as tomato bread, which is a soft and moist bun with bits of tomato and onion in it along with herbs; it is very delicious. The 8th Day Café & Bakery and Au Bon Pain are both experts in the bagel area. They both bake bagels of different varieties; these can be bought on their own or used to make a selection of sandwiches.
The big bread evolution has started. It is now only a matter of time to see which new players will survive the trend, and will become traditional breads in the future.