Ladi Pav – Celebration of Street Food

The   undisputed  capital of  Indian  street  food is  Mumbai .  It is  not  that  the  other  regions   do not  have  their  own   varieties , but Mumbai  managed to   break off  the  economic, class,  and  religious barriers  and   serve  up the  most  fabulous  and  pocket  friendly  quick  eats .  Among  the  road  side  snacks    you will find  these  soft  buns   served   with   a  mix of  vegetables , or a   fried patty .   These  soft  buns   called  Ladi Pav  have  their  own  fan following .   It  will be  hard  pressed to  find new  age Indian cook   who  hasn’t  served “pav”  in  some  form .


The  hustle  and  bustle  of  the  busy  Indian  streets  are  aptly captured  in   Pav  Baji  – the  soft  bun  mopping  up a   spice  are made  with  bleached   white  flour (maida)  and  laden  with  dough  conditioners  and   additives   but  they  are  very soft  and  spongy.

When  making  these buns  at  home  ,  I use a  combination  of  flours – usually   white   whole   wheat  and  unbleached  all purpose or  bread  flour .  The  sponginess  of  the  buns  vary  depending  on the ratio of the   flours .  100 % All purpose  flour  makes   the  spongiest  of  them  all.    As  always    go for  the   best  available  non  chemically treated version , preferably organic .

 Unlike  usual  breads  ,  this  one  does  not  start  out  by  activating  the   yeast .  Instead   I warm  the milk   till it very warm almost hot  to  touch  say around 120 to 130°F  ( 50°C ).   Turn off the  heat .  Measure  the  flour  into a large  mixing  bowl .    Add  salt and  stir  well to  distribute  evenly .   Make a  well in the middle of  the  flour  and pour  the  milk into  it  . Use a  wooden  spoon to gently mix some  of  the  flour   with the  milk  to form a   thick  gelatinous mass. . Place the  butter  on top and  set  aside  to cool .  The  butter softens  as  the flour  absorbs  the   milk  and  the  starches   swell .
While  the  mix  is  cooling  ,  warm  1/4 C  water  to 110 °F  or  just  warm to touch .  Mix in 1  tsp  sugar  and  sprinkle  the  yeast on top . Set  aside  for  10 minutes  for  the   yeast  to bloom . When  the   yeast   has  bloomed ,  check the  temperature  of  the   flour  mix ,  if  it is   just  warm  to  touch  add   the  yeast  mixture  to  it ,otherwise  wait  for  it  to cool  If in a  hurry  place  the   container in a  water bath ( another  bowl  with  ice and cold  water  ).
Knead  for  at  least  10 minutes  till a a  soft   dough is  formed .  If  the   dough feels sticky at  first , just  keep kneading   without  adding   any more  liquid.  As  you  knead    the  dough  will become  smoother  and   pliable .  Dust the  kneading  surface   with  a  little flour or oil lightly  if  the   dough is  proving  to be  too  sticky .    Perform  a   windowpane  test   to   determine  if  the   dough is  kneaded  enough  (refer to  notes ) .
Form into a  ball ,  transfer  to an  oiled  bowl ,  flip the   dough ball to  coat  all  sides  evenly with oil .   Cover  and  let  it  rest  in a  warm  place  till  doubled   ,  about 1 hr .
Punch down the   dough ,  knead  gently a  few  times .  Lightly dust the  kneading  surface   with  flour  and  transfer  the   dough  onto it .  Cut  the  dough  into 12  equal sized  portions.Take  one  piece , form it  into  a ball .   Pull  all the  sides  to the  center  and  pinch together  .  When  you  invert  it  the   top   should   have a  smooth  surface .  The  goal here is  to  get a tight  smooth  top .
Transfer  these  to  an  oiled or  parchment  lined  baking  dish,  leaving  just a  little  space  for  expansion  .  Here I have used a 9″ X 13″  pan .   Cover  and  let  rise  till  almost  doubled.
During  the  last  10 minutes  of  the  second  rising , preheat  the  oven  to  400°F  .  Melt  a  Couple of  tablespoons  of  butter  and  brush the   tops of  the  buns   .  Once  the  oven  is  heated ,   transfer  to the  oven  and  reduce  temperature to 375 °F .  Bake for  10 minutes ,  reduce  the  temperature to 350°F    and  bake  an  additional   15 to 20 minutes  till  done .  When  done  the  tops  will be browned  and   the  buns  will  sound  hollow   when  tapped at  the   bottom . Remove  from the  oven and brush  the   tops  lightly  with  any remaining  melted  butter .LadiPav20
Notes :
  • Windowpane  test –  Take a  small piece  of  dough ,  lime   sized  ,  hold it   between the thumbs  and  fingers of both  hands . Stretch it uniformly in  all  directions    If  the   dough  stretches  to a  thin   film , hold  the   film  against a   source  of  light . If   the  light   filters  through  it  like a   window  pane , the   dough  has  passed  the  test .  No more kneading is  necessary . If  that is  not  the   case ,  then  knead  a  few   more  minutes  and  repeat  the   test .
  • If   you want  the  tops of  the  buns more brown   then   keep he  pan  under  the  broiler  for  a  minute or  so .  The  intense   heat  will  brown the  tops  nicely .  Do not  leave   the   buns  unattended  though , it  takes  only a  few  seconds  to go  from  warm  brown to  raven   black .
  • To  further improve  the  sponginess , keep a metal pan in the lower  rack of  the  oven   while  preheating .  After  the  buns  are  placed  ,  put a   handful of  ice  chips  or  about a   cup of  water  in the   pan .   This  introduces  steam  during  the  initial   stages  of  baking  allowing  the   crust  to   stay  softer  and   expand  more .    Again  exercise  caution . Keep  yourself  safe  from  sudden  spurt of   steam  ,  and  the  ice chips  from  falling  on any surfaces of the  oven  that   is  not  equipped  to handle  the   sudden drop in temperature .
  • My preferred  flour for  this   recipe is   unbleached  bread  flour , but  good  quality all purpose  flour gives  excellent   results   s  well .  For a  vegan  version ,    substitute   milk  with  water or  the  preferred  non diary milk ,  and  butter   with   coconut  oil   .

Ladi Pav – Celebration of Street Food

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: Dozen buns

Ladi Pav – Celebration of Street Food


Flour - 360 gm (3 C)
Milk -240 gm (1C)
Water - 1/4 C
Salt - 6 gm (1 Tsp)
Yeast - 1 1/4 Tsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
Butter - 4 Tbsp


Heat milk till it is hot to touch around 130°F or around 50°C. Take the flour in a large bowl. Add the salt and mix well .

Make a well in the center and pour the milk in it . Using a wooden spoon stir some flour into it to form a thick gelatinous mass. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter on top . Set aside and wait for the mix to cool - about 15 - 20 minutes.

In the meantime Activate the yeast . Warm water to 110°F or just warm to touch . Stir in the sugar , and sprinkle the yeast on top and set aside .

Add the yeast water to the cooled mixture and knead for 10 to 15 minutes till the dough becomes soft smooth and very pliable . If very sticky add a couple of tablespoons of extra flour . Form the dough into a ball , cover and set aside to double in a warm place, about 1 hour .

Punch down the dough , knead a few times . Divide into 12 equal portions . Form each portion into a ball.

Arrange the balls on a baking sheet, cover and let rise for 30 minutes, until it has almost doubled .

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the buns in the middle rack . Reduce temperature to 375°F and bake for 10 minutes . Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes till done

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