Ladi pav was one of the first few recipes I tried when I was still new to baking breads. This was back when I lived in the US and we didn’t get the Bombay style ladi pav. With pav-bhaji dreams in my eyes, I pulled the the tray out of the oven only to be majorly disappointed by how the pavs looked and tasted. It turned out to be such a mediocre attempt that I never made ladi pav again after that. I’ve made buns of all kinds – plain, cheesy, stuffed etc. but kept away from trying the ladi pav again. Fortunately having moved back to Bombay, we didn’t really have to worry about it since it was now so easily available to us.
Till this lockdown that is. Changing times change a person’s preferences too. 20 days into the lockdown, and my usually junk-averse husband was suddenly craving for vada-pav. While making the vada was an easy one, I was dreading taking on the ladi pav monster! But I finally gave in and decided to try again. Only this time I got – the perfect ladi pav. Seriously it turned out so soft and so yummy, I don’t think I want to go back to buying pav from outside ever again.
SOME TIPS TO MAKE THE PERFECT LADI-PAV
To make the perfect ladi formation, the pav’s need to stick to each other during the baking process. To ensure that, make sure you don’t leave too much space between the balls when placing in the pan. When they don’t have space to expand horizontally, they’ll rise vertically.
I had some years ago stumbled upon a recipe that asked to add baking powder to breads to make them softer. I was skeptical at the time but decided to try it out. I do think the baking powder made the difference but I tried this same recipe a second time without it and it still turned out great with just a slight difference in the texture. So while I would still use baking powder, it is not going to change your recipe significantly, so its upto you to use it or not.
WINDOW-PANE TEST FOR DOUGH
This is a popular way to check if your dough is ready. After kneading, pinch off a small piece of dough in your hands, flatten it, and spread it out between your fingers like a window-pane. If you’re able to stretch it to the point of seeing through without tearing, your dough is ready. If not, continue to knead.
Pav Buns or Ladi Pav
- 3 cups All-purpose flour
- 1.5 tsp Salt
- 1.5 tbsp Castor Sugar
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1.5 tsp Instant Yeast
- ½ cup Milk
- ½ cup Water
- 3 tbsp Butter/Oil
- Proving the yeast
- In a small bowl, take lukewarm milk. Add to it the sugar and the yeast and stir with a spoon. Keep aside for 10-15 minutes.
- It should look frothy and bubbly after 10 minutes. If not, throw the mix, and start over with a new packet of yeast.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder and the yeasted-milk. Start to knead and gradually add water as required to get a soft dough.
- After kneading for 1-2 minutes, add the butter and continue to knead for atleast 10-12 minutes.
- The dough should be smooth, and pliable but not sticky. Use the window pane test to check if dough is done
- Round up the dough in a big ball, transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rest in a warm place for 1-1.5 hours.
- Your dough is ready when it doubles in size. If it hasn’t doubled, let it rest a little longer.
- Punch down the risen dough, and knead for 1 minute.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal sized balls and place in a greased 8*6 inch pan leaving a small space between each ball. If there is not enough space the dough won't be able to expand at all. If there is too much space, the dough won’t expand sideways and not rise 'up.'
- Cover the pan with the same kitchen cloth, and keep aside to rise a second time. After 30 minutes or so, pre-heat the oven for 15 minutes at 200 degree C. In about 45 minutes to an hour the dough would have doubled again.
- Brush the top of the dough balls with milk and bake for 20-25 minutes till the pav’s get a brown color on top. If you bake in an OTG using the bottom-rod only function, you may need to switch to the broil mode for the last 2-3 minutes to get the color on top. During the broiling, do not go anywhere and keep a close eye on the buns so they don’t overcook/overbrown.
- Brush the buns with butter as soon as they’re out of the oven to get a soft crust. The crust will be hard initially but will soften in a few minutes after brushing with butter.
- Use a knife along the edges of the pan to take out the pavs neatly
- To make this recipe vegan, skip the milk and use water, and replace the butter with oil.
- Water needed could be 1 tbsp more or less depending on your flour. Add mentioned quantity of water slowly and not at one go. Your dough should be like the dough we make for ‘rotis’ as home but a little softer. If your dough still becomes too sticky, add a little more flour. If it’s too dry, add a little more water.
- Both the times when the dough proves, try and leave your bowl/pan in a warm place with some humidity. The climate in Bombay is ideal for this. If you live in a drier region, try and moisten the kitchen towel you use to cover your dough.
- If you leave the warm buns inside the pan for too long after removing the pan from the oven, they may get soggy specially from the bottom. Remove the buns and let them cool on a wired rack or any perforated tray.