Palm Sunday and a Red Chilli and Sweet Caramelised Onion Loaf

My dad’s sitting across from me as I type out this post, fashioning crosses out of the palms he collected at church yesterday. Palm Sunday signals the start of Holy Week and I try and make it to the services at the parish I grew up in. One of the most beautiful churches in the suburb of Bandra in Mumbai, St. Peter’s Church still conducts the best Holy Week services in this part of the city dotted with Catholic Churches in an otherwise predominantly Hindu country with a growing but relatively smaller Muslim population.

Bandra used to be a quaint little suburb when I was growing up, with tiny cottages and a few 3 storey buildings. Where weekends meant friends, games, parties and deserted streets. Where everyone knew everyone, at least on a head-nodding basis, and where it was safe to stay out late. But now the streets are lined with hawkers selling knock-offs of branded goods and imitation jewellery, and cheap Chinese imports, making an evening walk down the street impossible and a drive down to the seafront a nightmare. With the patronage of persons in high political office these hawkers have multiplied over the years and any attempt to relocate them to a designated hawking zone are met with threats. For most of the old timers with their children scattered around the globe this is a terrible situation, and it’s often easier for them to just turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the goings-on.  They prefer to live in peace, or just live, even if it’s no longer that peaceful anymore.

So I’ve come to visit my parents. God and home were how we were raised. Morning prayers and night prayers and grace before and after meals and the rosary prayed together as a family during the months of May and October. And the Lenten Season with the Stations of the Cross leading up to Holy Week with its church services which culminated in Easter with all its glory.

I wanted to bake something for Mum and Dad since I’m visiting, and because breaking bread with the family is specially significant at this time of year, it was my first choice. My dad had just picked up a vibrant lot of red chillies from the market. Available only around this time, these chillies are plump and have a strange combination of sweet and hot spiciness trapped in every fibre. Not wanting to take a chance with the chillies since my mum cannot handle too much heat, I made sure I removed all the seeds and the membranes and sliced them thin, sprinkling over some granulated brown sugar and a good squeeze of lime and refrigerating the lot till it was time to use.

Here are the Ingredients -

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

11 – 12gms fresh yeast (I didn’t measure… just used the good ol’ eye measuring method)

2 teaspoons granulated brown sugar

1/3 cup sliced red chillies

1 large or 2 small onions

3 tablespoons EVOO

3/4 to a cup of warm water

After the chillies have been prepared and are chilling out in the fridge, chop/mince the onions and caramelise them with a tablespoon of olive oil and a heaped teaspoon of granulated brown sugar.

Once the onions have caramelised keep them aside to cool and activate the yeast. Add in the flour which has been mixed with a teaspoonful of salt and extra water as may be required, kneading lightly.

Sprinkle over the onions and the sliced chillies (do not add the water that has leached out of the chillies as it contains all the heat from the chillies) and knead well. Add extra water as required and a tablespoon or so of the oil.

Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and drizzle over a 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. Leave the dough to prove for about 2 hours till it more than doubles in size.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, punch it back and knead for a couple of minutes before transferring the dough into a loaf pan for its 2nd prove (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours). I worked the loaf with my fingertips after transferring it into the pan to give it that uneven, bumpy, rustic, artisan bread look (which it is!)

Once the loaf has risen, score the loaf with a sharp knife and you can either use an eggwash or brush with olive oil (like I did) and sprinkle on a few poppy seeds.

My parents have a large gas oven so I baked the loaf for about 50 – 55 minutes at 210°C. But if you have an electric oven (like the one I usually use) 40 minutes at 200°C should be good.

The loaf developed a lovely crust with a nice bite to it and the inside remained soft, with the onions melting into the bread, leaving its heady sweetness in every mouthful.

Delicious even on its own, this loaf is best eaten warm with a liberal helping of butter.

Time for a trip to Yeastspotting I suppose.

Wishing you all a reflective and peace-filled Holy Week.

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32 thoughts on “Palm Sunday and a Red Chilli and Sweet Caramelised Onion Loaf

    • The whole wheat may not rise as much. You may have to add some wheat gluten. But since that isn’t easily available near where I live, I tend to do a mix of whole wheat and white all purpose flour. You’ll also need to really knead dough with whole wheat a bit more to get that gluten going.

  1. Happy holy week to you! I am so glad you stopped by my website so I could find your delicious recipes. My teenage boys would just love this bread as they love anything with chili peppers in it. I bet this might be nice even if you dropped the bread into little miniature muffin tins? I am a new follower and looking forward to keeping in touch. Take Care, BAM

    • Thanks BAM, my internet’s on the blink and I’m on my phone with the tiny display driving me nuts :-) Thanks so much for the follow and yes – would love to keep in touch once the internet is back up and running.
      Oh and yes this recipe would be great baked in a muffin tin :-)

    • Happy Easter to you too :-) Yes, you could substitute your favourites. I think I’ll probably bake the next one with a bunch of different coloured chillies :-)

  2. Absolutely gorgeous loaf! Happy belated Easter :) You talking about your dad with the palms made me think of my own, he’d always make us crosses out of our palms at church and my brothers and I could never figure out how he did it! To this day he still has to make my cross for me :)

    • Thanks Kristina. Hope your Easter was wonderful too. As you can see from my post mine still makes them for the entire family. I guess it’s a dad thing :-)

  3. OMG, I LOVE chillies and I LOVE bread … I’m going to print your recipe and make it to watch the football (soccer!!) here in England on Saturday! Thank you! BTW, I found you on Young Grasshoppers Favourite Five :) :) Moo x

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