How about digging your teeth into some wonderfully wholesome bread that’s been made with thoughtful ingredients. Every day we learn something new. Today we learn the art of infusing healthy and fresh ingredients into the first meal of the day – the bread.
Meet Vanaja Arvind, an IT professional who’s a Masters in Information Science with nearly 30 years experience in the field. She has travelled and lived in several western countries where bread is a staple food.
A born and practising vegetarian, Vanaja runs a successful whole grain vegetarian bakery in Chennai by the name Wholistic Breads.
How did it all begin?
“I’m not a professional baker but I enjoyed baking bread as a hobby. I used to bake for my family quite regularly as I wasn’t too happy with soft white bread or caramel infused (brown) bread in India,” says Vanaja. After completing a week long Master Baker Hands-on Course in England in 2006 to get an exposure on how bakeries work and produce bread, Vanaja toyed with the concept for a couple of years. She hired a baker and started trials in September 2008. “Finally, Wholistic Breads was launched in December 2008 that initially functioned as a home bakery unit, until August 2011 when we moved to the current location in Kasturba Nagar in Chennai,” adds Vanaja.
Vanaja chose the name ‘Wholistic Breads’ as the products focus on bringing a holistic view of health on bread production (pun intended with a ‘W’) as this can be achieved by using whole grains, traditional baking process and avoiding chemicals/ preservatives.
Why bake your own bread?
“I am paranoid about amount chemicals and preservatives that are added in the baking process which is harmful to adults and growing children. Also, the amount of trans fats and sugars added in our cakes and bread are a major cause of concern,” says Vanaja.
Vanaja further adds, “Nutritive value of the bread comes from the fresh ingredients used and by strictly adhering to shelf life guidelines. For example, we use mashed banana, walnuts and ground cinnamon in our whole wheat flour to make a banana walnut cake and not banana essence as in the case of other bakeries in order to reduce cost.”
Most bakeries use chemicals to raise the dough quickly so that they can produce more. The traditional fermentation process takes minimum 4-5 hours to increase the nutrient content and quality of the dough naturally. Overnight fermentation is also used to enhance nutrients and flavour of the bread naturally.
She is of the opinion that bread should be a food, which gives you whole nutrition like any other food. Presently, most white bread available commercially offers nothing except sugar and chemicals. Moreover, to speed up production they also cut short fermenting process, which kills the nutrition quoitent in the bread even more.
What makes Wholistic Breads unique?
Care is taken that only natural and fresh ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and herbs are used that ensure you get the right amounts of nutrition such as antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that are essential for the human body.
At Wholistic Breads care is taken to use only rice bran and olive oil that are known to be cholesterol free. Since no harmful preservatives and chemicals are employed in their baking process, it ensures that their bread is of prime natural quality.
Their baked goods are hundred percent vegetarian and follow strict rules of being vegan. You can also procure diabetic safe bread that contain no added sugar and have a low glycemic index.
Some of the main challenges that Vanaja faced were that bread can become mouldy within a day due to high humidity levels in Chennai. So they had to consult food technologists and conducted several experiments to arrive at a process that would give the bread a shelf life of three days and a refrigerated shelf life of seven days.
The second challenge was that she chose to distribute to supermarkets instead of having showrooms. There are no services for helping small entrepreneurs in logistics, which could distribute perishable products. “So I finally tied up with auto-rickshaw drivers in the city and they are supplying the bread early mornings, which is a lean time for them.”
So far three auto drivers have teamed up to support Vanaja in distribution. While one goes to North Chennai, the other to South Chennai, the third one is a back up who takes over if one of the other auto drivers cannot make it for some reason. They visit all the stores in the zone, deliver the products, get a signature on the delivery challan, give invoices and collect payments. They do this between 6:00 am -10:00 am before starting their regular work.
The third challenge was the amount of electricity used, which was corrected by the means of a gas-based oven.
Today with loyal clients who wouldn’t want to buy any other bread but Wholistic Breads means a lot to her. “I was very pleased when a supermarket owner with their own in-house bakery told me that his family only eat Wholistic Breads for breakfast”, beams Vanaja, which certainly is a feather in her cap!
Apart from a wide variety of bread available at Wholistic Breads, you can also get Bars, Cakes, Crackers, Muffins, Rolls and Sandwiches as well. What we liked about their simple and neat website is that you get a description of each baked product, the weight, price, shelf life and ingredients.
For instance, a 45 gms Muesli Energy Bar that is priced at Rs. 35/- is made with Dates, Muesli, Yogurt, Chocolate Chips, Honey, Wholemeal Flour, Rice Bran Oil, Cinnamon, and Baking Powder. The shelf life of the energy bar is four days, but you can refrigerate for longer storage.
The 200 gms Banana Walnut Cake (Round-Mini) that is priced at Rs. 75/-, is made with Wholemeal Flour, Banana, Rice Bran Oil, Pumpkin, Organic Brown Sugar, Walnut, Vanilla Essence, Baking Powder, Baking Soda and Salt. While it has a shelf life of two days, but you can refrigerate for longer storage.
Now doesn’t this make your bread buying choice much easier? If you haven’t tried out one of their breads and baked goodies yet, it’s time you do!
34 (Old 29), 2nd Main Road, Kasturba Nagar, Adyar, Chennai 600020
Phone: 044-42695232, +91 9941678401
You can also find Wholistic Breads at Nuts & Spices and Nilgiri’s supermarkets in Chennai.