The Legacy of Iyengar Bakeries And What To Buy There
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When you pass an Iyengar bakery anywhere in India, it is hard to resist the aroma of freshly baked goods that fill the air. When you peek inside, neatly arranged pastries and bread sit next to each other behind closed glass counters.

 It is believed that the first ever Iyengar bakery, which was called Bangalore Brothers Bakery (BB), was started in 1898 by a gentleman named H. S. Thirumalachar and his brother. Located on Chickpet Main Road, in Bengaluru (then Bangalore), the shop earlier sold Indian sweets. The story goes that during that time, an Englishman would visit the shop often and develop a friendship with Thirumalachar. He’s the one who taught him the art of baking. When Thirumalachar’s son took over the bakery, the name was changed to Bangalore Brahmins Bakery.

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Thirumalachar belonged to the Vaishnava Iyengar community, which came from Hulikala, a village in Hassan, Karnataka. Over the years, other members of the community migrated to Bengaluru and took to baking. The baking was very different from the traditional sweets that they were used to making and showed the ability of the community to adapt. While the technique was modern, they made sure that the flavours had the earthiness of their own culinary heritage.

Over the years, these bakers have developed a reputation for the quality and taste of their food. The Iyengar bakeries became a brand across India. One of the things that has helped these bakeries survive despite the changing tastes of foodies and the entry of large commercial bakeries and international baker chains is the fact that for many, these bakeries are a wonderful memory of their childhood and these bakeries have somehow been able to maintain that familiar taste and quality.

Just like the youth today hang out in coffee shops, the Iyengar bakeries used to be more than just places to buy bread and snacks; they were cultural landmarks. People from all walks of life would meet and gather at these bakeries, fostering a sense of community. This has changed today, as hanging out at bakeries isn’t really considered ‘cool.’ Though it’s not like before and there are numerous challenges for these bakeries, and many of them have had to shut down over the years, some still manage to stand strong.

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While some bakeries have added modern flavours to their bakes, others have retained their menu and adapted by offering home delivery, online ordering services and digital payments. Many of these bakeries still use wood-fired ovens. Some of them remain family-owned, whereas younger generations handle the day-to-day affairs of the business now. The bakers are often trained within the community and the recipes have been passed down through generations. The community is still trying to preserve the authenticity and original flavours. The ingredients used are typically fresh and locally sourced.

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Here’s a list of some signature offerings you can try at these bakeries:

Khara Bun: This savoury bun is flavoured with a mixture of spices, dill leaves, green chillies, and coriander. It is a popular favourite at most Iyengar bakeries. The khara bun is soft, fluffy, and mildly spicy. It makes for a perfect snack any time of the day.

Dil Pasand: True to its name, which translates to the heart’s favourite, this sweet pastry is stuffed with a mixture of grated coconut, sugar, and dried fruits and has been a favourite amongst patrons since the early days. 

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Masala Toast: A type of toasted open sandwich infused with spices, herbs, sauteed onions, tomatoes coriander and green chillies. The masala toast can be eaten by itself or used to make sandwiches.

Congress Kadlekai: This is a spicy peanut snack that is crunchy and addictive. It’s believed to have been named after the Indian National Congress party. It is a popular tea-time snack that was first sold and remains popular to date at Sreenivasa Brahmins Bakey at DVG Road, Basavangudi in Bengaluru. 

Honey Cake: A spongy cake soaked in honey syrup and topped with desiccated coconut, the honey cake is a treat that was one of the first fusions of traditional Indian sweets with Western baking techniques.

Benne biscuits: Benne biscuits or butter biscuits get their name from the rich, smooth and buttery taste and crumbly texture. An Iyengar bakery staple, they go best with a cup of chai or filter coffee.

Rusk: A twice-baked bread, rusk is a crunchy snack, particularly delicious when dunked in a cup of milky tea or coffee. Iyengar bakeries produce a variety of rusks, including plain, milk, and cardamom-flavoured versions.