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T.K. Khaleel presenting his unique sourdough to a member of Puratos Library of Belgium
T.K. Khaleel presenting his unique sourdough to a member of Puratos Library of Belgium

Indian master baker T.K. Khaleel’s 16-year-old versatile sourdough recipe is now safeguarded at Puratos sourdough physical library in Brussels

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Published: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 9:44 AM

Last updated: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 9:47 AM

Founder and Managing Director of Artisan Bakers and former Managing Director of Bakemart, T.K. Khaleel, has channelled his 40 years of expertise in the baking industry to make his breads at par with the world’s finest. A pioneer with the gift of foresight, Khaleel’s career in the region is bejewelled with glittering accomplishments. A trendsetter in the baking industry, Khaleel stays in close touch with the latest techniques and advancements from every part of the globe. The knowledge and expertise gathered from far and wide are very evident in the unmatched quality, creativity and variety of his baking products. He is rightly viewed as an inspiration to the entire baking industry in the Middle East.

When questioned about what aspect of baking fascinated him the most, Khaleel immediately responded with sourdough, he said: “We have added it to our ingredients. The taste, the aroma and the shelf life are fascinating. If you want a golden croissant, use some sourdough, the same for a baguette.”

Khaleel’s tryst with sourdough led to a proud moment and an interesting anecdote, which he readily shared. In 2013, The Puratos Sourdough Library, the world’s only sourdough library in the world, commended his work by adding a sourdough he developed into its collection. Located in the village of St Vith, 87 miles southeast of Brussels, Puratos Sourdough Library is home to the world’s most extensive collection of sourdough starters.

The sourdough starters have to be a minimum of 10 years old — Khaleel’s sourdough starter is a six-year-old sample. The recipe for the starter is a culmination of his passion for baking good bread. Today, it is Exhibit No. 128 in the library. Khaleel also added that he is the only Asian to be awarded this honour — which is generally dominated by European bakers. This award not only celebrates his commitment to his craft, but also signals the advent of Asian recognition in the baking industry.

The Puratos Sourdough Library in Sankt Vith exists to store and safeguard the world’s best sourdough cultures. More than hundred bakers from all over the world had accepted to send a sample of their sourdough culture to the Puratos library for safekeeping, for just like seeds, sourdoughs are fragile and can occasionally be lost or damaged, leaving the world a little poorer than before. The bakers recognise this too and are delighted to have someone take care of a portion of their live sourdough culture elsewhere than at their bakery. After all, their unique sourdough is not just part of the taste heritage of the world but directly linked to their livelihood as well.

Every new arrival to the library is checked and analysed for micro-organisms in the laboratory of Professor Marco Gobbetti from the University of Bolzano and Bari or other universities in Spain, France, and to date, more than 1400 strains of wild yeast and lactic bacteria have been isolated and recorded. These micro-organisms are then stored in a freezer at -80°C/-112°F so as to preserve the biodiversity for the future.

The actual sourdoughs themselves are kept in optimal condition in refrigerators at 4°C/39°F and refreshed every two months with the original flour with which it was made, thereby replicating conditions in the original bakery.

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