I don’t bake.
Nor do I make desserts.
I did try my hand at the odd chocolate soufflé and microwave cake a decade back when I began cooking. Recipes from the rediff site I think sponsored by Milkmaid.
Then I stopped.
I have often rationalised about this.
Firstly, of course, as a Bengali who grew up largely at Kolkata in the 80s and 90s, one wasn’t surrounded by a culture of domestic dessert-making. Kolkata has mishti or sweet shops all over. Often three in a lane even in the suburbs. Wide variety, affordable, it was far more convenient to walk across and buy sweets than make them at home.
As I began cooking I discovered that baking apparently requires sticking to recipes to the T. You couldn’t deviate from specified measurements or timings. This was counter intuitive to my preferred mode of cooking by one’s guts and instincts. Control doesn’t work for me.
Plus it seemed so much of hard work. Kneading. Whisking. Beating. Managing multiple ingredients. Patience.
None of this sat well with my style of cooking ... what I call ‘lazy cooking’.
Bengali houses, most Indian houses for that matter, didn’t have ovens. We didn’t have one either.
Which made Western baking out of the question.
So no cakes or breads.
Then we got an OTG or an oven toaster griller recently.
I went berserk grilling everything in sight – steaks, pork, chicken, fish, potatoes. Even mushrooms.
But I still did not bake a cake. Or make bread.
By this time I knew I had a problem. I had a mental block against baking.
Folks wrote in saying how easy baking was. Many told me that they were confident I could. Some give me recipes saying I could make these in my sleep.
And yet all that came out of the OTG were grilled meats and fish.
I knew I needed help.
Which is when a twitter discussion on bread making classes took me to schedule of cooking classes at Le 15 Patisserie.
I seemed to have got an answer. While we tried to work out a bread baking class, I saw that there was a ‘baking basics for men’ in a few days.
I got in touch with Pooja Dhingra and got myself into the class. I promised not to talk in class. She promised to be a kind and gentle teacher.
The class happened a few days later on Sunday at the Le 15’s Central Kitchen at Lower Parel , Mumbai.
Pooja stuck to her promise. I didn’t.
In my defence we were encouraged to talk.
So there was Pooja, her assistant and ‘Bodyguard’, Salman Khan fan Notun, six or seven other men and one lady. Thankfully since this wasn’t kindergarten we didn’t bully her.
Nutella – doesn’t it make everything sensuous – brownies, passion fruit truffles, vanilla cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate - melt in your mouth - cakes.
Pooja put these desserts together in no time. Made it all look so easy which was the idea as far as I was concerned. To chase the monkeys of my back.
Pooja and I had made plans for me to cook at her kitchen for ages. Finally happened. In a manner of speaking.
The class was slightly different from the Thai cooking class that I did at Chiang Mai. There we cooked our dishes.
That doesn’t work with desserts apparently. You can’t make single portions. Another problem that I have against making desserts.
So Pooja did all the work with Notun occasionally helping her. We watched and did the odd bit of whisking and beating and all tried out hands at icing cupcakes – mine looked Mumbai roads in the monsoons, rolled truffles – faster Kalyan your body heat will melt them, and whisked and beat eggs – Ok that’s enough, I am bored.
I obviously have a way to go when it comes to baking. But the trick is to go home and make the stuff oneself..
This was a class with chatter as Pooja told us about the number of desserts that have been invented by mistake. She told us stories from her cooking classes at Cordon Bleu at Switzerland and off the cafes of Paree from which she draws her inspiration.
We spoke about the merits of using local Amul butter in desserts. The salt in butter cuts the sweetness in desserts and brings a better balance in my opinion than in the unidimensional sweetness of Indian mithai.
The chocolate and the chips that day were Belgian. Must pick some up from the folks at Le 15. I am sure they made a lot of difference to the end product.
I asked Pooja how a baking class for ‘women’ would be different.
Apparently the same except labelling it ‘for men’ gave it a nice marketing handle.
Someone else asked about whether there was a baking 2.0 class. An advanced level. Impress the guest sort.
Well, I am sure my guests would be impressed if I made any of this stuff.
The best part of class?
Licking the dough off the bowls when noone was looking. And taking one’s ‘class work home’. That too done by the teacher and therefore perfect.
The next best thing will be when I make any of what we learnt that Sunday.
Now for the bread class in a couple of weeks.
I am told that there we will have to knead our own breads.
These are some of the pictures that I took with the Cyber Shot. Gosh I am missing the NEX 3. Trying to muster courage to buy a new DSLR. If only all the PR folks who want to advertise on the blog would pay cash instead of offering free meals, grapes and pickles. You can’t buy a camera though barter.