First Baking Workshop!

Baking workshop

Yesterday was my first baking class. I taught the tart making technique and apple and orange tart to a group of friends. I was very nervous in the beginning. There were six girls and having six pairs of eyes focussed on you is daunting. I fumbled, couldn’t crack an egg neatly, spilt sugar on the counter and certainly couldn’t look at anyone. But all of them were really supportive and within a few minutes I was relaxed.

Making the tart dough and kneading it without letting the butter melt is a tricky business. But I still wanted to give all of then a feel of sablage – the French technique of pressing down the dough to make it look like sand. So we did it quickly, the Mumbai heat was unsparring, but we worked our way around. I have had no prior experience in teaching. Really, the last time I tried to teach anyone anything was my brother and he fled to the US. But I wanted to show tart making to a very hardworking and talented baker friend Rucha, and it was about time I broadened my horizons, so this class happened.

Apple tart

As I have a little toddler who is sometimes wary of strangers, I was worried that he might start hollering and I will have to leave everything and sit with him. But he was very well behaved. And looked forward to eating some cake. And this baking class wouldn’t have happened without the awesome support of my in-laws. They are pretty much the best. 🙂

Orange tart

Ok that was my little thank you speech, but thank you all so much. For showing belief that I could do it and for forgiving the little things that went awry.

This was not a paid class and it was strictly for friends who I knew outside of social media. In my own home.

But who knows if this might become a regular feature, a proper class in a proper venue. I am yet to figure that out.

Happy Baking!

Cheers.

Rutvika

P.S : Links similar to what was taught in the class –

Pear Tart

Orange Tart

Honey Orange-zest Madelines

Madelines!

Oh these lovely, buttery shell shaped little cakes. Crisp on the outside and soft like sponge cake on the inside. And that adorable little bump. It makes it a pretty little unique cake.

It was our 4th or 5th class in Le Cordon Bleu and the chef demonstrated this French traditional cake from the Lorraine region in France. I was astonished. That shell shaped structure looked gorgeous. And then the bump on the other side revealing the soft part inside. The edges – browned and crisp are a delight to bite into.

Madelines with honey

Madeleines are the perfect accompaniment to the evening cup of tea or coffee. They taste best when served warm fresh out of the oven. The crispness of the crust starts to lessen as it gets stored, but biting into a fresh madeleine is a real pleasure.

The only special equipment you will need is a Scallop shell pan. I purchased mine in E.Dehillerin in Paris, but it is easily available at Amazon.in or your local bakeware shop.

The traditional version calls for browning butter and then using it. But there is a very fine line between brown butter and burnt butter. So to avoid that, we simply melt butter with orange zest and that gives it the citrusy flavour. If you wish to get the nuttiness of browned butter, brown it in a pan for a couple of minutes, let it cool down and then use it.

This recipe is based on the one we learnt at school and I have further added orange zest and honey to it.

Madelines in shell pan

Honey Orange-zest Madelines

Makes 10 Madelines

What you will need :

  • 100 gram all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 70 gram butter
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 65 grams castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

What to do :

  1. Sift flour and baking powder to avoid any lumps.
  2. Melt butter in a pan or in microwave with the orange zest.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and add sugar. Whisk till it becomes pale and creamy.
  4. Add the vanilla extract
  5. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and then add butter and orange zest mixture. Fold it in with a spatula.
  6. Now transfer it to a disposable piping bag without any nozzle and refrigerate it for atleast 3 hours. You can even refrigerate it overnight.
  7. Before baking, pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Brush the shell pan with some melted  butter and drizzle some flour on it.
  8. Pipe molds of batter on the pan and let it bake for 10-11 minutes till it is browned not he edges and cooked in the centre. The centre should spring back when touched.

IMG_3640

 

Notes :

  1. It is essential to refrigerate the dough so that the flour hydrates and it forms that quintessential bump when baked.
  2. This can also be used as a basic recipe and honey and orange zest can be substituted with any other flavouring.

madelines with a bump

Cheers!

Rutvika

My Swacchha Little boy

Arjun with a broom

Right now, if you come home, chances are that you will see my one year old boy with a broom cleaning the living room. Or with a mop wiping the tables or furniture. Or if I come to your house with him, the most interesting thing he will find and want to play with is a broom. Aka Jhadu. No wonder this boy was born under the Swatch Bharat regime, but it becomes really awkward when he sees sweepers on the streets and howls at them asking for their grass brooms with long sticks. But thats for now. I am sure when he grows up he will want to become a bus-conductor doing ticket-ticket, a driver doing beep-beep, or a soldier with guns and tankers. His dad already wants him to join the Indian army, but thats not happening if I have only one son. Heck if he is the only child I have, I am not even sending him away for college.

My father and mother in law started the business and husband and I are the second generation running the company. It is stupid to assume that Arjun-the third generation will want to join the business and take it forward. But my conservative middle-class upbringing will always want to tell him to get a good professional degree.

I remember, I was eight when Aishwarya Rai became Miss World. That was a very impressionable age and I followed her journey on television very closely. I loved the way she exclaimed and cried when she won the title, her petite pose when the crown was placed on her head, how she got interviewed later constantly for months after that and the whole concept of being ‘Miss World’. It was fascinating for me. I would later stand in front of the mirror and pretend to wear a jewelled crown and answer the flurry of questions. Who am I, what do I like, what is the most important thing for me in life, how would I like to eradicate world poverty, what do I think about equality, what are my aspirations for the future and so on. Alas, my height never increased more than 5 feet 2 inches and I have never been skinny, so those dreams got washed off pretty quick, but being a child and thinking you can become anyone in the world – its amazing.

There is a orphanage in Mumbai which houses several teenage girls . I used to volunteer there on Saturdays with the little kids. The director once asked me to guide those girls and show them education options which are not very expensive. Chartered Accountancy course being one of them, he wants me to mentor the girls and share my experiences being a CA. I never got to that and later I got pregnant and had the child and so this went to the back of my head. But I think the truth is:  I dont feel adult enough to mentor anyone. It feels too much of a responsibility. Now as I write this, I realise I should do it. Those girls dont have limitless opportunities like us or our kids, but they should be able to see some paths which they can walk on.

There was a period when my brother wanted to be a chef. Now I am not sure if he really wanted to be a chef or he was saying that because he knew dad would not approve, but as a matter of fact he did not go for it. He completed his Chemical Engineering in Mumbai, although quite grudgingly. Now he is in the USA doing MBA and I often wonder if he will become a Chef or get some culinary degree in future. Heck, no one ever thought I will go to Cordon Bleu to study Patisserie. I could barely make Maggi when I got married. But I did. And here I am, now thinking of quitting the baking side of blogging and concentrating on writing.

So who knows right? Arjun might decide to join the business or he might just join the Indian army. Or become the Chief Cleanliness Officer. We are yet to find out.

xoxo,

Rutvika

What after LCB and Chocolate Mango Vacherin recipe

Last three Tuesdays I have been writing about going to Le Cordon Bleu, which was one of the turning points in my life. A dream come true. I look at baking in a different way now, I look at life a little different. But when my friends at LCB Paris used to ask me what I plan to do after the course, my answer was simple : I want to have a baby soon and continue with my day job as a CA while baking and blogging on the weekends. They were surprised at this answer. But yes, at-least in the near future I don’t plan to start any baking workshops, or a little cafe or any patisserie. And hence I bring you three stellar LCB alumni, my friends and such awesome chefs and pâtissiers that I gawk at their work. And they have been very humble in sharing their life journey with us, a big thank you to them.

In alphabetical order :

Michael Swamy

Michael Swamy

​Michael had just finished his diploma in hotel management and that’s when he decided to fine tune his skills by going to an international culinary school. He already knew that he wanted to do food styling, write books and be on TV. So to bring more authenticity to his work and writing, he specialised at LCB London and learnt the art of food and above all plating.

As a chef, Michael has worked with Taj Group of Hotels, Bombay Brasserie (London), Kuwait Airways. He has cooked & served several personalities including Prince Charles. Has been a corporate chef with the Bowl House Brand and now Mentor Chef with the Hopping Chef Brand which specializes in Home style fine dining. He is the author of “The East Indian Kitchen” (2010) based on Indo Portuguese fusion cuisine and“Easy Guide to Pairing Indian Food and Wine” ; both of them have been Gourmand award winners. And guess what, he also headed the food team for Masterchef India Season I and II. Apart from that he is a food critic and feature writer for several magazines, and does food styling and photo shoots for several international brands ,which is his favourite since he can get very creative with it.
Chef Michael says that his experience in LCB was exhilarating. He got to learn a tremendous amount and could also get training under renowned Pastry Chef ‘Chef Fillip Tibos’. He won the cuisine program in LCB on a scholarship after doing the Patisserie program. That is the talent of our super awesome and very helpful Chef Michael.
​In future, Chef Michael wants to establish a complete food media setup, for books, photography, creating food videos and wants to be an inspiration to budding chefs. Because he believes that teaching and creating helps future chefs come up and rise.
​In his own words, he would like to advice fellow LCB aspirants : “​Follow your heart and your dreams, don’t be shackled by corporate stuff, just rise and do your best and strive to be the best. The only person you have to beat is yourself and your limitations​.”
Well said Chef.
You can reach him at : michaelswamy.com
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Neha Verma
Couture cakes @ Ellesmira and at Colette's studio, NYC.

Couture cakes @ Ellesmira and at Colette’s studio, NYC.

In 2010 Neha was working in MNC corporate marketing and while she was happy with her career trajectory, she was increasingly aware that she needed to do something more organic and creative with her life. That’s when she decided to flip a huge coin of fate and sought out LCB, Paris. Back then in 2010 the school/brand wasn’t that well marketed in India as it is today. So her motivation to go there was to have her “year in Paris” as well as get a solid foundation in French patisserie which everyone knows is the best in the world.
Her experience at LCB was magical and perfect. She got to hone her basics through the best chefs-including MOF’s, world-class teaching techniques and exposure to the cutting edge developments in the pastry world. She also made friends from all over the world and those endure till date.

Then Neha moved stateside and got an education in cake design. After which she apprenticed for a year under Colette Peters- the world-renowned pioneering artist in this field. Colette’s studio has made cakes for The white house, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Pacino, Yoko Ono, Sting, Kanye West, Rolling Stones etc, just to name a few.

Couture cakes don’t carry a standard pet kg price tag but she said that smallest and simplest averages at $1000 while the most elaborate ones have gone well beyond $15-20,000. (My god!)
Since then Neha has been practicing her skills traveling the world for inspiration, new experiences and to places where she gets to execute inspired projects. She works through word of mouth and through past connections and collaborations.

She realised that the solid foundation of her craft was formed at cordon bleu and the art aspect was honed at Colette’s cakes. The rest is a living tale which is still evolving under the name of “Ellesmira couture cake studio”.
So far she has done projects in Canada, USA, Norway, Greece, France, Czech republic, the Caribbean and India.

You can reach her at : Neha Verma

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Rakhee Vaswani

Palate Culinary Studio

Rakhee runs a premier boutique culinary studio in Mumbai which has beautiful French vintage interiors with a warm kitchen feel. She is quite a self-taught chef over the years. She started very young in the kitchen sat the age of eleven. But she always wanted formal training and hence to enhance her skills and to take herself to the next level she enrolled in an extensive bakery programme at the London Cordon Bleu campus which has opened so many avenues for her and she considers it as her temple.
Rakhee first ventured into the culinary world with her partner chef Anita and ran a home based cooking studio. Then after taking a break to be a full-time mommy, she re-entered the industry after training at Sophia’s. Attending classes internationally changed her perspective and thus she wanted to open a small place where students could learn everything hands on.Hence Palate culinary studio was born in 2009 . Its seven years of successfully running the studio, she now wants to take it to the next level, i.e is a full-fledged culinary school. She is aware that not everyone can travel and achieve their dreams so at Palate she wants to bring higher level of courses like diploma in culinary to them. She also offers BBIC which is boutique bakery intensive certificate course with a full hands on experience to help small and budding entrepreneurs to set up their own ventures. Currently she has students from 5 to 80 year olds. Drop by her studio, perhaps you can see Malaika Arora Khan as her student.

You can reach her at : www.palateculinarystudio.com

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Chocolate Mango Vacherin

In continuation with French deserts with a tropical mango dessert, this week, is a French Vacherin with Chantilly cream and mangoes.

Mango Vacherin

Vacherin is basically a meringue filled with creme chantilly and fruits. I have used mangoes to go on top of these vacherin and the combination tastes summery and light.

Vacherin with mangoes

What you will need :

  • 5 eggwhites
  • 300 gm caster sugar
  • 25 gm cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250 ml whipping cream
  • 5 tablespoon caster sugar
  • Chopped mangoes

What to do :

  1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and preheat oven to 140C for 10 minutes prior to baking.
  2. Beat egg whites at a medium speed with a stand mixer till frothy. Gradually add caster sugar and vanilla extract and beat till it forms glossy peaks.
  3. Fold in cocoa powder gently using a rubber spatula.
  4. Make round disks of this meringue on the parchment paper.  Keep a dent in the centre where chntilly cream can be filled. The dent can also be made using the back of a spoon.
  5. Bake these meringue nests for 50-60 minutes till crisp till the bottom. Then leave the oven door slightly open for an hour and let the meringues cool completely before taking them out.
  6. Then transfer the meringue to a rack and carefully peel off parchment paper.
  7. To make the chantilly cream, whip the cold cream till medium peaks and gradually add the sugar while whisking. Put it in a piping bag with a medium nozzle.
  8. An hour before serving, pipe the chantilly cream on the meringue disks and put chopped mangoes on top. Garnish with mint leaves.

Hollow of a vacherin

How Cordon Bleu experience changed me and Cheddar Gougères recipe

Going to Cordon Bleu Paris, changed me in a lot of ways. It showed me that a different universe exists , one that is quite opposite to the one we live in. As different as black and white. And still very beautiful.

To put it very frankly, I come from a conservative background. My dad has retired as a cop and my mom worked in an insurance company and then as a teacher. Growing up, we fit perfectly into the middle class traditional family category. And I am myself a very cautious person. I wanted to secure my future. The best possible method to do that was getting a good educational degree. So up until I got married, I had never thought I would go to a culinary school, in a foreign land. Cooking and home catering was what the aunty upstairs did, because that’s what she knew. I was a studious girl. I was meant to be a CA. And then going to Paris on my own, seemed impossible. But somehow, I I applied, got admitted and went to pursue a hobby which tugged at my heart. Very cautiously.

Those 5 weeks in Paris taught me a lot. I met so many different people from such varied cultures that sometimes baking was the only common thread between us. Most girls there were independent, living on their own , having travelled so many places all by themselves and in general much more confident than I was. In the initial days I found myself gawking at them, at their bindaas attitude towards life. They had no strings attached and were carefree. Then one evening about 6 of us sat drinking wine at a friend’s studio apartment and we were then going to go to a nightclub called Queens. Believe it or not that was the first time I was going to a nightclub. So anyway, when we sat there talking, I said to myself “I have nothing to lose, so why worry? Just have fun”. In a way, those girls had already alienated me a little bit since we Indians come from a different background. My parents were not divorced, they both loved each other very much, I loved my husband and me and my husband stay with our in-laws. My plans for the future involved having a baby and staying with my husband forever and not to run away to some exotic location like they dreamed of. Perhaps they found me very boring with my baby and family plans and I found them intriguing yet not in a way that I wanted it for myself.  Then when we were dancing at Queens, 6 of us girls and 3 gay guy friends I suddenly felt my heart open up. There is so much to discover in life, so much to learn. I couldn’t do that while being judgemental. Each and every one is right in their own way, and so am I. That was a turning point in my life. I learnt to accept. With an open mind.

Glimpses of LCB

After that night I was able to enjoy Paris and its quirks better.  We went to Queens a couple more times and danced our way to glory. I also went with a Russian girl-friend to Crazy-Horse (google what that is) and as a group we had some amazing dinners with each one of us from different countries cooking up a speciality. And we talked. About our lives, our hopes and our dreams and the possibilities of making them come true. I felt liberated. Yet with a firm grounding of my family and culture.

All of this was possible because I knew I had a family to come back to. A husband who was waiting for me to return. Mom and dad-in-law who were proud of their daughter-in-law and my parents who had given me a sound upbringing that I could take on the world.

xoxo,

Rutvika Charegaonkar

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Gougères

Since last time we saw how to make Mango Eclairs which is a basic Choux Pastry dough, this time I have used the same pate-a-choux technique to make savoury gougères. This recipe is taken from Le Cordon Bleu book “Classic Recipes”. It says that origin of this pastry can be traced back to the Burgundy region of France and it is mostly filled with cheese. Most commonly used filling is gruyère cheese, however other firm white cheese can be easily substituted. I have used Cheddar cheese since it is easily available.

Cheddar Gougères

Gougères (Cheese Pastry)

What you will need :

  • 250 ml water
  • 100 gm butter (I use Amul)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 175 gram flour
  • 6 eggs + 1 egg for eggwash
  • 150 gm grated cheddar (100 gm + 50 gm)

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 220C.
  2. Combine water, butter and salt in a large pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once butter has completely melted, remove the pan from heat.
  3. Add all the flour at once to the butter and mix it in with a wooden spatula.
  4. Then put it on heat again and continue to dry out the dough on medium heat. Take care to see that it does not stick and form a crust at the bottom of the pan. Once the dough stops sticking to the pan and the spoon, it is done.
  5. Transfer it to another bowl immediately. It should fall in one go.
  6. Beat 5 eggs together and gradually incorporate them into the batter while mixing with a wooden spoon. Mix well after each addition to make the dough stretchy and slightly sticky.
  7. Stir in 100 gm of the grated cheese and transfer the dough to a piping bag, with a medium round tip.
  8. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  9. Pipe approximately 2- 2 1/2 cm balls on the tray, leaving about 2-3 cm in between two balls of dough.
  10. Brush the balls with eggwash and be careful that it doesn’t run down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  11. Bake until the gougères are puffed up and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.
  12. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  13. Sprinkle with some chilli powder and grated cheese before serving.

Hollow of a GougèreNotes :

  • The choux pastry balls puff up beautifully once baked. It can be then filled with a cheese filling, but I prefer to keep them unfilled and light.
  • Choux pastry is one of the most versatile doughs I have worked with, and so beautiful!

Gougères with cheese