'Meet Pooja Dhingra. Cupcake addict. Macaron lover. Baker. And founder and owner of Mumbai's most famous patisserie, Le 15.'
These are the introduction lines on her newly launched book The Big Book of Treats.
When I received an invitation mail on behalf of The Corner Courtyard asking me to save a date to meet the ace baker Pooja Dhingra, I immediately put a big red circle on my calendar. Pooja, all of 27 and a graduate from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, is the new face of the baking scene in India and is known for her Macarons. She has a regular clientele which boasts of Bollywood stars, sportspeople, corporate czars and politicians. Selected by Forbes India for their 30 under-30 entrepreneurs list, she sure is an insipration to many bakers including me.
Pooja also conducts regular demonstration classes in Studio Fifteen Culinary Centre in Mumbai and was here in Kolkata for an interactive workshop teaching some recipes from her book.
Down to earth and very encouraging, she started off the workshop by saying Baking is very easy. I could not agree more with her, being a baking enthusiast myself. I was impressed with the way she conducted the workshop with so such ease and elan. She made people come from the audience and do the basic mixing and pouring.
We started the workshop with a basic Vanilla cupcake recipe which was frosted with Vanilla Buttercream. An immensely valuable tip I learnt from her, among many others was to always add any flavouring to the butter as it retains it very well.
All through the workshop we were served some yummy starters from The Corner Courtyard which had some impressive names as Chicken Bites, Mushroom cupcakes etc.
All along she kept amusing us with her lovely stories amongst which I loved the story of the chocolate chip cookie which she had come up with on a Tuesday which was a vegetarian day at her house. Her 16 year old Chocolate chip cookie was indeed very easy and impressive. I also laughed on an incident she shared about her college in Paris where she once asked the chef to tell her a particular recipe's eggless variation, to which the chef flipped and scratched his head trying to decode the protein structure of an eggless bake. Seeing them sweat and in a state of amazement, she told herself that she will simply ask her Mom.
The star of the workshop was the third recipe Nutella Squares which Pooja confessed being the most popular recipe tried from the book. An eggless Bars recipe loaded with Nutella and hazlenuts, this one is definitely on my next make list.
After the session got over we got our books signed by the baker herself and had pictures clicked with her. I bid byes to Sayantani and Archita who were attending the worshop and book launch with me and ran back home to turn the pages of the book.
Aptly called the home bakers cookbook, the book has recipes from cookies, cupcakes, brownies, cakes and even Macarons. While leafing through the book, chai cupcakes caught my attention. Ever since I made the Coffee cupcakes, I have been wanting to try the chai spiced version and was happy to finally put my hands onto them. So as an ode to the ace Baker, I hereby share a Chai spiced cupcake recipe which has been modified to suit my requirements and available ingredients.
Ingredients : For 5-6 medium sized cupcakes
- 1 egg
- 50 gms butter, room temperature(I used Nutralite)
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 cup chai/tea (made with milk without sugar)
- 4 tbsp butter, room temperature(I used homemade white butter, you may use Amul or any other butter)
- 3-4 tbsp icing sugar/powdered sugar (You may adjust the quantity to your liking)
- 1 green cardamom, powdered
- 1 pinch or two of cinnamon powder
- 1 tbsp chai/tea (made with 2-3 tbsp milk and 1 tsp chai, boiled till reduced to half)
Preheat oven to 180 degree Celsius. Line Muffin tray or cupcake moulds with liners. Alternately grease and lightly flour them.
Make the chai first. I used 1/4 cup milk and 2 tsp of chai along with little crushed ginger. Give it a boil and when it is reduced to half, remove from heat and allow to cool.
Take butter and sugar in a bowl and cream it very well. Whisk till it gets pale and creamy. Do not cut it short, this is an important step.
Add egg and mix.
Sift all purpose flour with baking powder and add to the butter-egg mixture. Mix with gentle hands till the flour is incorporated.
Add the cooled chai through a sieve and mix. Your batter will have a light brown colour from the chai.
Pour the batter in the prepared cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool.
Take butter and sugar in a bowl and mix well. Add cardamom and cinnamon powder. Add the prepared chai mixture through a sieve and mix gently. Refrigerate for half an hour for the buttercream to absorb all the flavours and colour from the chai.
Fill the buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe on the cupcakes.
- Use a good quality chai/tea for a richer flavour
- Infuse flavours of your choice while making tea. You may add black peppercorn, tulsi leaves etc.
- The flavours enhance with time. The cupcakes taste better the next day.
Enjoy the chai spiced cupcakes along with your cuppa chai and a favourite book.
I want to thank team The Corner Courtyard for yet another memorable experience at their fine dine restaurant and Boutique hotel situated at 92 B, Sarat Bose Road. You may check out my earlier experiences here and here.