Mumbai Food: 3 city chefs share secrets to the perfect Christmas bakes

Updated: Dec 07, 2016, 15:25 IST | Joanna Lobo |

Three Mumbai chefs agree to share their secrets to the perfect Yuletide bakes

Pastry chef Jahan bloch at work
Pastry chef Jahan bloch at work

Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread Cookies  Pic/ POONAM BHATIJA

Reinventing the gingerbread  
JAHAN Bloch, pastry chef at food company, 425 Omakase, has already begun her Christmas baking experiments — she’s tried making panettone (sweet bread) and plans on baking Stollen (fruit bread), Christmas star cinnamon bread, cappuccino snicker doodles and Christmas cake.

Last year, she experimented with gingerbread, replacing the traditional houses with doughnuts. Gingerbread is bread flavoured with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and sweetened with sugar, honey or even molasses. “It is diverse and can be converted into cookies or doughnuts and is easy to make,” she says.

The use of brown sugar, molasses and honey gives gingerbread a nutty flavour. The amount of ginger depends on your liking for the ingredient. Bloch’s advice is one and a half teaspoon of ginger powder for about two dozen cookies. “If the ginger is too much, you can add frosting on top or give the doughnuts a glaze made with cinnamon and sugar or just dust sugar on top,” she adds.

Tips
If you have a basic vanilla cake recipe, replace the castor sugar with brown sugar to make a gingerbread cake

Anjali Pathak at her Chirstmas baking classAnjali Pathak at her Chirstmas baking class

Mince-PieMince Pie 

Life of (mince) pie
AT CHRISTMAS time, chef Anjali Pathak’s kitchen is redolent with the aroma of spices like cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. These spices form the basis of traditional Christmas sweets she grew up eating and baking in England, namely gingerbread, mulled wine and mince pies. Mince pies, unlike their name don’t contain mince. “In the olden days, they used to add meat but these days, the pie is sweet and made with fruits, spices and puff pastry,” says Pathak, author, and the founder of Flavour Diaries, who will be conducting Christmas baking workshops this December.

The key to Pathak’s Christmas baking is spices. “I grew up surrounded by spices so I can judge the quality quite well. But for those who can’t, trial and error is the best way,” she advises. The spices should be freshly ground, especially cinnamon powder and ginger powder, which is difficult to grind at home.

For the mince pies, getting the puff pastry right is important. “The right way to make puff pastry is to mix together all the ingredients and let it rest. Do not knead the dough because that works the gluten in it, making the pastry chewy,” she adds. And ensure the butter used is chilled.

Tips 
>>
Keep all ingredients and equipment ready before starting baking; the few seconds you waste in getting something out of a fridge or heating something can cost you
>> Read a recipe a couple of times, thoroughly, before starting
>> Baking is all about using your nose and eyes; so taste continuously, and listen to your palate

Riki Kapoor and his Chirstmas pudding
Riki Kapoor and his Chirstmas pudding

The proof is in the pudding 

WHAT’s Christmas without a moist, rich Christmas Pudding — redolent with raisins, candied peels, almonds, rum, orange juice and allspice — served with brandy butter? “I steam the pudding for four hours instead of baking it, which gives it a lovely moist texture,” says Riki Kapoor, resident chef at Wisk by Cakesmiths.

Steaming, he adds, allows all the flavours of the fruit and spices to merge well. The steaming can be done either using a water bath in an oven or the old-fashioned way. “The container should be half-filled with water. Put the moulds inside only after the water starts to simmer. Make sure you keep an eye on the water so that it doesn’t dry out,” advises Kapoor. 

If you find the pudding a bit dry, make a strong brandy butter using brandy, butter and icing sugar. The pudding can last six months, provided it is stored in cling wrap and foil, and refrigerated. “When you want to eat it, thaw it out completely, warm it up and then add the brandy butter. For a bit of flair, you can also flambé it by warming the brandy and then pouring it over the pudding. This adds the necessary moisture that the pudding may have lost in storage,” he adds.

Tips
>>
Grease the mould before use
>> To add richness to the pudding, use dried figs
>> The proportion of the dried fruits to the batter should be double If the pudding gets too dry, try serving a deconstructed version of it

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