Ashima Chawla's Vegan Macarons for Fine Dine Love

Desserts, Mumbai, Must-reads

The Age Of Innovation: Home Bakers Cooking Up A Creative Storm

18 Jun , 2016  

It’s a wonderful time to be a dessert lover in Mumbai. Bakeries and fancy French patisseries are popping up all over our city, while restaurants have really upped their dessert game of late. But giving all the restaurants and bakeries a run for their money are the home chefs who are coming up with some of the most exciting treats around. Armed with a passion for baking, the daring to get creative (and the freedom to experiment without a boss looking over their shoulders) and, of course, a strong social media presence, home bakers are shaking up the dessert world one delicious treat at a time.

Take Ashima Chawla for example, who started baking cakes for friends’ birthdays after she moved to Mumbai for college. Their love for her cakes paired with Pooja Dhingra’s success story inspired Ashima to take the leap into home baking: “It took me a couple of years to convince my parents to let me pursue baking along with my Economics degree but, eventually, it paid off.” Today, Ashima’s Instagram page is filled with her creations. From bacon cookies to Star Wars-themed desserts to cakes that could tempt even the most sugar averse, her creative streak is apparent in all she does, but where does she get her inspiration from? “I get inspired by absolutely random things. Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and, most of all, my sister and friends when they ask me to make something new for them. The bacon cookies happened around the time I realised everyone was going crazy for bacon. Savoury comes easy, but I really wanted to try it with my favourite chocolate chip cookies!”

Bacon cookies that combine the best of both worlds

Bacon cookies that combine the best of both worlds


 

Then there’s Colaba-based home baker Rhea Bharucha, who donned the apron early on: “I’ve always been surrounded by fantastic chefs and bakers in my family – from my grandmothers to my grandfather, aunts, and especially my mother, who has been home catering for over 25 years now. I’ve woken up most mornings with the amazing aroma of cheese flans (her speciality), freshly baked cookies, and cakes.” Cooking, you could say, is in Rhea’s blood. So what’s on the menu? If you’re crazy for brownies, Rhea is your go-to girl. A few of her popular items are her white chocolate brownie called White Magic, the Nutella sea salt caramel brownie, the Kit Kat cheesecake brownie, hamburger cupcakes, and the ‘Peace Love & Chocolate’ cake.

Bharucha's Nutella sea salt caramel brownies

Bharucha’s Nutella sea salt caramel brownies


 

Rhea is constantly dreaming up fun desserts that you aren’t likely to find at a pastry shop. Her latest creation is the pancake cupcake. Inspired by her favourite flavour of pancakes, blueberries, it’s a blueberry cupcake topped with butter cream icing and two mini pancakes with either blueberries or maple syrup on top: “Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, why not have it in the form of cupcakes, a universal favourite! I’ve experimented with a whole lot of flavours and ingredients which are different yet yummy, and that grabs the attention of the people around me. I love a challenge so the crazier the idea, the more inspired I am to try it out. Besides, I love experimenting with desserts that look drool-worthy and yet taste amazingly good. I’ve got plenty of clients who are always ready to try out the new things I come up with and I always want to “wow” them with the look as well as the taste.”

Bharucha's pancake cupcake - iInspired by her favourite flavour of pancakes

Bharucha’s pancake cupcake – iInspired by her favourite flavour of pancakes


 

Dessert chef Alyssa Chesson of Caramel Carousel saw her opportunity after studying at Le Cordon Bleu in London: “I realised there was a niche to be filled in the Mumbai food scene, which is saturated with places doing the usual stuff. I wanted to introduce people to something different and thought profiteroles would be perfect! To take things to the next level, I decided to start creating the croquembouche, a traditional French wedding cake consisting of a tower of custard-filled profiteroles bound together with caramelised sugar.” Alyssa’s profiteroles go beyond the usual flavours though, with fillings like mango passion fruit, raspberry, the deliciously refreshing lemon curd and, of course, her signature salted caramel. “The desserts I create are the ones I would love to eat myself,” Alyssa says, “and I think that’s very important as a chef, to believe in what you create. I see my creations as an extension of myself.”

Caramel Carousel croquembouche with an assortment of fillings in the profitteroles

Caramel Carousel croquembouche with an assortment of fillings in the profiteroles


 

Now it’s one thing to create innovative desserts, but how do customers react to them? Ask plenty of chefs working in Mumbai and they’re quick to bemoan the “unadventurous Indian palate”. But is that really the case? Aishwarya Jalan and Shruti Jalan of Cheesecake Republic don’t see it that way: “People nowadays are always looking for something new — if a product is tasty and innovative, it becomes a bestseller!” Inspired by their travels, love for good food, and a passion for feeding people, one of their biggest hits has turned out to be Cheesecake Republic’s adventurous baked savoury cheesecakes, which you can get in flavours like pesto, mushroom garlic, Wasabi, Piri Piri, and bell peppers and jalapeno. On the sweet side, we’d say run and place your orders for their mango cheesecake pies while you still can — season’s almost over!

Cheesecake Republic's Wasabi Cheessecake is definitely a marriage of perfection

Cheesecake Republic’s Wasabi Cheessecake is definitely a marriage of perfection


 

For Ashima, too, people have been very receptive to her more innovative desserts: “Apart from the bacon cookies, the ‘Popcorn, Salted Caramel and Brown Butter’ macaroons I offered up at The Li’l Flea, were a massive hit! A friend who absolutely detests popcorn and caramel together couldn’t keep his hands off them!”

Ruchika Vyas and Kirti Vyas’ House of Cookies sees customers are more than happy to try out their innovative cookie cakes and cookie butter (as well as their delicious, good ol’ fashioned cookies): “Since we specialise in a niche product, it’s a continuous process to keep innovating and experimenting within that zone.” While they’re always on the lookout for what is and isn’t available within the industry, it’s their customers that keep them driven: “They’re constantly checking with us on the new things and flavours on our menu. This helps fuel creativity and ideas for experimenting, even if not all our innovations are a success! Overall, I would say people are quite receptive, as the Indian palate is evolving and people are very keen to taste new things and are constantly looking for new, unique ideas for edible gifting.”

Innovative cookie cakes and cookie butter from House of Cookies

Innovative cookie cakes and cookie butter from House of Cookies


 

Rachana Shah Sony of Second Helping knows a thing or two about the Indian palate (“People are always asking me: ‘What’s new on your menu?’”) and desserts. Her Gulab Jamun Cupcakes, Mithai Cake, Pistachio Saffron Mousse and Shrikhand Mousse have been quite a hit, leading to her upcoming Kalakand Cheesecake, Halwasan-Thandai Mousse Sandwich, and Eggless Turkish Lamingtons. One of her signatures is the Dessert Crostini, the perfect treat for carb-lovers with a sweet tooth: “It fascinated me — bread and chocolate together — and I threw in some fruit, some lemon zest, some cake. I got our signature range of dessert crostinis — with flavours that include lemon-white chocolate and strawberry and dark chocolate, all served on delicious bread!”

Dessert Crostini - lemon flavoured

Dessert Crostini – lemon flavoured


 

From mini pancake-topped cupcakes to popcorn-flavoured macaroons, cookie cakes and cheesecake pies, mithai cakes and lemony profiteroles, it’s a sweet, sweet world out there – the outlook? Delicious, innovative, and, best of all, homemade! Yes, it’s a wonderful time to be a dessert lover in Mumbai.

 
Ashima Chawla
Phone: +91 8828403690
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AsheysIN
Website (launching soon): www.asheys.in
Instagram: @ashimachawla

 

Rhea Bharucha
Phone: +91 9820941023
Website and Facebook page to be announced soon

 

Caramel Carousel
Phone: + 91 9819758593
Facebook: www.facebook.com/caramelcarousel1
Instagram: @caramel_carousel

 

Cheesecake Republic
Phone: + 91 9820401012 / 9820302204 for order.
Instagram: @cheesecake_republic
Facebook: www.facebook.com/cheesecakerepublic
Website: coming soon

 

House of Cookies
Phone: + 91 9167366770
Email: info@houseofcookies.in
Instagram and Twitter : @houseof_cookies
Website: coming soon

 

Rachana Shah Sony’s Second Helping
Phone: +91 9920220940 / 9967656878
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RachanasSecondHelping
Instagram: @second_helping
Twitter: @secondhelping


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Freyan Patel is a Mumbai-based freelance writer who nourishes her fixation with good grammar by writing high school-level English textbooks by day and fretting over typos in tweets by night. She also indulges her unhealthy obsession with food by eating, dreaming of, and occasionally writing about it in her free time. She likes funny people, reality TV, words that are fun to say, pina coladas (but isn't too keen on getting caught in the rain), and anyone who gets her references to corny retro songs.

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