My mom owned a tin oven with a glass peephole, a rough-edged cuboid that slow-cooked in its galvanized belly, velvety nankhatais and spongy cakes. At some point, my father—the self-appointed safety inspector of the house—figured it was a hazard to have our little fingers poking for crumbs inside this rudimentary, electrically-charged gadget, and retrofitted amma’s tin oven into a "gas oven". I remember the warm tin oven sitting on the kitchen stove, emanating delicious aromas. Nothing changed—the nankhatai and cakes were just as delicious, the aroma of caramalised sugar and spices in our home just as inviting, papa’s loaves leavened with wild yeast just as airy, and my siblings and I, just as eager guinea pigs for our parents’ baking jugaad.
For many of us, the love for baking or baked goods is slathered with nostalgia for moments like these—of homemade cakes, of grandma’s kitchen, of licking gooey batter off the pan, of dusting ovens and OTGs pulled out for special occasions and holidays,
of watching mother do the fork test, of fighting for the first warm slice with siblings
and cousins, and then, as adolescents or adults, of experiencing our first baking
disaster (or success)!
This Christmas month, we celebrate this special feeling—because
baking is more than merely making something. The joy of baking lies as much in the process, as in the buttery, soft, gooey, crunchy, sweet, flaky finished product. Your job as a baker—expert or novice—is to fold the ingredients into each other, whisk and provoke them to rise together. What you have little control over is how the warm glow of the filament or fire tempers your precious pie, cake or loaf. It is an exercise in doing your bit and allowing the elements to work their magic. A process that demands exactness—and practice, patience, persistence. But also one that is laced with a cheerful feeling of celebration. How often would you leaf
through dog-eared heirloom cookbooks and family recipes for those ideas scribbled hurriedly
by mom or mausi in the margins, for Naani's spongy chocolate cake. Baking then lies at the confluence of skill and intent, love and celebration, memories and nostalgia. Dusted with sugar.
And what better way to celebrate the Yuletide spirit! Our campaign #31DaysofBaking celebrates the spirit of Christmas and baking, with one new story every day of December. Follow the hashtag for quirky new Christmas baking ideas and stories where the chief ingredients are nostalgia and longing for simplicity and good taste.
As we began planning this campaign, our team stumbled upon interesting Indian Christmas and baking traditions that continue to be pretty popular in little towns and cities of India. Baking techniques may date back to our Colonial past, but Indians across the country have given their own interesting spin to baking. In Mangalore, it is the Cucumber Mandas, in Kochi the sooji cake, a speciality of the city's fast diminishing Jewish community. Kolkata loves its Karamcha, and Goa's Baath cake is gaining cult status.
Read about quaint culinary gems from different corners of India that celebrate India's syncretic culture and the spirit of Christmas—from the Allahbadi cake--the OG Indian Christmas cake to the subtle-layered Bebinca from Goa. Get some instant inspo from celeb bakers Nigella Lawson, Chrissy Teigen, or closer home, young Turks like Theobroma founder Kainaz Messman, La Folie's Sanjana Patel and Delhi’s Shivesh Bhatia who shares memories of his grandmother's chocolate cake. Try out Theobroma's famed French Toast recipe, watch Patel whip up a quick and easy chocolate brownie and read about Bhatia's favourite winter bakes with seasonal fruits and spices. Get inspired by popular home bakers breaking new ground, or celebrate the Christmas spirit with fresh, warm cakes and savouries from the best bakeries in your city--from Delhi and Mumbai to Kolkata. If you plan to stay home this holiday season, look up hacks to sub ingredients in your cakes and bakes—from vegan to eggless, to baking with fruit juices or without baking powder.
Something new each day, to celebrate the season of Holly, hope and happiness!
Wishing you, our dear readers, a sparkling New Decade!
Write to us with ideas, comments and upload your most favourite baking stories and recipes here.