Book Review: The Big Book of Treats
A few years ago, a close friend’s birthday was fast approaching and as usual, we were stumped for gifting ideas. Finally we zoned on to the fact that the friend was a shopaholic. That’s when I called Pooja Dhingra, the founder and owner of Le 15 pâtisserie in Mumbai. After a careful discussion with Dhingra, we settled on a dozen shopping themed cupcakes. Two days later, I went to pick up the cupcakes and was delighted by the frosted pink delicacies that came with a quirky but tasteful icing in the shape of a bag, a stiletto and clothes. My friend of course was delighted and almost refused to eat the cupcakes. When she did eat them, we realised that unlike most cupcakes these weren’t dry and the frosting wasn’t overpoweringly sweet.
So, I was understandably excited when I got Dhingra’s baking book The Big Book of Treats. The lavishly-produced dessert book is splashed with mouth-watering photos of Dhingra’s goodies including peanut butter brownie cups, Nutella squares, white chocolate and rose sponge cake and of course her delicately-flavoured macarons which she’s best known for. The book starts with a Baking 101 guide which takes readers through commonly used ingredients, essential equipment and techniques and tips. Some of them are really useful, like the distinction between baking soda and powder and the handy conversion table.
The rest of the book is divided into Cookies, Bars, Brownies; Cakes, Tea Time goodies, Tarts, Cupcakes, Frostings, Truffles, Desserts and Macarons. Dhingra offers a range of recipes from basic ones such as chocolate chip cookies and vanilla cupcakes to the fancier ones like chai cupcakes and green chilly truffles. Each recipe comes with a little note where Dhingra talks about her work at Le 15, her team, shares personal anecdotes and sometimes recommends variations as well. For instance, in the eggless passion fruit truffles recipe, Dhingra suggests that if you can’t find passion fruit, which isn’t easily available in the Indian market, you can substitute it with any fruit purée such as mango, strawberry, or apple.
We decided to give Dhingra’s recipes a whirl in our oven. We started with the dark chocolate fudge bar, which tastes like a brownie-like fudge. We first melted dark chocolate with butter, following Dhingra’s Baking 101 tips. While that mixture cooled, we whisked together free-range eggs, castor sugar and vanilla. The chocolate mixture was folded in and our kitchen was as fragrant as a real-life bakery with the cocoa, butter and vanilla doing its magic. Flour, baking soda and almonds were added. The recipe called for white chocolate chips, but we decided to experiment and tossed in some butterscotch chips instead. Dhingra recommends roasting the almonds before adding them to the batter, a tip that made sense as it improves the flavour immensely. Twenty minutes later, the batter had doubled in size and the butterscotch was smelling heavenly.
We impatiently waited for the loaf to cool before cutting it into mini bars. We found the recipe easy to follow, and the conversion chart ensured that it was an effortless switch between grams and cups while measuring the ingredients. The bars were not too sweet, they were crispy on the outside and gooey but chewy inside, a perfect snack for that 4pm craving. The almonds added a subtle crunch while the butterscotch chips melted in our mouths. And best of all, it took us less than an hour to get this dish together, and that’s including baking time. Next, we plan to try the mango tart, and then we hope to roll up our sleeve and dedicate a few hours to mastering the macaron.
By Bijal Vachharajani