Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Culinary Journey

I was asked to share my baking Journey in FB group @Home bakers Guild and thought of sharing the same here.
Thanks to KP Balakumar for giving me this opportunity to write in Master chef Monday, and share my baking story with this group.
I’m not sure where to start and how to share my journey as a home baker. Probably, I should start telling about my grandparents. My grandfather had a bakery and he was quite a master with icing. In fact, my mom’s five tier wedding cake was made by my grandfather.
Though I’ve seen baking from my childhood, I was never into it. At the most, I did was powdering the sugar, or cracking the egg.
Then it took a long time for me to realize what I wanted to do in my life.
I started my career as a bean counter with Muthoot Bankers, at Hyderabad. Later I moved to Bangalore and took a job at 24/7 Customer. After this, I worked with a company called Consero Gobal and finally at Paragon Bio Medicals, at Techno Park, Trivandrum.
When I left my last job some 3 years ago, I never thought I would become a home baker. By the twist of fate or fortune, I reached the place of true “Calling”. And I’m contented!!
The first leg of my cooking/baking profession started in a very small way - selling fish pickles and cutlets. At that time, I was staying at Cambridge Layout.
One day I decided to put a small table outside the gate. I started selling veg, chicken cutlets, and vanilla cupcakes. To promote my venture, mom made a banner on cloth “Menna’s Delight”(Menna is my pet name). We tied it on the electric post so that passers would take notice.
The sight of me standing on the road evoked different reactions. My neighbors found to be funny, my husband was embarrassed. And our caring house owner, “Amma” as we call her was shocked. She literally cried and asked me to get back to a day job. But at that stage that wasn’t an option for me.
Though it was a busy one-way street, only few passers stopped to enquire what I was selling. My mom helped and supported during this phase by giving me ideas, her recipes, tips and supplied me with hot tea during my evening sales.
Slowly I started getting orders from people staying at Ranka Corner Apartments. Thanks to Apeksha Parthasarathy who did lot of word of mouth marketing for my cutlets. I also started getting party orders. During this stage, I put stall selling it at Anglo Indian Jamborre at Palace grounds. Despite all the hard work of setting stalls, money from sales was less compared with the efforts.
Later, I slowly shifted to teaching cupcakes. With tit-bits of baking knowledge, and mom’s guidance I started Menna’s Delight of Baking, Icing and Cooking. During this phase, I got help from my mom and husband Biju Charles, who constantly nagged me to innovate, and try new recipes, he is my support and strength.
“I just want to make a point that it's not just great teachers that sometimes shape your life. Sometimes it's the absence of great teachers that shapes your life and being ignored can be just as good for a person as being lauded.” Julia Roberts
I want to thank Manju, for many recipes, Joonie Tan from whom I learned the wedding cake decoration, Ashwini Joshi-Sarabhai for Sugar craft and RoseAnne George for Macaroons. Thank you all for making me reach this level.
Today, I conduct classes in Bangalore,Trivandrum and Hyderabad. Last year, I did couple of baking classes at Infosys, Trivandrum. By next year planning to do it in Dubai and Maldives
Apart from baking, cooking is also another area which I love teaching and exploring. Till date, I’ve taught Indian cooking to many foreigners – IT consultants to doctors to pilots who are keen to learn Indian Cuisine. I should say, I owe my success also to my blog. “mennas-cooking.blogspot.com”. In this blog, I’ve shared many baking recipes, share pics of cakes and cooking recipes. Apart from baking, I’ve shared recipes from my town “St Andrews”, at Trivandrum, Kerala. Surprisingly, most of the recipes used in my family have a Portuguese touch.
My advice to people who are reading this is to explore and find out that ‘Thing’ in you. Don’t limit yourself to a corporate job. Do what you like doing, and things will fall in its place. While, you should be prepared for the slow start, if you have the drive, penchant for innovation, then you’ll soon achieve it.
It’s great to see many women starting many ventures, not just into cooking and baking. Many people come to my class to learn and start home baking business. One advice to people who are keen to start is this - start using digital medium (Blog, Facebook) to share your story, and passion. And be generous to people and help them. So here we go with my family recipe of plum cake recipe which I have started my carrier with.
Christmas cake or plum cake is a type of fruitcake usually made during Christmas time. It’s usually dark, crumbly-moist to sticky-wet, spongy to heavy, leavened and shaped round, square.
About this recipe:
There are many variations to the Christmas cake. Most of the recipes are modified by personal choice, or influenced by the local culture, or external factors.
This recipe taught here is passed along in our family, which is from St Andrews, a coastal town in Trivandrum, Kerala. The recipes in St Andrews, Trivandrum have a distinct Portuguese influence.
Apart from the European influence, this place is a cusp of various culinary traits from places like Ceylon, Singapore, Malaysia and the regional flavor.
So here we go with the recipe, the spirit of Christmas is to share and here I am sharing something which is close to my heart!!! Culinary
Ingredients to make Christmas Cake:
• 250 gms Flour
• 250 gms butter (unsalted)
• 250 gms sugar
• 250 gms mixed dried fruit (walnuts, almonds, cashews, raisins, dates, cherry, candied peal), chopped into small pieces and soak them in rum.
• 250 gms egg(my mom is very particular that you weigh the egg with the shell )
• 1/4 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsps vanilla essence
• 1 tbsps orange marmalade
• 1/4 cup dark rum
• 7 cloves (If you are using the powder -1tsp)
• 2" cinnamon stick (If you are using the powder -2 tsp)
• 1 small nutmeg (If you are using the powder -1tsp)
Preparation: Steps to make Christmas Cake
1. Powder the spices by grinding the cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a grinder. Keep it aside.
2. Now sieve the flour, baking powder and spices once
3. Spread the chopped dried fruit on a clean surface or bigger tray or plate and sprinkle the flour over it and keep on mixing it.
4. Prepare the baking tray by lining them with good butter paper.
5. Use a blender to blend the sugar and butter till smooth and fluffy.
6. Now add the egg yolk one at a time along with essence.
7. Add the orange marmalade and the caramelised sugar syrup at and blend till the batter is smooth.
8. Slowly add the flour, fruit mix into this and mix well, do not use the blender now.
9. Beat the egg white separately light and fluffy and fold to the batter
10. Preheat your oven to 180 C.
11. Pour the mixture into the baking tray.
12. Set the oven for 170 C and bake for 20-45 mts.
13. Allow the cake to cool completely
14. At least leave it for 4 days to set in before cutting
Caramelizing Sugar
1. Mix 1 cup of sugar in a vessel with 2-3 table spoons of water,
2. Cook on medium flame till all sugar dissolves and the syrup starts to turn dark brown to black in color and begins to smoke a little.
3. Just keep it on the heat till it melt again.
4. Turn off the heat and add 1 cup water and keep it back in the stove and cook in medium heat, till it become thick syrup.
Soaking of dried Fruits for Cake:
• 50g raisins
• 25g Cherries chopped
• 50g Cashew nuts Chopped
• 55g walnuts
• 40g dried figs, chopped
• 25g dates, chopped
• 5g Orange /Ginger peel
The total of all the dried fruits will be 250 gms, you can add whatever dried fruits you like.
¼ cup Rum
Cinnamon stick - 1
1. Mix the 250gms of all the mixed dried fruit
(walnuts, almonds, cashews,raisins, dates, cherry,candied peal),
2. Chopped into small pieces and soak them in rum and cinnamon stick.
3. Put this mixture into an airtight container and keep it in your kitchen and not in the fridge
4. You need to mix it every day for the first week and for the other five days mix it once in a week.
5. After six weeks your fruits are ready for bake

Enjoy baking this Christmas Cake

Merry Christmas !!!
Plum cake mix 

Slice of Rich Plum Cake

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