If you follow Le 15 Patisserie’s Pooja Dhingra on Instagram, you’ll be amazed at the number ofthings the pastry chef effortlessly juggles. Apart from running a successful chain of patisseries and cafés, Dhingra teaches baking workshops, hosts award shows, writes books, and runs a recently launched, popular food industry podcast. Edited excerpts from an interview with Dhingra about her newest ‘baby’ – a self-published cookbook on eggless treats.
Dhingra’s first book, The Big Book of Treats, won second place at the Gourmand World Cookbook Award. Her second culinary tome, The Wholesome Kitchen focused on as the title suggests – healthy eating. Dhingra is understandably excited about the release of her third book, Can’t Believe It’s Eggless which releases next this week. “I put desserts on the cover for the first two books, about time I put my face on this one,” she says about her retro look on the cover. But why an entire book on eggless baking? “I grew up in a house where we had all these rules and regulations that you couldn’t have non-veg on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. If I wanted to bake cookies on say a Tuesday, my mom said no eggs. So early on, I learnt how to make substitutions in recipes and work around the restrictions in a typical Indian kitchen,” says Dhingra.
A stint at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris for a Patisserie Diploma, made her realise how crucial eggs are to French baking. “I often tell this story of the day that we learnt to make sponge cakes. I raised my hand and asked the chef how would you make this eggless and he looked at me as if I was crazy. He went into a frenzy for 20 minutes discussing with the class translator and everyone was staring at me like why did you ask this stupid question. So I sat down and thought I’m just going to ask my mom,” laughs Dhingra.
After starting Le 15 Patisserie, Dhingra would regularly get requests to make eggless cakes and pastries. “It used to frustrate me in the beginning and I used to think that as a baker I’d be taking away my primary ingredient.” she says. But she took it up as a challenge. Can’t Believe It’s Eggless contains more than a hundred recipes that Dhingra has developed over the past eight years, simple baked goodies that can be easily made in a typical Indian kitchen, including a section on no-bake desserts. “When I wrote my first book I realised that many people didn’t even have an oven at home, so these are recipes that require you to freeze or just set in the fridge, something even children can make,” she elaborates.
The book has a section and explainer on using egg substitutes. “The role of the egg in a recipe varies, for example the whites are a drying agent, the yolk is an emulsifier, so what you use to substitute egg changes as per the recipe,” explains Dhingra. Common substitutes include hung yoghurt, condensed milk, mashed bananas and applesauce. “I also use what we call ‘flegg’ or flaxseed powder mixed with water, which acts like an egg,” she says. The book includes her childhood favourite Thumps Up Cake, a birthday cake that her mother used to bake replacing egg with carbonated water.
Dhingra is best known for introducing macarons to the city, those delicate French confections made with egg whites, almond powder, and sugar. Considering egg is an essential ingredient here, are eggless macarons even possible? “For the longest time, I was hell-bent on saying no with the book launching this week, we have also introduced eggless macarons at our stores. That’s a big one for us. I’m waiting to tell all my French colleagues about it,” she laughs.
Can’t Believe It’s Eggless releases on Jan 14, 2019 ₹999 (plus taxes) is available at all Le 15 stores and Scootsy.