Pastry chef Vikas Bagul talks about the upcoming workshop Choco-Craft — A Day With Chocolate, being organised by Sakal Media Group’s Social for Action on Saturday
His is a sweet success story, quite literally! Vikas Bagul’s unbound passion for chocolates and cakes has taken him to great heights. Executive cluster pastry chef at Marriott hotels, president of the Pastry Council of India and the Indian representative in the worldwide chocolate fraternity — Bagul has extensive knowledge about his craft.
To share his knowledge and guide people, Bagul will be conducting ‘Choco-Craft — A Day With Chocolate’ workshop for both adults and kids this Saturday, July 29.
The event is being organised by Social For Action — a Maharashtra-based not-for-profit initiative by the Sakal Media Group — and will be held at Oak Lounge, Marriott Suites, Koregaon Park. At the workshop, Bagul will talk to patrons about how to make tasty treats with homemade chocolate.
Offering a peek into the workshop, Bagul says, “This workshop is all about fighting malnutrition and anaemia and aims at helping underprivileged families. So all the sale proceeds will go to them. I am a chocolate and a pastry chef, so this two-hour workshop will revolve around chocolate. I will give a demo to the participants on how to make molded praline chocolate, a couple of baked desserts and chocolate and hazelnut cake, and chocolate, double chocolate and oat cookies. We might also make a hot chocolate drink.”
What is a good chocolate
Over the years, it has been observed that chocolate making has become more about aesthetics and blends. So how successful have Indian chefs been at creating the perfect chocolate? Bagul explains, “People are now experimenting a lot with chocolate but unfortunately, it is not really chocolate, it is compound chocolate. As I am a chocolate maker and represent India in the global chocolate fraternity, I always try and promote couverture and not compound chocolate. But yes, couverture has a smaller market in comparison to the compound chocolate market,” he says adding, “At Saturday’s workshop, I will also tell people how to differentiate between a good and not-so-good chocolate.”
Chocolates have different cocoa content, which gives it a variety of flavours. Indians and South-East Asians usually prefer sweeter chocolates which is why we go for 54 or 55 per cent cocoa whereas Europeans prefer anywhere between 70 and 74 per cent cocoa. “But sadly for us, anything that is brown, sweet and smells of cocoa is chocolate,” adds Bagul.
Cut, copy and present
With the growing number of home chefs and bakers, the chocolate and pastry industry is witnessing great innovations. Talking about the current trend, Bagul says, “Some of these changes are good. But a lot of time bakers don’t use original cream, instead they use non-dairy fats, which is cost effective. A lot of new pastry chefs and shops are coming up with their own specialities as well, but it will be good if they stick to actual pastry.”
He also points out that a cake may be glazed well but it needs to taste good too. “The most important thing is what goes inside, the texture, combinations, flavours, and whether fresh produce or seasonal fruits are being used in the cake,” he says.
Social media plays a big role here. People follow various chefs from across the world but they are unaware of the products that they use. In order to replicate what those chefs are doing, the attention shifts from the products to the look and feel of the result.
“Young chefs nowadays want to ‘cut, copy and present’ exactly what the other guys are offering. So the focus shifts to the look of the cake but the key is ‘What is my cake going to taste like?’ You will see a lot of beautiful cakes which are covered with glaze but the main issue is what goes inside. If you are going to use compound chocolates, non-dairy fat, artificial colours, essences, you will not even come close to what those guys are doing. Besides, the temperatures on the other side of the world is much more conducive, we, on the other hand, have really high temperatures which is not suited for pastry making,” he says.
Non-availability of right ingredients
He also points out that we don’t really get the best of ingredients to prepare perfect cakes or pastries and have to settle with what is available here.
Bagul explains, “The pastry works with five basic ingredients — butter, sugar, milk/ cream, eggs and flour. Of these five ingredients, three are neglected. We don’t get good quality flour here, instead we use maida (all-purpose flour). Abroad, they have wheat flour, cake flour, whole wheat flour, etc. They have flours which are made for specific purposes. In India, we try to do everything with maida. We also don’t get good quality cream because we don’t have good manufactures or pasteurisers, which is why the cream doesn’t stay stable or spoils fast. The only local supply is Amul cream which is a low-fat cream but what we actually need is 33 to 34 per cent fat so the alternative is fresh cream which you get but again the shelf life is very short. The third ingredient — butter is also compromised. It’s expensive so the cheaper alternative is margarine or shortening which is not really advisable. So if the three basic ingredients are compromised, you are only left with eggs and sugar.”
A healthy chocolate?
With people getting diet conscious, is dark chocolate recommended for fitness freaks? Bagul says, “I am going to bust a myth here, people think dark chocolate is good for health, but it has to be 65-70 per cent cocoa to be healthy. A lot of local chocolate manufacturers over-roast their beans, so the colour actually comes from there. Basically, they are killing the cocoa beans and getting the colour to make a dark chocolate which has somewhere between 50-54 per cent cocoa. More importantly, if you are eating chocolate for health purposes, it has to be coverture chocolate because compound chocolate is made of hydrogenated fat which is extremely bad for your health.”
Online pastry forum
Through his association with the Skill India programme, Bagul is trying to open a forum for youngsters who wish to be a part of the industry. He says, “We have conducted workshops and also opened a pastry forum which is not completely open for the public since we are still doing the groundwork. By September or so, we will open it for the public to register and join. It will comprise 5-6 pastry chefs from across India and will be an open book for everyone where you can come and share your thoughts, ideas and we will do the same, along with sharing recipe tips, trends and what is happening globally. If you are looking for a job, you can go to the website. It will be educational for young kids who usually go on social media and get to see pictures but no real information,”