If you follow her on Instagram, you will know why Pooja Dhingra is a star in the art of baking. She juggles between her successful chains of cafes and patisseries, blogs, podcasts and writes books. Her nine-and-a-half-years-old Le 15 Pâtisserie in Mumbai is known for macarons and a series of other desserts.
In the beginning of 2019, she self-published her third book Can’t Believe its Eggless. Recently, she started e-commerce operations for Puneites so that they can pre-order her macaron and have it delivered at their doorstep.
We chat up Dhingra about her passion and her venture.
What inspired you to start Le15 Patisserie and how has been the journey so far?
I have been baking since I was little and then I completed a course at Le Cordon Bleu School in Paris and became a pastry chef. In Paris, I tasted macaron for the first time. It was like a life-changing moment as I had never tried something like this before. I was like ‘Wow’, and I thought if I never tried this, then there were a lot of people back home who have not tried this. That is when I decided to make macarons and I started making them at home. Later, I moved out and I got a central kitchen in Lower Parel. I think Paris plays such an important role in my life, I wanted to bring a piece of it with me to India and that is how the idea of Le15 came up.
After The Big Book of Treats and The Wholesome Kitchen: Nourish. Energize. Indulge, you have authored and self-published Can’t Believe it’s Eggless. What inspired you to write the third book and how challenging is it to create eggless desserts?
When I started baking, often I was asked ‘Can this be made without eggs?’. Eggs are an integral part of baking, so it became a challenge for me to find solutions for this. I started baking without eggs for friends, family and then for customers. I noticed there was a gap in the market when I also came across a few perceptions that, ‘Oh, eggless desserts won’t be that good’ and so on. So I decided to come up with eggless desserts to show that these delicacies can also have great taste and texture, we just need to understand how to make it. When I was testing and experimenting with eggless desserts, people would say, ‘Oh, I can’t believe its eggless!’ That’s when I decided this could be a great title for my third book.
What are some of the signature recipes in the book?
Plus after writing my first two books I came across a lot of questions on how to bake without ovens, while everyone wanted to bake, so there is a section in the book called No Bake. The recipes don’t require ovens but involves refrigeration process.
Do you think the baking standards of India match up to those of European countries or the USA?
We can’t compare as baking is not traditionally Indian as such. It’s about different kinds of techniques, foods, and ingredients. But the industry is evolving, and I would definitely add that we are reaching somewhere close to European standards in terms of ingredients and equipment.
What is your podcast ‘No Sugar Coat’ all about?
The idea for the podcast came about as not too many people know how it is to set up a business in hospitality today. But in reality, it is a tough industry to be in. So I wanted to throw light on that aspect. With this podcast, I spoke to a few people from the food industry like chefs and hoteliers who talk about the challenges they faced and I learnt so much from that. For the audience, it was a different perspective to look at the food industry.
Through your blogs, podcasts, and cookbooks, you inspire people to bake. How has been the experience?
All the time I receive feedback in the form of pictures people send me when they bake something. And it feels amazing. Sunday baking club was also started out of the response I got. One fine day I thought of baking and documented it on Instagram and I got an amazing response and a lot of people connected. It has been three to four months, every Sunday we have people baking with us. That really showed the power of social media.
Le15 is known for its amazing macarons, what are the latest innovations you have introduced?
Indeed, we are known for macarons, cheesecakes, and cupcakes. Recently, we launched a new Eclaire menu which involves a piece of my Paris experience.
Many Indians are taking up fitness seriously. Can you suggest some healthy bakery options for them?
Macarons are all gluten-free and there is a whole range of sugar-free keto-based desserts.
What cookbook would you recommend for beginners in baking?
I really love BakeWise by Shirley Corriher. It involves whys and hows of the science of baking.
What advice would you give to those who fail at baking?
Don’t be afraid, it is not that hard. Follow the recipe and make sure you have the correct measuring scale for the ingredients.
Home bakers in India are growing in number, and social media is helping them sell their products and make good business. Do you think it is a positive trend?
Indeed it is a positive trend. It helps these people to reach out to their potential customers.