Cooking

Baking in India

7:50 PM

2015 Update
The original version has been written in 2012. However, I just made a few changes to reflect the changes the Indian market has seen in the past few years. 

Baking cakes and yeast bread isn’t really part of India’s culture. The notion came along with the British, and most Indians will buy bread and cakes from a store rather than bake it themselves at home. As a result, finding baking tools and ingredients can be challenging at times.
The good new however is that the trend is catching and there are now far more cake moulds and cookie cutter than there used to be a couple of years back. When I got my microwave/convection oven in 2006 finding cookie cutter was quite tough. The only ones I found back then was an old dusty box of basic shapes found in the back of the Nilgiri Supermarket in Bangalore. And, the day I found a muffin tray I bought it immediately not sure I would see one ever again.

So, here is a little guide to what you can find and where in India when it comes to baking supplies. As of 2015, you can find everything you need online if you are not living in a big metro. I included a few of my Amazon picks at the bottom of this page in my affiliate widget.

First thing first, don’t expect to be able to equip your kitchen with a cooking range or a full size convection oven as I pretty much explained here. Few are the ones who hve the space for such a luxury in apartment living. You will need to make do with a smaller oven, Oven/Toaster/Grills (OTG) are small but do the trick at baking. Microwave ovens that comes with a convection oven option are generally a bit bigger, but you will still need to bake cookies in much smaller batches than you would back home. But, in all other aspect the convection mode in your microwave oven is as good as in any oven (it really does work the same).

As far as gear is concerned hypermarkets and even some supermarkets are offering a selection of cake pans, moulds and cookie cutters nowadays. For fancier shapes, department stores like lifestyle and Home Stop are the place to go if you hate online shopping (though trust me for super specialised bakeware nothing beats e-shopping). The silicone mould trend has also started to become really big. I have seen them in many places including Big Bazaar which frankly was the last place I would have expected to see them.
I must say that silicone is great, I never used it in Switzerland, but I recently found these in my local supermarket (which is small-ish but located in an area where there is more likely to be a market for these):

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These are cupcake moulds, and they came in a pack of six, since they were too cute for words and we do cupcakes and muffins a lot around here, I could not resist buying two packs. I can fill my oven’s baking plate with one batch.
The supreme advantage of silicone is that it’s easy to remove the cake from the mould, because you gently peel it off. As a result, it does well for fancier more intricate shapes than with a tin mould. We use these lot, not only to bake cakes, but they work great to make cute looking jell-o deserts too.
As far as cookie cutters are concerned, don’t expect really crazy out of this world shapes like you would find in a speciality store in the West, at least not in brick and mortar stores. Most stores are at a point where they are now selling basic shapes and Christmassy one during the holidays. I found a great set of Holiday themed ones in our local supermarket last year. For now, all my fancy shapes are still the one I bought in 2008 in Switzerland. Again, in 2015, date of this latest updated post, you will find tons of super cute and super specialised cutters online...at a price of course.

Pie dishes are easy to find now but so far I have seen only in Lifestyle and Home Stop, and of course online. Since the Swiss pies aren’t deep ones I have two stainless steel Indian plates with an edge that pretty much do the trick once lined with baking parchment so I never felt the need to hunt for better pie dish. Though a Quiche dish would be something I would buy one of these days. I bought 4 individual pie dishes in Switzerland in 2008 as well because while the big dishes are available there wasn't much in smaller sizes back then. 

If you are going to bake often there is one thing you ABSOLUTELY need:

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This is a hand held beater, mine comes with a dough hook attachment and a hand blender. I bought it last December on Flipkart after being sick and tired of sweating forever beating egg and butter mixture for sponge cakes, and even more tired of the fact that my food processor that came with a egg beater option failed to produce a good stiff egg white foam and never ever managed to process whipped cream.

I haven’t yet used the dough hook on that new toy, simply because I like making bread dough by hand, but I have used the blender a couple of times, it comes handy to whip up lassi without having to take the whole food processor out to make one cup.
Making pancake or waffle batter with this one is super fast too, and far less messy than in the food processor as well.
All you need with it is a good sized mixing bowl, and because the beater is powerful, don’t go for plastic, it will be scratched, instead go for a stainless steel one, the only place I have seen mixing bowls so far is Lifestyle (that was in 2012...this has changed).

Baking parchment is no longer though to find, online that is. For years I used the stash I had from Switzerland, then I chanced upon a roll of Wax paper in Mumbai. This was a HORRIBLE mistake, as all dough and pies stick to it like glue. In despair I turned to Amazon and found it there, indian brand and good quality (check my affiliate widget at the end of this post for the link)

If you are into cake decorating, piping bags are available in some select stores, and Westside had at one point. I didn’t buy one so far because I don’t do fancy icing often enough to justify the expense.

Small items like measuring cups and spoon are more and more available even in your small supermarket.  Since I cook in metric measures I use a weighting scale more often though, I still own the tiny manual scale I bought eons ago in a cheap store in Bangalore. But I am thinking of upgrading to a digital model. They are available in big stores, online, and I even saw them in tiny stores that sell small appliances and electronics.

As far as ingredient goes here are a few things one should know:

- When a recipe tell you to use all purpose flour, this is called Maida here and it’s plain old white flour, available even at your local general store.

- Self rising flour does exist, but it is  CRAPPY, I never got anything to rise with it, don’t waste your money on it, add baking powder to regular flour instead.

- Yeast is another massive waste of money, the one sold in stores around here is poor quality, and fresh yeast doesn’t seem to exist in stores. I used a stash of Swiss brought yeast for year. I recently found quality dry yeast in India and blogged about it.

- Baking powder will have issue rising properly too as most are sold  in packages that can let humidity in. Just make sure to double the quantity of baking powder in a cake recipe to be on the safe side, and once a pack has been opened, it is better to have it stored in a small airtight container.

- Butter in India is commonly salted, so in cookies and cake recipes, you don’t need to add the pinch of salt, it’s already there in the butter. if you really need unsalted butter for a recipe or in the case of a butter cream icing, then know it does exist, it is called “cooking butter” and unless this mention is on it, you are dealing with regular salted butter.

- Cake decorating is pretty much non-existent outside specialised baking supplies websites. The closest I’ve come to cake decorating in regular stores is a few sugar sprinkling beads and chocolate vermicelli. In Phoenix Mill in Mumbai the gourmet store had Disney Princesses sugar cupcake toppers set and that was about it. There is no shortcuts in that department, if you want to make a fancy looking cake you need to know how to make your own fondant and make your own decor items (again specialised websites selling tools exist you just need the know how)

- Flavouring essences and artificial colouring exist. The colours come in liquid form and powder, and there are quite a few flavours around as well. The one I stock at home are vanilla (the most used), bitter almond, orange and lemon. But you will find others as well. Supermarkets will offer the basic flavours, gourmet stores go the extra mile, and speciality websites have the widest choice.

- When it comes to brands, I found that “Weikfield” is the most reliable.

- Regular sugar has too big grains, fine sugar is called caster sugar in India. A distinction that is not made where I come from. Brown sugar will only be found in bigger supermarkets.

- Allspice or pumpkin pie spice mix is something you need to make from scratch yourself, you won’t find it.

- Till date I haven’t come across almond paste/marzipan to use as a filling in some cookies.

- You’ll have to make all your pastries from scratch, and while making a cake pastry is easy, I will mourn puff pastry forever, unlike in the west you will not find ready to use dough in the refrigerated or freezer area, and certainly not ready to use sheets. I tried to make my own puff pastry from scratch, it takes nearly 5 hours of rolling, greasing, folding and refrigerating cycles, and mine never ever puffed. I asked my grand ma who is a very good baker and cook by profession, she looked at me funny and asked “Why would you want to attempt that?Some bakers in Mumbai will sell some if you place a large enough order, the good new is that the pastry freezes well so you can portion it and store it for later.

These are the one I can think of for now, if you have questions regarding baking, feel free to share them, and I might even have the answer.

21 comments

  1. Well I spent a heck of a lot of money & had a full size commercial 'range' shipped all the way here to Nepal from Italy. 
    Yes, I have a full size electric oven (I can roast a leg of lamb, bake a full size kugelhopf, or even a 10kg turkey- if I could find one here YUM!), 4 gas burners & 2 electric hobs. Yippee! Unfortunately the only ventilation for this monstrosity is a 12 inch hole in the wall of our Himalayan hovel here- oh well.
    I absolutely love to bake! I had my Kitchen Aid mixer shipped here from the US- Get a voltage adaptor in the US if you want to use your US appliances in India or Nepal!! Otherwise expect a blowout.
    Glad you told me about the yeast, I keep seeing these huge bags of yeast from China & Turkey at the 'departmental' stores here in Nepal. I've never bought them because I feared they hadn't been stored at the correct temperature. 
    Here in Nepal we can buy American brands of cake mix (Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines) in packages labeled in Arabic (of all the weird things). But I find it just as easy to make cakes from scratch.
    I make a lot of banana bread & mango bread for my kids.

    I remember the first cake I made for my Kashmiri husband's family. They were all quite fascinated watching me mix the batter, butter & flour the pans etc. having never seen anyone make a cake before. I made a 2 layer frosted chocolate cake- nothing fancy. They could not figure out why I put one cake on top of the other- they had never seen a layer cake!

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  2.  I have seen a wall mounted oven to be destined to be incased into a modular kitchen in the Indesit showroom in BAngalore, but these are only good if you own your own apartment or house and can afford to make heavy modification to the kitchen to accomodate it. So tenants in rented premises aren't so lucky, the day we own our own place I will buy an oven that is a certainity.
    Yeah we get the Amaerican brand cake mixes here, as well as some Indian ones that are eggless too, I never tried them, to me they aren't baking, they are the lazy rush option, though there isn't much time saved pouring from a packet versus blending your own anyway.
    I love banana cake, and make it often as in this heat bananas get ripe very fast and I don't want to waste anything. DH loves that one a lot...and now I will have to try mango bread! It's the right season for it too :)

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  3. Nisha1:20 PM

    Wouldn't tracing paper available in stationary shops work as baking parchment?

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  4. In response to the above question, I don't think tracing paper would work in lieu of parchment paper- the parchment paper I get from the US has a silicone coating on it. Wax paper is hard to get in Nepal also.

    Yes, I use the same recipe for mango bread that I use for my banana walnut bread- using pureed mango pulp of course. Also I put a teaspoon of ground cardamom, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of ground cloves and walnuts. Comes out yummy!

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  5.  I wouldn't chance it for several reasons, the first one is that there are strict guidelines to be observed to have a food grade item, and there is no ssurance that the tracing paper is not made with dangerous chemicals that could leak into the food at high temperatures.
    Then there is the fact that baking parchement is specially designed to withstand high temperatures, there might be little chances of tracing paper having these properties whcih could pose a fire hazard, baking parchment that hasn't hasn;t been used has a slight waxy feel, once it has been in the oven it turns dry and when I bake christmas cookies I re-use the sheet since I'm cooking small batches, but after 2-3 batches the paper looks brownish from the heat, and this is a paper specially concieved for oven use we are talking about.

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  6.  Thanks I will definitely have to try mango bread, that looks yummy.
    And yup as I replied above, I would not use tracing paper in place of baking parchment either. Not sure what the coating is on the one I get from Switzerland but yes it has a coating that evaporates at high heat and render the paper brittle once it has been used, the fire hazard with tracing paper alone is a deterent, not to mention the fact that stationary products are made with different chemicals too, and not necessarily food grade approved ones.

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  7. Frances2:20 PM

    I use butter paper instead of parchment when baking - it's easily available at my neighborhood grocery in Delhi. I also use shakkar (powdered jaggery) in much of my baking, as I like the flavor it adds, particularly in cookies.

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  8. I never came across butter paper in Bangalore :)
    I never tried powdered jaggery, but I am sure it's an exellent substitute in recipes that call for brown sugar. I would be hesitant using it in a sponge cake because it is a sugar that is heavier than caster sugar, and a sponge relies mostly on having a light airy batter to begin with, but in breakfast muffins, that sounds good.

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  9. Landsmith2:35 PM

    it seems good and this provides us a very important information and thanks for providing us this type of helpful information and i will visit this site again.................

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  10. Make 'Fraandsheeep' with your local baker, he might sell you fresh yeast at very reasonable rates. I buy 100gr, make 5 airtight clingfoil parcels and freeze them. They stay good for approx. 6 months. Have you come across peeled and thinly sliced Almonds somewhere?

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  11. There are no good bakery around in my neighbourhood, but yeah that is a good option.
    I haven't come accross these almonds, not that I haven't looked, I tried making my own peeled and sliced ones but it's not very thin, it's time consuming and the risk of loosing finger bits is a bit too high for me to want to do it every again :-) They must exist somewhere though, I think i saw them on top of some muffins in some coffee shops.

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  12. Hyderabad is the best baker friendly city. There is nothing that you wont find. From Bundt pans to parchment paper, muffin cups, cookie cutters, pastry bags, cake stands you name it. Ready to use fondant come in various colours too! Cake pans, mixing bowls,cookie sheets are available in various shapes sizes and colours.Various flavours of essence, coconut sprinkles, marshmallows, Brown Sugar just everything.The best part is they come at a very reasonable price. In fact a lot cheaper than you'd expect. Like you can buy a pastry bag for just 20 rupees.And no its not use and throw. 12 muffin cups for just 60 rupees :-) My only problem is that i cant make buttercream that often since the weather is too hot for such kind of frosting :(. They will simply melt and spoil the texture. Whipping cream is too messy to make. I know that i should add shortening too so it cant melt but the local brands like dalda and vijaya do not have a pleasant taste unlike my Crisco from U.S

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  13. I heard the same thing for other people about Hyderabad :)
    As for butter cream icing, I had good success with it in Mumbai, but the butter cream recipe I have is one that do not have tons of butter in it, just icing sugar and minimal other fluids. I usually store cakes in the fridge if I am not eating them right away or have some left, keeps the butter cream a bit hard but then just a few minutes outside the fridge will soften it. And this past weekend I tried peanut butter icing and bloggged about it : http://cynublog.blogspot.in/2013/03/peanut-butter-icing-cupcakes.html
    The just 3 tbsp of peanut butter added to the basic buttercream made it less prone to melting than the chocolate icing or vanilla icing I did in the past.

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  14. Hi, happened to pass through ur site and I liked it. Guess u could not find few things in bangalore for baking. Not sure if you found any place by now. i know a place, u can try IBCABLR (Institute of Baking and Cake Art). They are located at 46/3 Mission Road, Bangalore. Call @ 080 - 22106619. They do deliver but you need to pay for the transport cost / courier cost. I have bought dark, light, milk chocolates and fresh cream and other things. U can get almost all the baking supplies there.

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  15. I don't live in Bangalore anymore. But yeah nowadays you find everything you need in many places in metros. You can order a lot of things from online shopping sites too.

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  16. Cynic1:41 PM

    Hey.. It was lovely to go through your blog. It would be great if you are able to guide me. I tried baking cake sponge a couple of times. But it isnt that fluffy. I beat butter and egg well. Should i try using more baking powder than mentioned in the recipe? Kindly suggest.

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  17. Kahula8:11 PM

    I had a good laugh with your blog. No, India isn't a baker's paradise. But cooking ranges were here even back in 2000. And you don't ask for baking parchment, you ask for butter paper, you might be surprised! And desiccated coconut is easy in a country like India, stick your shredded coconut out in the sun for a few days and....or simply go to the 'country medicine shop' & most times those guys have the most amazing things the supermarkets dont have.

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  18. Yes cooking range e sited all along, but Indian kitchens in rental apartments will not let you install one easily, which is

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  19. Kahula9:56 AM

    well, that's true, most 'middle class' apartments don't even let you fix a microwave. When you want to put one in the landlord will give you The Eye. But the posher ones- at least the ones in Chennai 'furnished' ones have a place where you stick your cooking range or have one installed already.

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  20. I love banana cake, and make it often as in this heat bananas get ripe very fast and I don't want to waste anything. DH loves that one a lot...and now I will have to try mango bread! It's the right season for it too.Should i try using more baking powder than mentioned in the recipe? Kindly suggest.

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    Replies
    1. I usually use double the quantity of baking powder in my cakes, as I found that the brands available in India fare rather poorly compared to the ones available in Switzerland. I think it has more to do with the packaging and climate though.

      In India you can only find baking powder in big packets, once opened, it will get exposed to the humidity in the air and decrease its potency. In Switzerland you pretty much only find baking powder in single serve sachets, so that the powder inside is kept dry and potent until you use it.

      Delete

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