Monday, May 16, 2011

Baking in a Bengali home

This blog is about Bengali cooking, but our home cooking history and account would be incomplete without a mention of baking. I love baking, and so does my mother.

When I was a child, the only Western food concept that was firmly set in our house was cake. My mother was an expert in baking simple cakes. I would be her assistant who gladly volunteered to stir the batter. I remember the frothy egg in a large bowl after vigorous whisking. I remember the gradual addition of sugar, butter (white, unprocessed and unsalted white butter), flour (mixed with baking powder), essence (usually vanilla), and, sometimes, nuts. She would put the batter in a pan and the pan into an oven that might have become an antique by now. It was a dinosaur. The oven was a big black iron box with a glass door secured with a little latch. The oven’s source of heat was not inside it; it would be placed on a chulha.
But the cake that would come out would be perfect.

Another way my mother would bake a cake was by putting smouldering coals on the lid of an aluminum pot with the batter in it set on a chulha. The cake would turn out just as fluffy, rich, and light.

Whether it was the low-tech gadgets or my mother’s magic I don’t know, but something worked well every time. The cake would be just right – light, moist, yet fluffy and flavorful. (The only thing my mother never learnt to do is icing. My father often urged her to learn icing from the Russian women who lived in Bhilai, but she never took active interest.)


Santanu said...

Thanks for sharing this simple and very usefull techniches.


bestgiftstokolkata said...

HI, thanks for sharing this.
I was not very familiar with baking when I was a child. My fist hands on experience was when i came to the us. But I remember my mom used to do a very strange thing. She would pile up a lot of sand in an iron wok, enough to cover a tiffin box, and heat it for an hour. Then She would put the batter in a steel lunch box and put the lunch box into the heated sand. I think it took about 45 minutes for the entire process. The heated sand worked as a convection oven, because it retained the head inside and did not let the ai pass out. said...

hii.. Nice Post

Thanks for sharing

Borosil and You said...

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Suchi said...

Hi Angshuman,

I came across your blog while browsing through Indian food blogs.

Your narration took me back to my childhood days when I used to help my mother bake a cake!

Lovely blog.