FAQs

FAQ’s

General

1. If I’m a complete novice in the kitchen, what are some of the recipes I can start off with?

That’s awesome! You’re going to love your time spent with my all-time favourite things like butter, sugar and sprinkles. Remember to read every recipe twice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed crucial steps or skipped out an important ingredient because I didn’t read it correctly. Anyway, my blog is designed to keep things simple, short and sweet. I love elaborate recipes but don’t always have that kind of time on my hand. Some of my favourite, easy recipes include this gorgeous simple chocolate cake (egg-free!), custard cake (made in a food processor – how easy is that!), instant gratification brownies and always-have-some-on-me chocolate chip cookies.

2. If I’m feeling adventurous, what kitchen challenge can I attempt?

Plenty! And don’t just stop here. Browse through some of my favourite inspiring bloggers and consult their recipes too. I want to attempt more pastry next and I’m eyeing puff pastry or croissants over at Annie’s Eats. Lindsey of Love and Olive Oil has a kitchen challenge every month! Try that! Apart from that, some of my more elaborate recipes include any cake with swiss meringue buttercream or apple pie.

3. I see you run a home-run bakery too! How can I order something from you?

Of course you can! Just email me at thevanillabeanin@gmail.com with your order details, name and number and I’ll get in touch with you. I do need up to 2 – 4 days notice for orders, especially for more elaborate things. If you have any specific requirements or food allergies, please mention it in the email so I can try my best to accommodate you. I also have a Facebook page with my menu listed so you can consult that before writing in.

4. I stay out of the delivery range mentioned. Can you still manage to send it across?

I can. But, you should know that I outsource my deliveries too. For something that is out of my mentioned delivery range, I use an excellent and very reliable errand service called My Peon. Apart from your order amount, you’ll have to pay the delivery charges, whatever they may be.

5. I need a sugar craft cake in the shape of shoes. Will you make it for me?

I don’t do sugar craft cakes. Sorry! It’s a rule of mine to not make something I personally wouldn’t enjoy myself and I really do detest overly-sweetened sugar craft cakes. I do have some other enticing options that are tall, delicious and frosted beautifully. Those are the cakes I believe in and love. I do, however, do sugar cookies with royal icing (which aren’t the same) but you can always write in to me with your requirements and we can come up with something, if it suits you.

Specifics: Baking Equipment

1. I’m baking slow and steady, which is not say it is often. What are some of my must-have equipments?

It honestly depends on what you like to make more often. I’ve tried to narrow it down for you. See if this helps:

a. If you’re an avid cake/cupcake/brownie baker – a pair of 8” non-stick cake pans of really good quality and/or a 12 hole cupcake tray, an offset spatula, a sturdy baking tray, a silicon mat, a roll of parchment paper, a brownie pan (not the same as a square pan), a set of disposable piping bags and a good piping tip plus your favorite cake and frosting recipe

b. If you’re a cookie monster – a cookie tray, a silicon mat or parchment paper and a spatula

c. If you’re more of a pie person – an 8” pie pan or enamel/ceramic pie dish, dried beans, a roll of parchment paper and a rolling pin for rolling pie dough (not the same as a regular rolling pin)

d. If you love fridge set desserts like mousses and cheesecakes – an 8” ring mould is a must and a springform tin is just a good investment for cheesecakes or even regular cakes and I also like buying a set of 4 – 6 glass jars to make fridge set desserts in. They look so pretty!

2. I see that most of your recipes have measurements listed by weight. I love my measuring cups! What do I do?

Since Purple Foodie’s suggestion a few years ago, I’ve completely switched to using a digital weighing scale for all my baking. But it is more than just paranoia to get something right, the weighing scale is your best friend in the kitchen. The recipes you make are designed to have a certain amount of flour, sugar etc. It is a delicate balance, with so much chemistry behind it, which I won’t go into now. Baking is a precise science and the extra few grams of flour or sugar or cocoa powder will cause your cake to react in a complete different way. With the weighing scale, I don’t have that fear anymore. Sure, sometimes your cake can react completely differently even if you’ve checked off all the boxes but at least you can eliminate one of the factors from the list. I have a digital weighing scale that I bought from Alfa many years ago and it’s doing well so far. I also bought an unbranded one in Dubai recently (just as back-up). If you’re looking to buy one, all you need to check for is that it should have a ‘tare’ button (which causes the reading to go to 0 after you’ve placed your bowl on it, that way you don’t need to deduct the weight of the bowl) and should at least read weights in ounces and grams. However, I do have a set of measuring cups – I use them while cooking or perhaps to measure nuts, coconut etc in baking, if you’re a frequent baker, you’ll find a use for them.

3. Why do you use dark colored pans?

I believe that they give me a superior finished result. That could be just in my head but they’re also non-stick which makes cleaning up a breeze. I like the overall crust I get and the bonus point is that any item is done a lot quicker than light colored pans.

4. What’s a good place in the city to buy reliable baking equipment?

I have my regular list of haunts but since I have access to buying equipment from abroad, I make full use of it. Equipment here is good and reliable but there’s just something about a pan bought from Lakeland. So shiny! I’ve seen a few good ones on Gourmetco.in, The Home Label, FabFurnish and Zansaar.com. Have a look at them. Else, bribe that cousin in the states to bring you a pair of 8” non-stick cake tins or a cupcake tin at the very least.

5. Let’s talk ovens. Go!

Someone once told me that ovens are very much like children – they are very temperamental and each one’s behaves very differently. Poor analogy aside, the fact is, I can’t advise you on what oven to buy because it depends on your needs. That being said, I’m super happy with my Morphy Richards oven. It’s bigger and stainless steel and is an OTG (Oven-Toaster-Griller) and even though I can only do one batch at a time, I still love it. I have repairman for servicing every now and then. His number is +91 9819 262947 and his name is Suresh. If you’re looking to buy one, spend some time in the ovens aisle at the store and don’t fall for brands or decide based on prices. Check the capacity and functions and then ask for a demonstration.

 

Specifics: Baking in the city

1. Where can I find dried cranberries, imported ham, molasses and a brownie pan?

Gosh! What are you making with all those ingredients? I’ve collated a list for you. Check it out on Purple Foodie’s website.

2. I’m new to the city. Point me out to some of your favorite hangouts.

Easy. Suzette for crepes, chocolate banana smoothie and hot chocolate, Indigo for the milk bar pie, ice creams and brownie milkshake and Le15 for their red velvet choux pastry. For now, anyway.

Specifics: Ingredients and Recipes

1. I’m a fan of using cake flour but I can’t find any here! Help!

Cake flour and bread flour aren’t available here yet. But you can make your own this way. I hardly ever feel the need to use cake flour because there are so many recipes with all-purpose flour (called Maida here) that it isn’t worth the hassle. I do use some ground almonds to make the cake moister at times, works like a charm! For bread flour, maybe because I’m not into bread baking, I don’t miss it as much but you can always ask your local bakery for details. Otherwise, look for recipes with all-purpose flour and try to sub a quarter of that with whole wheat flour. I hear it helps.

2. I notice your chocolate is 53% but I looked and looked and couldn’t find it. Tell me your secret source!

My secret source is my backbone! Callebaut chocolate chips are the finest ones you get here. I’ve also used Selbourne chocolate which is just as good. Without going in to too much technicality, you need regular compound chocolate for baking and coverture chocolate for coating and tempering. I always call up the trusty Mr Augustine (+91 98202 44338) for my delivery of 2,500 g (that is the smallest available, technically for industrial use) but since they don’t spoil, it is a good investment.

3. Most blogs I see call for unsalted butter. I’d love to use it but it’s so expensive + hard to find. What do you use?

I feel your pain! Except for specific recipes in which the taste or texture will be compromised with, I use regular Amul butter. It contains salt but I just leave out the additional salt required so it is balanced. For Swiss Meringue Buttercream, unsalted butter is a must so I buy Elle & Vire for very special occasions. If your caramel is turning out bitter then butter could be the cause – use the cheaper but still efficient Parsi Dairy butter.

4. How long can I keep cake A or cookie C for?

Unfortunately, I can’t always answer this question and neither are there any generic rules on food storage. The weather here loves to play mischief and more often than not, it is always humid! The rule of thumb I always follow is to make my cakes a day before I intent to frost them so there’s less moisture leaked on to the frosting. I wrap the cake with foil and store it in the refrigerator. Then I frost it while it’s cold and remove it at least 30 – 40 minutes before serving. With cookies, they last up to 3 days in airtight containers. If I’m lazy, I store the dough in the refrigerator and bake them within the next day. Generally, dough that has been left overnight generates firmer, fluffier and taller cookies as compared to baking them immediately.

5. What is the best way to store cookies?

Airtight containers are your safest bet. I put them in airtight containers and store them in a cabinet. I also never mix the soft cookies with the firm ones. Apparently the firm ones look tough but aren’t so!

6. How do you carry cakes and cupcakes without them moving about?!

Gosh, I wish there was fail proof formula. I’ve been eyeing a cupcake or cake caddy for a while but honestly, the only time I need to carry out the cakes or cupcakes or anything else are if someone has placed an order. If so, they go in their boxes. Annie’s Eats has this amazing tip that you’ll thank her for!

7. I don’t see many bread recipes on the blog. Yeast-o-phobia?

So much! You have no idea. My breads never turn out soft. They’re gloppy, messy and usually leave me in tears. The only one I’ve been able to get around is the one listed. I love to ogle at the bread recipes over at Bombay Chowparty though.

8. How can I make the recipes listed here healthier?

Okay, time for tough love. Why do you want to?! Dessert is one of the few good things in life, people. I never try to mess around with the recipes by subbing my own flour etc unless I’m very, very confident about how the recipe will behave. If you need to make healthy baked goods, consult specific blogs or recipes. Substituting doesn’t always work.

9. What if I can’t eat egg? Can I just leave it out?

Um, simply put, no. Eggs, flour, sugar and fat are the 4 pillars of baking. There are some egg-free recipes on the blog but please note that it is because the recipes simply do not call for egg. I haven’t substituted or left it out. That always ends badly. Look for vegan recipes and try it out a couple of times.

Specifics: Blogging and Photos

1. How do I know where your recipe is originally from?

I always, always list the sources of recipes. I hate using someone else’s hard (but delicious) work without listing the source. If I’ve used the recipe exactly as listed, I write ‘source’. If I’ve adapted the recipe by changing up the flavor profile or adding my unique signature to it, as most recipes are open to interpretation, I write ‘adapted from’. If you want to use any of the recipes listed here (which I encourage you to!) please credit the source i.e. this blog. You cannot use any of the pictures or other artwork, unless you send me an email asking me to authorize it.

Many times, I use a recipe from a cookbook. I always state the author, the book and a link to purchase it locally. To view my entire, ever-growing cookbook collection, see here. To view a list of my favorite blogs that I often consult from, see here.

2. What do you use to take your pictures?

I’m experimenting with my sister’s DSLR. I don’t know the first thing about angles, lighting or aperture and I don’t pretend to. I’m learning though. I try to take pictures in natural daylight and use pretty plates or decorative tissue paper to accentuate. Besides that, I read up on tutorials whenever I can.

3. I want to set up a blog too! Tell me how! Dish all – perks and perils.

I know, it’s so fun right? I have to be honest – it isn’t always a party in my kitchen. Sometimes life gets in the way but I try to post 2 – 3 times a week. I love, love, love blogging. I’m extremely fortunate that my family accommodates my quirks. They are willing guinea pigs too. Anyway, I recently switched to WordPress.com and I love it. It is a simple set-up process. I’m still learning so unfortunately I don’t know how much help I’ll be. Try to update your blog at least twice a week. I read somewhere that they key to being a good writer is to write everyday. I think the rule applies to blogging too.

Specifics: Contact Me, Work with Me, Hire Me

1. I’m a PR agency looking to get in touch with you. Where can I email/call you?

For now, my sister manages and fields all my PR enquiries. Please email her on riyavatnani05@gmail.com for details.

2. I’m a blogger looking to collaborate with you on a fun, new project. Interested?

Yes! Email me on thevanillabeanin@gmail.com with your ideas and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

3. My company makes XYZ products; will you do a review for us?

I’m always happy to try out new products but you have to email me on thevanillabeanin@gmail.com with your details and if the nature of the product appeals to my blog, I’ll be happy to do so.

4. My restaurant launches soon. How about a favourable review and a meal on us?

Thank you! I can’t promise a favourable review and I’m happy to conduct an anonymous one.

5. I’m a manager from XYZ company looking to work on some recipes using our products. Will you develop some for us?

I love working on recipe development! If you email me the details on thevanillabeanin@gmail.com we can set up a preliminary meeting and take it from there.

6. LOVE the logo. Who designed it?

The very talented Roanna Fernandes at Jupiterskye.com. She’s amazing, kind and sincere. She gave my entire brand identity a facelift!

7. If I have a few personal questions, can I email you?

Sure! You know the drill (and the email, listed above).

 

I hope that covers most of it. I’ll constantly keep updating this page with newer questions. Please keep writing in, I love those emails!

 

 

2 responses to “FAQs

  1. This sure is helpful, for me, a non-baker! ^.^ Also, I wanted to ask you, do you like eating spoonfuls of raw batter before baking (or scraping the remains from the bowl)? I love it! 🙂 I found this yummy recipe for egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough and it is sooo delicious.

  2. Pingback: Brown Sugar Madeira Cake with Poached Cherries & Meeting Rachel Allen! | The Vanilla Bean·

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