Biography: My name is Pooja. I’m a self-taught baker, a dessert enthusiastic and an amateur food photographer. I think about baked food more than an average person. I believe there is something soulful when we bake. The taste and the smell of a fresh bake makes memories. Baking is a comfort zone for me and is rewarding at the same time, so it’s a win-win situation. My blog 2blissofbaking is a place where I share my passion, my food stories and my food adventures.
Vinita Kinra: Welcome to Global Asian Times, Pooja. How did your culinary fascination begin?
Pooja Khanna: I am so thrilled to share my journey with the readers of the Global Asian Times! My culinary journey has its origins in sweet memories of my childhood. I remember smelling fresh baked bread each morning when I was just a little girl. These tempting scents of baking bread wafted from a bakery present bang opposite my home. That fresh baked bread aroma lingers in my soul. That fascination for fresh bakes has grown stronger over the years. I have always been baking and experimenting in my kitchen but I had never shared this love with anyone. My blog has helped me share my passion and enthusiasm on social media and the World Wide Web, literally. I now have friends around the world—my special baking friends. The appreciation from my readers has made me more enthusiastic and I have started to realize and live my passion for baking.
Vinita Kinra: What inspired you to start your blog, 2 Bliss of Baking, and how did you come up with that name?
Pooja Khanna: My husband is the inspiration and the support behind my blog. He is a friend and a soulmate. He is the one who understood my innermost desire to carve a niche for myself. The idea to start the blog was totally his. When I started, I was a home baker. Sharing my recipes with passionate readers added a dash of tenacity, and a pinch of enthusiasm plus courage to open my heart. This blog and the baking are like a bliss in my life. And that is how I came up with the name 2blissofbaking. It’s simple and defines me and my passion so well.
Vinita Kinra: Who is your mentor in baking and what is your favourite dish?
Pooja Khanna: I have learned everything by watching other baking maestros, not having taken any baking classes as such. All the knowledge I possess is via trial and error. I have done so many experiments in my kitchen and learnt from my mistakes. Like the saying goes, “The road to success is always under construction.” One lady I get most of my inspiration and learning from is Merry Berry. I have never meet her, but she is no less than a mentor to me.
My Favorite dish can’t just be one; I am in love with all dishes well prepared, well presented, well balanced and most of all, that taste great. But as an answer, I can say Panforte is something I keep making over and over again. Baked a new batch just yesterday!
Vinita Kinra: Do you intend to write a book on baking in the future?
Pooja Khanna: Writing a book on baking is a project in the pipeline. I would love to write a huge book on breads and doughs. We, as Indians, have been making and eating flat breads (rotis) for years. For other kind of breads, we run to bakeries. Making a bread at home is such a beautiful experience. I want to share that feeling of accomplishment that you get when you see a fresh baked bread come out of the oven and that fresh bake aroma is like manna from heaven. Baking a bread in a home kitchen is not a rocket science, we all can do it. My book would be – My Bread Story.
Vinita Kinra: You share “figure friendly recipes” on your blog. Do you think desserts can be prepared in a diet-friendly way?
Pooja Khanna: Ha ha! I love that question. Actually, I like the word “figure friendly”. But they say, Fat is the flavor, and I believe in that. Good food always has good ingredients. Can’t skip butter and sugar in the making of a cake! Moderation is the best way to maintain that arrow of weighing scale on a low number. But I do agree that the desserts can be made in a diet-friendly way; incorporating fresh fruits, dry fruits, and healthy flours can make good desserts; provided you use them the right way. It is very important to understand your ingredients: How they behave alone and how they behave with other ingredients.
Vinita Kinra: Are Indian desserts more difficult to make when compared with Western ones?
Pooja Khanna: No, I don’t think they are difficult, but there is such a huge and rich variety of sweet treats in India. I mean every state and every city has its specialties. All the desserts are delicious and are prepared in different ways. There is a lot of interesting learning when we talk about Indian desserts. Once you know something, it does not remain difficult. When we talk about western desserts, they are equally amazing in their own space.
Vinita Kinra: What, in your opinion, are the “must have” ingredients in the pantry of a baking enthusiast?
Pooja Khanna: If you are a baking enthusiast and you bake on a regular basis, your pantry must have: sugar (icing sugar, fine granulated white sugar and brown sugar), flour, butter (I prefer unsalted butter), good quality chocolate, eggs, baking powder, baking soda etc. These pantry essentials are worth having in hand so you can rustle up a good bake whenever in mood. Most of these have a lengthy shelf-life so that even if you are an infrequent baker, you can still afford to store them.
Vinita Kinra: You call yourself a “Bake-a-holic.” Is baking a healthier alternative to traditional meals that require a lot of cooking time?
Pooja Khanna: I am a bake-a-holic and there is no doubt about that. Baking is therapeutic for me, I am at peace when in my kitchen. It teaches me to be patient, to be organized, to be precise and to be happy. I can’t call baking a healthier alternative to our traditional meals. But definitely a happier alternative. A healthy meal is essential but at the end, a sweet treat won’t hurt!
Bake a fresh batch of cookies for kids when they come back from school. You will know what I am trying to say. As long as you know how to bake, life is sure to be sweet. Don’t forget to exercise every morning; so you can enjoy another treat the next day.
Vinita Kinra: You use a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in your recipes. Do you think preferences are inching more towards fresh vegetarian or vegan meals as opposed to non-vegetarian?
Pooja Khanna: When you practice Veganism – it means no meat, no cheese, no milk, no yoghurt, no eggs, and no honey. It is all plant-based eating, and I think it’s a big food movement which has been growing in society. I am a vegetarian; fresh vegetables and fruits are a part of my life and the kitchen. I can make good Vegan dishes when cooking but with baking, it gets a bit difficult. Learning new ways to bake is always an interest area for me. So I plan to do more experiments in the kitchen.
Vinita Kinra: What lends an appeal to fusion food as opposed to age-old authentic recipes?
Pooja Khanna: Authentic or fusion – I rate a dish on the basis of deliciousness. Authentic food helps; makes our basics strong and when there is some innovation involved it leads to the fusion. We want to experiment with our palate and try new flavors and tastes. Fusion food allows us to discover new flavors and makes food experiential.
Vinita Kinra: Is baking at home more cost-effective than buying baked goods from a supermarket?
Pooja Khanna: Baking at home is not only cost effective but also results in quality dishes. You can not only make great food at home, but can also customize accordingly. And then there is always so much love involved in the making that the dishes are liked not only by the palate but also by hearts.
Vinita Kinra: Please share with our readers a recipe they can try easily at home with minimal preparation.
Appetizer — Pizza Muffins
Appetizer – Pizza Muffins are a mingle of pizza and muffins. Looks of a muffin with cheesy deliciousness of a pizza. The best part is you can get creative with these Pizza Muffins, play around with the toppings and sauce, even the cheese. Choose the flavors you like; one tray bake can have the option of customizing each one. That’s WOW!
1. 2 Cups of all-purpose flour
2. 2 tablespoons of olive oil
3. 1/3rd cup of milk
4. 1 large egg or 1/4th cup sour cream
5. 2 tablespoons of sugar
4. 1 tablespoon of baking powder
5. 1 teaspoon of salt
6. 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
7. 1 teaspoon of chili flakes
8. 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese cut into small pieces
9. 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella
10. 1/2 cup of finely chopped pizza vegetables (corn, bell peppers, olives, scallions etc.)
11. 1/2 cup of pizza sauce
Preheat the oven at 200* C and line a muffin tray with the paper cups and set aside.
In a bowl mix together all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, oregano, chilly flakes. Stir in the cut pieces of cheddar cheese and chopped vegetables.
In another bowl whisk together the egg, milk, olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of pizza sauce. Using a rubber spatula stir the egg mix into the flour mixture and mix until combined. Don’t over mix the batter – just make sure there are no dry spots of flour visible.
The batter will be thick and lumpy. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tray, dividing evenly. Spoon 1 teaspoon of pizza sauce on top of each muffin and then sprinkle some shredded mozzarella.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let them cool for a few minutes before you serve your own yummlicious Pizza Muffins. Enjoy!
Vinita Kinra, featured among 150 most remarkable Canadians, is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.