By Surbhi Gogia
Canadians are no stranger to fusion food. The food here is infused with various flavours from the origin countries of immigrants. There is also no dearth of speciality restaurants where chefs go beyond tradition and introduce flavours from around the globe to create unique and enticing menus. Be it comfort food, or traditional meals, Indian flavours too have carved out their unique space. Baking was perhaps one untapped territory where not many dared to experiment. But not anymore! Vandana Jain, a resident of Regina, Saskatchewan is taking a lead.
Vandana, is the only South Asian contestant to be selected on CBC’s The Great Canadian Baking show. The show based on the popular reality show The Great British Bake Off, brings together 10 amateur bakers from across Canada to compete in a series of themed culinary challenges. Sharing her experience during the audition, Vandana says, “There were thousands of applicants for the show from all across Canada, so I was very surprised and excited when they called me to be on the 1st season. The audition process was a series of questions, phone calls, video interviews and of course lots of baking!”
Her niche lies in combining Canadian prairie ingredients with that of Indian flavours. In fact she made chai banana fritters, infused with green cardamom, when she appeared for the auditions.
Daughter of immigrants from India, Vandana tracks her passion for baking and fusion back to her family, especially her mother. ” Even though I grew up in Canada, I had a great deal of East Indian influence from my family in my childhood. My mom took an interest in baking when she came to Canada, so growing up I was always exposed to more traditional baking. I have always enjoyed experimenting with my baking in the kitchen, combining East Indian cooking and traditional baking techniques.”
Baking for Vandana, is not just a passion, but also a way of expressing creativity too. A business and MBA student, Vandana is currently posted as CFO of Regina Science Centre. So how come a person with brains mathematics and science ended up in one of the most delicate and creative field. “I love using both sides of my brain! Baking uses a lot of precision and science, but also lets me tap into my creative and artistic side. In today’s fast pace society, I find baking just allows me to wind down and get back to basics. Also, nothing tastes better than homemade baking,” she says.
She is a huge fan of the Great British Bake off. “I’ve watched every season!, so when I heard they were doing a Canadian version, it seemed like a great opportunity. I was hesitant to apply at first, but my husband convinced me to give it a try (I’m sure glad he did),” she adds.
The Great Canadian Baking Show was filmed in Toronto, Ontario over the summer. “It was such an amazing experience, kind of like a summer baking camp! One of my favourite things was meeting the bakers, who all had a love of baking. We all became very good friends over the course of the filming. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience and being able to bake in the iconic baking tent was such a treat!”
While sharing her experience during the filming, she says, “The other contestants came from all across Canada with diverse backgrounds. They all brought their own individual strengths to the competition. You were really able to see the diversity of Canada through this show and all the bakers. ” The hosts are actors Dan Levy and Julia Chan. “They have such amazing chemistry together and so funny and sweet to work with. They would often come around while we were baking and see how we were doing and provide encouragement. They sure kept us bakers calm and entertained with their great sense of humor!
The judges are world renowned pastry chefs, Rochelle Adonis and Bruno Feldeisen. “Their expertise really showed when tasting and critiquing the bakes and it was such an honour to be able to bake for them on the show. Even though it was quite intimidating at first, I learned so much,” she adds.
The Great Canadian Baking Show airs Wednesdays on CBC (8pm)
You can follow Vandana on social media platforms (twitter, facebook, and Instagram) @vandanabakes
Vandana sends her special recipe for Christmas for Desi Today redears:
Pistachio Rose Chocolate Cake
Ingredients for the Cake:
1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
½ cup milk chocolate
1 ½ cup sugar
4 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream (room temperature)
1 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup chopped pistachios
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and line a baking pan (Approximately 8 inch round).
- Melt butter and chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until melted. Keep aside.
- In an electric mixer (whisk attachment), add the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and sour cream.
- Whisk on medium speed until smooth (about 1 minute).
- In another bowl, sift the cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and combine well.
- Add the cooled butter/chocolate mixture to the mixer and whisk 30 seconds until smooth.
- Slowly add the dry flour mix about ¼ cup at a time with a mixer on low speed.
- Add the pistachios and then turn the mixer off (don’t over mix the batter).
- Fill pans and bake for 30-40 minutes. The centre of the cake should come back up if gently pressed.
- Cool on wire rack before adding whipped topping.
For the Topping:
1 ½ cup whipping cream
1 tsp rose water/extract
2 drops red food colour
Silver paper (vark) and candy pearls
Use a whisk attachment in an electric mixer and whip the cream until soft peaks. Add rose extract to taste and the food colour. Spread the cream on top of cooled cake and top with crushed pistachios and silver paper/pearls for decoration.