HYDERABAD: The twin city bakers haven’t disappointed in satiating our sweet tooth during the intense and stressful past few months. With bakeries and restaurants closed, many of us bored of the daily home cooking, find solace in goodies from home bakers' kitchens.
Despite logistical challenges and scarcity of material, the city’s home bakers continue to do what they do the best – whip up delightful desserts, and bake sinful-creative cakes and flavourful loaves of bread to give us our daily sugar and carb fixes. While some of these home bakers delivered items in non-curfew times, most preferred if the food was picked up from their homes and favoured online payments.
So, what have the Hyderabadis been ordering? 41-year-old Monya Dhingra from SweetBuds Hyderabad says she noticed a paradigm shift in business during the lockdown. "In the early stages of lockdown, new clients were added to our list and a surprise spurt in demand was seen. These new customers demanded smaller cakes, rather than the usual big cake orders."
Riddhi Bulchand, who specialises in bakes and savouries, says she added at least 40 per cent newer clients through word-of-mouth during these past months. "I had a huge demand for salty guilt-free delicacies. I had to research on maintaining quality while taking care of guilt-free indulgence. Gluten-free, lactose-free, sugar-free, and baked snacks topped the charts," she says.
Danishi Bhagat, 23, who runs The Cupcake Makeover with her sister Farah, says, "During the lockdown months, there were definitely more inquiries than normally. I received a call almost every second day for a birthday cake."
Even part-time bakers saw an increase by 30 per cent in their orders. "I typically take orders during weekends, as I also have a regular job. However, since I have been WFH, I was able to execute more orders," says Priya Natarajan, 42 from Priyumms.
She adds, "A lot of them tilted towards healthy bakes – the requirement was bite-size bakes, and health bakes such as banana walnut cake, sugar-free bakes, oats cookies, chocolate brownies, cinnamon rolls, pies and, birthday cakes."
Innovation is the key
As everyone has turned into a chef during this time and baking ingredients flew off the shelves of supermarkets, how did these bakers manage their inventories? Shares Monya, "Anticipating the lockdown and its likely extension, we stocked up our inventory and ensured self-reliance for sustainability, thereby we never felt the scarcity of ingredients."
Riddhi added, "I always ensure the ingredients I use are top-of-the-line, and I prefer stocking up for a month at any given time." Some others used this time to innovate and find substitutes for ingredients they could not get their hands on.
Danishi says, "Until mid-April, I had my baking goods stocked. However, once the stock was getting over, it became difficult. At this time, I started innovating with whatever materials were available. Maintaining the quality of ingredients and taste is important in a business like this. You can’t risk the taste and quality of products." The same was the case with Priya, who "replaced and innovated with ingredients".
She explains, "If icing sugar was not available, I made it with powdered sugar and cornflour, if the chocolate slab was out of stock, I made the icing with cocoa powder, and substituted eggs with flax seeds, vinegar or curd." They all say that there was never any compromise in hygiene. Monya says,
"We work with masks and gloves. The storage of ingredients was done on sanitised shelves. Gadgets and equipment were thoroughly sanitised before use." Danishi added that she washed the utensils herself and sanitised her hands before baking. "I am very particular about wearing gloves while preparing a cake," she emphasises.
Not all home bakers though sold items during this period but rather took the opportunity to share their recipes with their clients, so they could home bake too. Smrithy Rajesh from Smrithy’s Home Bakes is a corporate professional turned home baker.
A mother of two children, she says, "During the entire lockdown period, I did not feel it right to take orders and delivering cakes or any baked goods." She shares, though "inquiries increased for simple cakes and bread", she devised another strategy to help folks who called her with "bake at home".
She adds, "For those who had an oven, I encouraged them to bake the cake themselves. I sent them simple fool-proof recipes with tips. For those without an oven, I encouraged them to try their hand at baking cakes in a microwave or a pressure cooker. I also guided them in making frosting/icing with ingredients available at home if they wanted to make their cakes a little fancy.”"
She continues, "For those who were unwilling to bake either due to paucity of time or fear of failure, I helped them by sending no-bake cake recipes."
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