Pooja Dhingra’s third cookbook turns dietary restrictions into recipes for joy
You won't believe they're eggless!
Founder and head chef at Le15 patisserie, Pooja Dhingra is the first Indian food influencer to rack up more than one million followers on Instagram. One possible reason for her immense popularity (in addition to Le15’s divine, signature macarons) is that Pooja creates with joy, and this joy is palpable. Le15’s kitchens—the 5,000 sq.ft. facility accommodates a macaron room, a savoury room and a mixing room—are buzzing with happiness, even on holidays. Another reason is that Pooja is always mindful that she will forever be a part of important memories. Le15’s Parisian desserts are now a big part of celebrations—birthdays, anniversaries, even date nights—so she ensures everything is consistently good. The most important reason, however, is that Pooja continues to inspire a love for baking, first with her blog, then her podcast NoSugarCoat and now with cookbooks.
After The Big Book of Treats and The Wholesome Kitchen: Nourish. Energize. Indulge, Pooja has authored and self-published Can’t Believe It’s Eggless. Dedicated to Oprah Winfrey and full of simple, eggless and absolutely delicious recipes, the book is now available for pre-order here. Ahead of its release, we caught up with Pooja and discussed baking with dietary restrictions, a cake that fills her with nostalgia, the initial years of Le15 and a book she’d really like to write.
Excerpts from the interview below:
ELLE: Why did you decide to do a full book of eggless recipes?
Pooja Dhingra: Ever since I came back from France, about 9 years ago, everyone I’ve met has said ‘Yeah this is great, but can we have it without eggs?’. As a trained pastry chef, this really frustrated me, coming back with all this knowledge but it being so inaccessible in India. To be fair, one has to work with so many restrictions in Indian kitchens that you don’t think of until you are here. When I realized that there are so many people who like to bake but can’t because of eggs, I saw a need for this book. However, it took me a long time to write it because I’ve created recipes that are not substitutes—none of these are sad replacements for desserts with eggs.
ELLE: How did you decide which recipes would make it to the book?
PD: Some of them are things that I grew up eating, like a cookie recipe from when I was thirteen. The recipe for my mom’s famous Thumbs-up cake is also in this book. It’s a mix of family recipes and ones that I have developed and worked on.
ELLE: Which is your favourite recipe from the book?
PD: There is a recipe that is inspired by the donut guy who used to be stationed outside Snowmans in Breach Candy. It was just a small little cart that was always there and whenever my mom went to Breach Candy to shop, she would always bring this brown box of two donuts with hot fudge sauce back for us.I’ve kind of recreated that recipe in Can’t Believe It’s Eggless. I’ve also included the recipe for a banana cream pie that I tried when I was in New York and that the team couldn’t stop eating when we made it.
ELLE: Why did you dedicate this book to Oprah?
PD: Oprah talks about her legacy not being her own children, but everyone whose life she’s influenced. By that argument, I am a part of her legacy; I’ve grown up watching her show. In many ways, actually, her show helped me decide that this is the thing that I am going to do with my life.
ELLE: Who is this book for?
PD: It’s for anyone who is passionate about baking, from a 5-year-old to a 94-year-old. The idea was to keep the recipes super simple, so that anyone can try their hand at them. I’ve also broken down the ingredients very carefully—these are all tried and tested to work in Indian homes.
ELLE: You’ve been a part of many people’s special memories, via your desserts. Is there one that stands out to you?
PD: Eight years ago, I met a French couple—this was when I had just opened Le 15. On my birthday that year, I got an e-mail from them (they had discovered my blog) telling me that they had just moved to Bombay and every time they passed by the shop, they would get a lemon tart. In that moment, they continued, it felt like they were back home. The email ended with an invite for drinks so I met them and we all got along really well. We became really good friends and then they moved back to Paris but we kept in touch. I was in Paris in September so I met them and I was talking about the business and told him that I am raising some money and they decided they want in! Today, they are a part of Le 15, as investors, and they even visited the café in Colaba this year.
ELLE: Which is your favourite cookbook?
PD: I have so many but my favourite is BakeWise. It deconstructs the science behind baking and I totally geek out when I learn why a cake rises when it does, how sugar dissolves, and so on.
ELLE: Are there more books in the pipeline?
PD: I really want to document this crazy journey that I’ve been on. I would also love to write a book for kids, baking for children.