Think of macarons in India, and the first name that comes to mind is Pooja Dhingra. Known as the macaron queen, the pastry chef and businesswoman opened India’s first macaron store back in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since. While the pandemic affected her business negatively, Pooja is ready to bounce back and re-explore her love for baking with her newest book, Coming Home.
We caught up with Pooja to know what makes this book different from her first two books and a lot more. Excerpts.
ELLE: Your new book offers a window into what baking means to you. Was this a conscious choice—to keep the cookbook more real and honest?
Pooja Dhingra (PD):I think it all just boils down to what I was going through during the pandemic and all those real moments that we all experienced. We all questioned who we are, what we believe in, what we want and what kind of purpose we are living with! When I decided to write this book, I wanted to document that very journey. I wanted to tell people my story in my way, through my recipes.
ELLE: This is your third cookbook. How is this one different?
PD:This book is more of a journey. It’s about putting myself out there rather than just picking up a topic and breaking it down (which I did in the first two books). These are the desserts that have impacted my life.
ELLE: You talk a lot about baking being your first love. What is your earliest baking memory?
PD:My mom ran a small baking business from home, and my aunt baked a lot. So even though baking, back then, wasn’t a very Indian thing, I had a lot of it in my life.
ELLE: If we had to ask you what defines baking for you, what would you say?
PD: It’s just comfort and magic. Everyone started baking during the pandemic because it gave them a sense of control in a world where nothing else could be controlled.
ELLE: As you said, baking was not really an Indian thing, but you’ve made the process very local. Is that something that you consciously work towards?
PD:Even when I was baking as a young teenager in India, the challenge that I faced was that I couldn’t find the ingredients. I couldn’t find anything, plus I didn’t even understand most of the ingredients. So very early on, I decided that whenever I do write books, it will be for the Indian baker.
ELLE: This book marks a lot of personal milestones for you. For one, the foreword is by your personal hero, Pierre Hermé. How does it feel?
PD:Honestly, there were times when I felt like I would never complete the book. I remember telling my team that no matter what happens to me, publish the book (laughs). But, yes, it did come together eventually, and I absolutely love it.
ELLE: How has the pandemic changed you as a business owner?
PD:The pandemic made me ask questions. I asked myself why I was doing what I was doing when my whole world had turned upside down. The last year for us was more profitable for us as a business than we have ever been, and I feel that I have become not only a better and more compassionate person but also someone who has more confidence in herself.
ELLE: What are your plans for 2022?
PD:That plan of world domination hasn’t changed (laughs). My next step would be to pause a little bit and take a break. Other than that, we are in the middle of a lot of new collaborations.
ELLE: What are the new baking trends that you love?
PD:I love the fact that tiny desserts are now a thing. I hate over-the-top processes; for me, simplicity is extremely important.