Last Updated – March 2017
This post was originally published on Dec 1st 2012, and I moved to the United States in 2014. It is regularly edited with updates from family, friends and readers who comment on this post, keeping the information here relevant and recent.
I love to bake, and I’d say that it is my passionate obsession. It was through baking that I fell in love with food.
But like most coveted things, it is a difficult passion, considering that I live in Chennai, India. When I tell people that I bake, I am often met with excessive questioning: How do you bake? Where did you learn? What flour is all-purpose flour? Where did you buy that? How much did that cost?
Even if you figure out all those things, the scorching heat and humidity makes it a bit more difficult to work with temperature sensitive things like butter, yeast and chocolate.
What I know is what I’ve learned through excessive research, both online and in-stores around here. I believe that if you truly love something, the means to the end seem easier. So I am going to share with you, all that I’ve learnt these past few years, so that you may find it easier to bake in Chennai.
In this post, I will try to explain ingredients, list baking implements, their uses and other vital information that might be of use to the average baker in town!
Since I don’t live in Chennai anymore, I am dependent on information from friends, family and you, my readers. This post is widely read by all those who live in Chennai and wish to learn to bake. If you have any information that could help them, leave a note in the comments below and I will update the post with it.
Absolute Essentials for Baking
The convection mode does not use microwaves; instead it uses a traditional electric coil to heat, much like a regular oven. I prefer baking under an electric heat rather than the microwave radiation, because I feel that the cakes turn out drier under a microwave, while the electric heating keeps the cakes moist. Also, make sure that you use an oven where there is at least 2-4 inches of distance between the baking pan and the coil to avoid burning.
The convection mode in a microwave offers the best of both: the turn table feature in the microwave makes sure that your food is cooked evenly, and the electric coil that cooks, ensures that your food isn’t dried out by the time it leaves the oven.
Fan setting – If the oven you plan to buy has an internal fan for better heat distribution, it’s so much better for a more even bake. And with the fan, you don’t have to rotate the pans midway during baking.
Each oven is slightly different from one another, so although the recipe calls for 30 minutes, I’d say you start checking at 25 until you learn the rhyme and rhythm of your oven.
Almost all new ovens come with their own wire rack and skewers, so that should not be a problem. The skewers can be easily replaced with clean knives or toothpicks. If you do not have a wire rack for cooling, simple place them on
The bakers of days gone by had time and stamina to use a hand whisk. Today, we have neither of those. So I suggest you exploit technology and make use of an electric mixer. There are two kinds: The hand-held model and a stand-mixer. The stand mixer is more expensive than the hand held one. I use a Phillips hand-held mixer and it has served me well for over 6 years. You can find these at any large electronic stores like Vivek’s or Shah Electronics. But if you are serious about baking and do not mind the extra bucks, invest in a good stand-mixer. It will save you precious minutes spent holding the mixer in the bowl.
Here are some essentials:
8 or 9 inch round/square baking pan + baking paper
1 loaf tin (for baking breads)
1 set of muffin tray (12 cup) + cupcake liners (paper)
1 set of ceramic ramekins (set of 6) – for Molten Lava Cakes
1 digital/analog food scale (to weigh in grams/ml)
Measuring cups + spoons
A good rubber/silicone spatula
Now let’s talk materials.
The most common ones you’ll find are aluminium cake/loaf/muffin tins. These were what I used when I was first learning to bake and had no issues, but make sure you always line all sides with baking paper. Or at least grease the tin with butter+flour. Otherwise you’ll have trouble getting the cake out of the tin after it’s baked.
I’ve now upgraded my bakeware to non-stick. I still line my pans with baking paper (mostly out of habit though). These are super easy to clean and maintain.
Silicone bakeware is also gaining popularity, although I personally do not prefer it. Silicone molds on the other hand are extremely useful. Here’s an example.
Glass and ceramic bakeware are also common, but I would recommend you restrict use of these to pies and molten lava cakes where you want a bit of slow cooking to prevent burning.
Places to Shop in
Here are some places where you can find most of your baking supplies:
1. Waltax Road, Chennai
There are several stores on this street that supply baking goods. From baking tins, to piping bags, piping nozzles, muffin cups, baking paper, cake stands, cake boxes (these I find very useful during Christmas to pack sweets to friends and family), etc. They also stock a variety of sauces, flavours, margarine, icing sugar, etc. Go down there and see for yourself! Most of your baking needs must be satisfied here. And the items are usually easy on the pocket, hence perfect for experimentation. Viveka Traders had upgraded their inventory to stock a host of silicone items. This year, among other things, I added an icing turn table and a french icing tip set to my collection.
2. Poppat Jamal & Sons, Chennai – Website
This is a premier store in Chennai and remains so to this day. Here you’ll find several baking tins and pans but slightly more expensive (and better quality) than Waltax Road and in a variety of materials: more expensive, but beautiful. It is one of my favorite stores in the city. From baking brushes to ramekins, Bundt pans, ovens, crockery, barbecue grills, the works! Truly a baker’s delight!
3.Currimbhoys – Website
This is another premier store in Chennai that feeds passionate bakers and home makers with magical resources. From baking implements, crockery to electrical goods, this place has all you need.
4. Rathna Stores/Saravana Stores
These stores have a very limited variety of baking tins or pans here, considering that the clientèle are more inclined towards traditional Indian cooking. But it is still an option to pursue.
5. Landmark (City Center and Spencer Plaza)
Cake stands, ramekins, muffin molds and cake tins can be found here. But they are all not always in stock, so be warned. And like Poppat Jamals, their products are pricier than the kinds you’d find on Waltax road.
6. Wait Rose (103/105, R. K. Salai, Mylapore)
The newest kid on the block (figuratively speaking!), this century-old British Supermarket finds it’s way to Chennai with an impressive stock of imported items, baking essentials and more. I personally haven’t yet been to the store since it opened its doors in 2014, but I’ve heard nothing but good things from those who’ve been there!
Places to buy Ingredients
Flour and butter are easy to find. There are some that aren’t. At this point we turn to the gourmet stores in the city to find those ingredients that our grandmothers can’t find for us.
Amma Nanna – Website
This is a haven not just for bakers, but for exotic chefs as well. With products imported from around the world, here you will find a host of gourmet cheeses, salmon and other exotic fish(frozen and fresh), a variety of pasta, extracts, amazing selection of wine, chocolates, rice paper, shrimps, rice noodles, salami and other cured meats, etc. Words cannot describe this store, so go see for yourself!
Nuts and Spices – Website
Unlike Amma Nanna which has only one store in the city, the Nuts and Spices franchisee has several branches, so better accessibility. I go here particularly for Vanilla pods, nuts, whole and powdered spices, Demerara/brown sugars, good quality chocolate, cheese, wine and exotic coffee, among others.
Very similar to Nuts and Spices, has many branches, better accessibility. I usually get my cream cheese from here, and if it’s not in stock, they order it for you.
These guys have really impressed me with their stocks. I found whole china grass (Agar-Agar) here, which is quite a good deal, because we usually get china grass in flavoured packs only. I found the actual dried strands, and that alone has impressed me. The Nilgiris franchise has so many convenient branches spread across the city, and along with day-to-day provisions, they also stock a host of imported baking ingredient supply, like cream of tartar and cream cheese. Very impressive.
Find out more about Agar Agar and the amazing things you can make with them.
More on Ingredients
I have seen Whipping cream only in Amma Naana till date. A reader (THANKS Mayuri!) has just informed me that Wait Rose has Whipping Cream for Rs.200 for a litre. That’s impressive!!!
If any of you know other places in the city that sell Whipping/Heavy cream, please let me know.
In the meantime, I’ve found an alternative option here: www.passionateaboutbaking.com
You can find these in Brown Tree, Amma Naana. Even if you don’t see them in the refrigerator, please ask the cashier and he should be able to procure it for you. I’ve done it.
Philadelphia Cream Cheese (the most coveted brand) now costs Rs.675 for 226gms.
La Cremella Cream Cheese is available for Rs.195 for 200gms.
Spring Roll Pastry Sheets/Samosa sheet
Interested in making these spring rolls at home with minimal effort? You can find spring rolls pastry sheets at Brown Tree, Amma Naana. 20 sheets should cost Rs.60.
Samosa pastry sheet costs Rs.70 for one rectangular slab of pastry.
I’ve heard that Brown Tree now stocks frozen berries – Blueberry, Blackberry and Cranberries. Perfect for baking that pie or cheesecake that uses these hard-to-find ingredients in our tropical city.
Active dry yeast can be found in almost all supermarkets these days. I know Spencer’s Dailyand Reliance Fresh stock them and they have branches all over the city. Just check your regular supermarket. Otherwise head to Nilgiris.
Fresh yeast is a real challenge, and I’ve heard that if you butter up your local baker, you may procure them. I haven’t tried that yet. The guy who runs a bakery on my street glared at me and responded with a curt “No!” when I asked him how their breads come out so soft. So….
Fresh yeast can be bought from Waltax Road. But beware, they only sell large quantities, and unlike active dry yeast, fresh needs to be stored very carefully. So, I suggest you buy a pack and share it immediately with fellow bakers to get the best use out of them.
As absurd as it sounds, I recently learnt from my baking instructor that industrial production of butter biscuits contain margarine, flavoured with a butter essence. The news literally shattered my little butter-loving heart, but then, truth is always bitter. So for those of you who are looking to cut some baking budget, you can use butter essence to make your food taste all buttery while you sneakily use lard or margerine while baking. But we can no longer be friends anymore! *sniff!*
The only place I condone using butter extract is in this 5 ingredient non-alcoholic Butterbeer.
You can find these, along with a variety of essences at Waltax Road.
Thanks to my friend and fellow baker, Leah, I was introduced to a host of online sites that help bakers in India. These contain a wide array of baking utensils and ingredients. Plus, I get to shop from the comfort of my home, and get them delivered to my doorstep.
Baker’s Mart – Website
Check their website for Baking Ingredients. These guys have almost everything!!! Even Fresh yeast!!! Don’t forget to check out their Whipping cream powder. It may not be dairy, but its a cheaper alternative.
Urban Dazzle – Website
They have beautiful crockery, cookware and bakeware. I’ve shopped with them and the items arrived perfectly packed and in-time. New subscribers get a 10% discount.
That’s all I can think of now. I hope you found this Chennai Baker’s Guide useful. If you know of any places that fellow bakers might find handy, please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll update the post for the benefit of all!
Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to subscribe for more updates!! Happy Baking!