Simran Oberoi Multani is the founder of Ovenderful, which exists as a healthy baking blog and social enterprise. She is mother to two children ( 6 and 1 and a half) and an HR professional. Simran has delivered TeDX talks and is frequently interviewed about her business Ovenderful. She is also the founder of a 24,000+ large facebook group, where enthusiastic healthy and inclusive bakers share recipes and ideas. Simran strongly believes in giving back to the community and conducts baking fundraisers and donates baked goods to slum children who love these treats. Simran is an aware and busy parent, entrepreneur and citizen all of which make her a perfect candidate for Little Kulture to pick her brain.
Simran, thank you for chatting with Little Kulture via email.
Simran why are you so passionate about baking?
It started as a journey when I was asked if I wanted to volunteer and teach baking as a vocational skill to 12 girls from rural areas close to Haryana. This was at an NGO called Search Years. I became passionate about it during that time because I was keen on learning it well at my end before I taught it to those girls, for whom it could become a source of livelihood at a later date. In addition that I started baking to raise funds for NGOs like Indigree Angels Trust, Voice of Stray Dogs (VoSD) and that is how it slowly became a passion because I realized it had a lot of potential, to be used in many different ways.
Baking is often associated with refined flour, butter and sugar -the trinity of unhealthy eating- why do you advocate baking?
Yes usually traditional baking is associated with refined flour, butter, and white sugar. And yet, so many parents across the world consume baked goods or give it readily to their children as a snack such as store-bought, commercially made cookies, and cake slices. And that is the reason why it was important to advocate an alternative route which comprises of highly experimental and healthy forms of the same snacking options. I advocate that route - the route that makes sure that all items are free of maida/refined white flour and refined white sugar. My own personal experience of having baked with close to 25 types of alternative flours and a range of healthier, unrefined, natural sweeteners tells me that it is possible to bake healthy !
You are a champion of veganism. Why veganise baking?
Because it provides a way of giving those who follow veganism to enjoy baked goods too. I had tried to move ahead in terms of widening my scope by becoming more inclusive in my baking. As a result of that, I delved into gluten-free and vegan options that can be consumed by those who follow those dietary preferences or restrictions.
Could you share two or three instances of substitute ingredients that vegan bakers can use?
Yes sure. Applesauce is a great replacement for eggs/curd in bakes. Almond, peanut and cashew butter work beautifully instead of dairy butter. Liquid jaggery is a better option than honey.
Do you think baking is a good skill that children can pick up? Why?
Yes absolutely. It is a great skill for children to pick up. I believe it allows the line between learning and fun to dissolve. So when my son, who is six-years-old works with measuring out ingredients, I know he is figuring out how to use weights. When they use the mixer, cookie cutter or even the whisk, there is a degree of motor skills involved. More importantly, all of this is so much fun and usually very simple. It gives them exposure to no-fire cooking and the fact that in many cases baking is a healthier way to make food, as against frying.
You have now set up a business with baking. What advice would you give children who want to take up baking as a career?
To be persistent, to acquire knowledge from all sources and to focus on evolving. It is not a lot of fun or even viable to remain in the same place in terms of your learning as a baker, especially as a healthy baker. There are new trends coming up globally in the food space each day. Finding those and applying them in your own unique style is the way to go.
What are the career paths for a young baker?
Running their own venture, interning or becoming an apprentice at a larger pastry/confectionery enterprise/hotel, hold teaching workshops, delve in writing about the baking business and industry.
You bake cakes for lesser privileged children, what prompted you to do this the first time?
Actually it wasn’t really an earth-shattering moment of realization. From the way it started, I always knew that in different ways I wanted to keep Ovenderful linked to a larger community purpose. That purpose could come in many forms. One of the forms was to bake and share it with underprivileged children. The other reason was the fact that these children usually always receive meals when any contribution happens. So getting cakes or cookies is a rarity, and more so if it is healthy too. That is what made me focus on it even more.
How this initiative has grown? How can children or parents who are interested in helping chip in?
It has grown by leaps and bounds actually. If I speak about the OV Bakestreat Program only, 45 volunteer bakers carried it out the first distribution for the #OVBakeStreAT Program. Covering street children/children of migrant labour in 5 cities - Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Coimbatore and Delhi/NCR. The number of children expected to be covered on this first weekend of launch was 1000-1500. Finally we covered over 2000 children on the first weekend it was launched ( July 2016) and over 10,000 subsequently. Now over the last 2 years we have been doing it in various forms - many times in a monthly way or larger scale ones during Children’s Day. This has now become international with the first set of such distribution for kids happening in Dubai this year. Anyone who is interested can join Ovenderful Mom Bakers Community or even the Ovenderful Bakestreat Program communities on Facebook.
Could you share what do you have lined up for this coming year?
One of the biggest things lined up is the OMBC Discover 2019, which is India’s 1st Healthy Baking conference in 2019. It has an amazing lineup of speakers and panelists who are pioneers in the various areas of inclusive baking. Other things planned are Facebook Chats and discussions of use of alternative flours, OMBC Mentors who will respond to queries of new bakers making the transition to the healthier alternatives, social impact initiatives which we do annually - Bakestreat, Children’s Day, Bake a Sunshine Cake, growing our OMBC Kids subgroup to a bigger extent.
Please suggest some baking books or resources (website/apps) where budding bakers can use to learn new skills.
There are several blogs and books that budding bakers can refer to. However almost all of them focus only on traditional baking skills and ingredients. I will suggest joining OMBC because that is where we talk about more practical ways of transforming a regular and usually unhealthy bake into a healthy one, in a more scientific manner.
Finally, can you share recipes to two baking snacks that our readers can try making at home?
I have a huge range of them on my blog, but here are two that children will enjoy without compromising on their health. The first recipe is for Wholewheat Jeera-Kasoori Methi Crackers.
Wholewheat Jeera-Kasoori Methi Crackers
- 1 cup wholewheat flour
- 2 tbsp rice flour
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 tbsp ghee ( clarified butter, you can exclude this and add oil instead)
- Salt,red chilly powder, roasted jeera and kasoori methi – as per your taste preference
- Hot water as needed to bring the dough together.
Add the rice flour to the whole wheat flour and then add spices. Mix thoroughly. Add the oil and ghee. Then slowly add hot water to make a firm dough. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
Roll thin onto oil/dusted surface, cut into shapes. Bake in a preheated oven at 170 C, for 15 minutes or until firm. Allow it to cool off so that they remain crisp.
The next recipe is for Chocolate Strawberry Apricot Cake.
Chocolate Strawberry Apricot Cake
- 4 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
- 1 cup Boiling Water
- 2 cups Wholewheat Flour
- 100 gms butter or 1/2 cup of Oil
- 2 cups Cane Sugar
- 1/2 cup Buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Strawberries chopped as much as you want
- Dried apricots sliced into small pieces
Melt the butter in a pan and add cocoa. Then add the boiling water and mix well. Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar. Slowly add the butter-cocoa mix, and then fold in the extract.
Mix the eggs and buttermilk well. Add this to the above mix and fold in well. Do not over-beat. Add the chopped strawberries and apricots to the mix, pour into the greased baking tins and bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees Celsius for 30-35 minutes until its baked through.
Thank you for chatting with us.
Little Kulture hopes this interview inspires parents to see baking in a new light - healthy, a way of sharing and caring, picking up new skills and looking at the world in a more inclusive manner - and to try baking with their kids.
You can learn more at: Ovenderful Website
If you would like to be part of the Ovenderful baking community on Facebook.