For chef Sanjana Patel, it was her childhood experience of being denied chocolates that got her curious about the world of sugar, spice and everything nice. “I had thyroid issues and my overall health was not that great so my parents always said no to giving me chocolates or sweets. The best part is that my parents, especially my father, enjoyed eating chocolates. He used to go abroad and get these big bars of flavoured chocolates,” Sanjana says. She also gives credit to her grandmother who taught her how to bake. “I used to spend my holidays with her. I would not call her an avid baker but she taught me a couple of hacks related to it,” she says. Although Sanjana was not allowed to consume a lot of desserts, the whole concept of these sugary packets of joy caught her attention. Her curiosity in the subject grew with time and after she finished her Class X, she requested her parents to let her go for a short course at Le Cordon Blu in London. “By this time my parents had identified my interest in confectionary and allowed me to go for the pastry course in London. I could say that I formally got into confectionary in 2002. But then I had to come back and take a break from it to pursue my higher secondary education,” she says.
Sanjana got her degree in food science with a specialisation in confectionary. She also did a course in chocolate technology in Germany before she moved to France to explore her creative side and passion. “I knew the art, the science and the ingredients and I thought why not incorporate it together? I wanted to delve deeper in this field and this took me to Ecole Grégoire Ferrandi –Paris, one of the most respected pastry and chocolate art schools in the world,” she says.
Sanjana started her career as an apprentice under Pierre Hermé who is often referred to as the ‘Picasso of Pastry’. Over the years she worked with chocolateries and patisseries such as Jean-Charles Rochoux, Patrick Roger and Olivier Bajard. She also had the privilege of working at Le Meurice Hotel under chef Camile Lesecq and then at Plaza Athénée of the The Dorchester Group Collection, under chef Christophe Michalak.
“In 2012, my husband and I moved to India and we wanted to explore opportunities in our home country. We had nothing major in mind; our goal was to open a small boutique just to know if people would like to try French desserts, new concoctions, infusion of herbs in desserts and other interesting delicacies,” the 34-year-old chef says.
The husband-wife duo set up a patisserie called La Folie in one of the alleys of Kala Ghoda—a crescent-shaped art district in Downtown Mumbai. “La Folie is a phrase that stuck with me. When I was in France, whenever the chefs see something beautiful or tastes something good, they say ‘se la folie’ which mean ‘oh wow, this is beautiful’ or ‘out of this world’,” she says. True to the name, the patisserie became popular for its radically distinctive French delicacies. “We got great reviews but we sure did have our ups and downs. Over the years we understood our customers better and started designing unique recipes and menus for them. We focused on fresh produce and preparing fresh desserts. Something like make a fresh lemon tart or mousse in front of customer and serve it to them. What we started out small soon became a larger concept,” she says. “We also have a chocolate factory café at Mahalakshmi, which is like a studio where people can come and see us make chocolate through the glass window. They can also do a short course with us as well.”
In 2015, Sanjana was crowned ‘The Pastry Queen of India’ at the national championship held in Gurugram. For the theme, Art of Dance, she created an artistic guitar showpiece made out of glistening blown sugar which is one of the most difficult techniques used in sculpting.
In 2016, she represented India at the World Lady Pastry Championship in Italy for the title of The Pastry Queen. That was the first time India was invited to participate in the world championship. And she made her country proud by bagging the fourth place in the competition. Her unique avant–garde destructive yet couture style in creating French delicacies has also fetched her titles like ‘The Scientist’, ‘Game Changer’ and ‘The Original’.
“Three years back, I had a fall. I had several ligament tears and had dislocated my knee; it got me on a wheel-chair. It gave me time to think about my long-term vision. It was chocolate—the whole concept of bean to bar. I was surprised how transparent the trade cacao had become. I started looking into ethical trading and different practices of fermentation of beans,” she says. This vision of making her own chocolate got the her on a journey with her husband to different parts of the world. From Peru to Ecuador, Tanzania and Guatemala, the couple travelled seeking answers for their cacao-related questions. “We approached a couple of NGOs and other cooperatives that are linked to farmers. The whole journey was interesting. We also explored the south of India—Pollachi in Tamil Nadu and Idukki in Kerala. There is an Italian family in Idukki who works with the farmers there. They started a central trading platform which ensures that the farmers get a fair price for the beans. Interesting, Indian cacao is quite popular in the world; it is even winning awards,” Sanjana says.
When the duo got back from their tour, they decided to start the set up for chocolate making right away. Sanjana’s husband, who is a mechanical engineer by profession, started to fabricate machines for the setup. “We tweaked the settings of our coffee roaster to roast cacao beans. We used the dosa grinder for grinding the beans and we got food grade rollers for the refining machine usually used in paint industries to make the chocolate less gritty. We use unrefined sugar or black jaggery in our chocolate and hence it is important to get it real smooth,” she says. “We are proud of what we have achieved and I can boldly call us real chocolate makers.”
Apart from gathering titles and creating new flavours, the passionate chef is all about responsible indulgence. “We have had a change of vision in the past couple of years. I focus a lot on sustainability. We try to minimise wastage and use everything that we can. The coco husks are sent to places where they make scrubs and soaps, we try to source local produce and we take part in ethical and fair trade when it comes to procuring the cacao beans. Also, we firmly believe in the idea of affordable luxury,” she says.
Although the craftswoman is careful about operations, mess-ups are an inevitable part of this business. “Recently, we had asked a person to clean the chocolate grinder with hot water. He put the water while the chocolate was being grinded in it. As soon as the water touched the chocolate, it hardened and restricted the movement of the blades; it also damaged the engine. Although it took us some time to figure things out, we got it fixed within a week. But we could not use the chocolate,” Sanjana says. “But we always try to turn things around. When our intern burnt coffee beans which was supposed to be used in a ganache, we got it transformed into coffee butter and used it in our croissants.”
The Punjabi tastemaker’s go-to dish is sourdough bread. “I just love to bake my own bread. Toast it, drizzle a little oil, get some cherry tomatoes and balsamic and relax,” she says.
Pistachio dried cherry cake base
● Almond flour-108g
● Pistachio nuts- 90g
● Icing sugar- 198g
● Potato starch- 24g
● Pistachio butter or almond butter- 54g
● Egg whites (1)- 144g (5 eggs)
● Egg yolks- 18g (Approx. 1-2 yolks)
● Unsalted, melted butter- 156g
● Egg whites (2)- 135g (4-5 eggs)
● Castor sugar- 81g
● Chopped dried cherries- 50g
● Chopped pistachios- 50g
● Line a 1/2 baking tray with a silicone mat or baking paper & keep aside.
● Sieve the dry ingredients and keep aside.
● In a grinder, take whole pistachios, almond flour and icing sugar and blend together. Add in the other dry ingredients and mix well.
● Start adding the egg white (1), egg yolk and pistachio butter and blend well. Simultaneously start making a meringue of the egg whites (2) and castor sugar to firm peaks.
● Avoid overmixing the batter or it will lose its volume completely.
● Meanwhile, warm the unsalted butter in a saucepan.
● Fold in the meringue into the base in three parts.
● Once the meringue is folded, take little batter and mix it in the butter to temper it and then fold all the cake batter in two parts properly, without overmixing it to lose volume of the cake batter.
● Add the chopped pistachios and chopped dried cherries. Avoid over mixing.
● Bake at 170°C for 13-15 minutes.
● Remove from the oven and let it cool down. Reserve until further use.
Ingredients for cherry compote:
● Cherries (without seeds)- 450g
● Light corn syrup- 65g
● Pectin- 6.5g
● Castor sugar- 65g
● Blend the cherries in a mixer grinder to make cherry puree/pulp.
● Take a saucepan and warm the cherry pulp with light corn syrup.
● Add the castor sugar with pectin when the puree is warm and give it a boil. Cook for 2 minutes while it is boiling.
● Stop cooking and let it set outside. Blend with a hand blender to smoothen the compote.
● Cool the pistachio tea cake. Slice the cake into two halves with a bread knife.
● Add the compote on the first layer and even it out with a palette knife. Add the second layer of tea cake. Cool it down and trim the edges for a clean, neat look.
● Decorate with half fresh cherries, chopped pistachios and fresh whipped cream along with dewdrops of cherry compote.
Chocolate cookie shortbread (Sablé)
● All-purpose flour- 105g
● Dark coco powder- 15g
● Baking soda- 3g
● Butter- 90g
● Brown sugar- 75g
● Castor sugar- 30g
● 70 per cent chocolate chips- 90g
● Sea salt- 1g
● Take room temperature butter that is slightly soft, not too soft.
● Cream butter with brown sugar and castor sugar, until mixed well and creamed well with not lumps.
● Add dry sifted ingredients—cocoa powder, flour and baking soda.
● Knead well to make a dough, add the chocolate chips and sea salt.
● Roll the dough into 15 gms round balls and press them in the centre (Cool the dough in the fridge for 10 minutes in case the dough is too soft).
● Bake them in silicone moulds or on a lined baking tray with foil or parchment baking paper.
● Bake at 150°C C for 12-13 minutes (They should develop cracks and be fudgy and moist in the centre).
Keto hot chocolate
● Elle & Vire whipping cream- 60g
● Water or brewed coffee- 60g
● Stevia- 1g
● Natural unsweetened cocoa powder- 15g
● 85 per cent dark chocolate- 20g
● Vanilla extract or cinnamon for spice- 2g
● Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Give it a gentle boil and whisk till it thickens.
● Pour in a mug. Relax.
● Optional: Dust with extra cocoa or shavings of chocolate
Oreo chocolate moelleux cake
● Butter- 155g
● Unrefined sugar- 140g
● 70 per cent dark chocolate-155g
● Eggs- 125g
● Flour- 45g
● Chopped oreo cookie- 40g
● All ingredients should be at room temperature. Teacake tin should be lined with butter paper and oil spray.
● Melt the chocolate and bring it to lukewarm temperature.
● Take a bowl and whisk eggs with sugar, vigorously to create thick ribbons. This will take a good 10-15 minutes.
● Melt the butter and mix it with chocolate.
● Add the melted chocolate-butter mixture to the beaten eggs and fold well, add in two parts.
● Add the sieved flour and fold well. Scrape the bottom of the bowl once again.
● Take a piping bag and pipe the cake batter into the cake tin.
● Add crushed Oreo cookies on the surface and pipe a line of semi-melted butter in the centre of the cake batter.
● Bake it at 170°C for 30 minutes, until the toothpick inserted comes out clean.
● Once slightly cold, de-mould the cake, remove the lined butter paper and serve warm.
Honey coffee almond cake
● Honey- 70g
● Salt- 1g
● Brown sugar- 70g
● Gluten-free flour- 70g
● Baking powder- 5g
● Coffee powder- 15g
● Ground almond powder- 70g
● Melted warm butter- 140g
● Honey drizzle- 15g
● Coffee Dust- 1g
● Icing Dust- 1g
● Sieve the gluten free flour, almond powder and baking powder and keep aside.
● Add the melted warm butter and the coffee granules to it.
● With the help of a whisk mix in the eggs, honey, sugar in the dry ingredients and whisk till incorporated.
● Add the butter/coffee mixture and whisk by hand till completely incorporated.
● Rest the batter in the fridge for 5-10 minutes.
● Pour the batter in cake molds or cake tin.
● Bake at 170°C for 25-30mins for a tea cake loaf or bake at 170°C for 12mins in a mini cupcake liner or madeleine cake mold.
● Once the cake is cool; garnish with a drizzle of honey on the surface of the cake to glaze the cake and dust coffee powder and icing sugar.
● Serve at room temperature.
Dark chocolate chip quinoa cookies
(vegan and gluten-free)
● Castor sugar- ½ cup (100g)
● Brown sugar- 3/4th cup (165g)
● Sea Salt- 1tsp (4g)
● Coconut oil- ½ cup (110g)
● Almond milk- 1/3rd cup (75ml)
● Vanilla extract- 1 tsp (4g)
● Quinoa flour- 3/4th cup (100g)
● Almond powder- ½ cup (65g)
● Organic cocoa powder- 2tbsp (20g)
● Baking soda- ½ tsp (2.5g)
● 70 per cent chocolate chips- 1 cup (115g)
● In a round bottom bowl mix the sugars with the almond milk, coconut oil, vanilla extract.
● Sift the dry ingredients i.e. quinoa flour, almond powder, cocoa powder and baking soda and add in small parts to the liquids.
● Mix with a spatula till it forms a dough.
● Add the chopped chocolate and fold in gently.
● Rest and cool the dough down in the fridge until nice and firm for 30-45minutes.