Prateek Bakhtiani has a young fan — a 15-year-old who is a regular consumer of the pastry chef’s chocolates and cakes at Ether Atelier, Mumbai. One day, the teenager reached out with a request: share a recipe for chocolate cake.
“I told him that it would be easy to find one online,” says Bakhtiani, who left the field of chemical research to explore pastry and chocolate, drawing on his studies at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. “But he said he liked the way I approached chocolate and pastry, and wanted that professional thinking reflected in the recipe.”
This perspective is what prompted the chef to dedicate his first pastry bulletin, Way Too Many Cavities (WTMC), to chocolate cake. Launched last September, it is a “series of bulletins exploring pastry from a professional point of view”. “When I give interviews, I’ve often been asked to share recipes and sometimes told they are too complicated for people to do at home. Pastry chefs work on recipes not to make them accessible but to get the best out of each ingredient in their arsenal,” he says. “I wanted to put out a bulletin on how we approach classic recipes and to... pull back the curtains from the recipes and question ‘why did you do this’?”
The professional bulletin series is Bakhtiani’s personal project: he conducts the interviews, designs the pages, tests out the recipes and takes all the photos on his Fujfilm VX100 (which he edits on Lightroom).
The first, An Issue with Cake , featured four pastry chefs from Mumbai — including Shanaya Dastur of Ga’Toh Patisserie, and Vikas Bagul, director of School for European Pastry — and Bakhtiani. They all worked with Ether’s Noir (single origin, Dominican dark chocolate with black salt) to create a dark chocolate cake. Bakhtiani wanted to explore how something basic can take different forms and do a technical deep-dive into the making of a cake. Each recipe thus offers different learnings: how cornstarch can help add suppleness to the crumb, the benefits of the hot water method, the role of fat in the texture of the cake, and more.
The second bulletin, Cheese Please , released this month. In it, Bakhtiani, along with names such as Rumana Jaseel, executive chef of Incredible Art Cakes, and Vinesh Johny, chef and founder of Bengaluru-based Lavonne Academy, took on iconic cheesecakes — New York, Basque, Indian Chenna Poda, French; and a vegan version. In addition, Mansi Jasani of The Cheese Collective breaks down each cheese used in the recipes.
The third issue, out in July, will be titled Fruits of a Forgotten Country . Since Bakhtiani believes “in not being derivative” and “changing the format”, he says his themes revolve around one ingredient (cheese), one staple (chocolate cake), and one cultural element (fruits).
Bridging home cooks and professionals
The series has also helped him discover his place in the small but segmented pastry community. “I don’t see a lot of us exchanging ideas. Through this, I want to get people together to discuss and help each other,” he says, adding that he has made many friends through the bulletin. While the first two editions have had mostly Mumbai-based chefs, in the future, he intends to approach people across the country.
The way it works is he makes a list of 10 chefs — “the only requirement is that since WTMC is a bridge between recreational and professional pastry, I want contributors to be professionals from the industry” — and reaches out and asks for their help. Bakhtiani then visits each person, watches them cook, takes photos and later, tests out the recipes himself.
What started as a “small and cute project” has now snowballed — the second bulletin had a sponsor (in the future, he plans to look for sponsors that tie in with his theme). “I have overdone everything,” he says with a laugh, adding that it is one of the reasons why he isn’t looking to explore other platforms such as podcasts anytime soon.
Why the name Way Too Many Cavities ? “Ether is mature and serious. I wanted this project of mine to be different, to be exciting and funky.”
Visit etherchocolate.com/shop to download the first bulletin(as a free PDF).Apaid glossyprint version (₹725) is available too, and each copywillcome with a card signed by everyone who contributedto it.