Food

Want to try Varalaxmi Sarathkumar’s signature cheese tarts?

There is a pause as Varalaxmi Sarathkumar does the math. “Um. I cannot remember now. I haven’t slept all night,” the actor laughs. She is on the phone from her home in Chennai, which has turned into a bakery overnight, filled with trays of freshly-made cheese tarts. And has lost count of how many tarts she has baked, packed and sold on the first day of her new project, Life of Pie.

Inspired by the Hokkaido cheese tart, Varalaxmi’s version, which is available for takeaway, is an addictive amalgamation of sweet and savoury flavours. Featuring a creamy cheese filling set in a buttery pastry shell, it is best eaten straight out of the oven, when the centre is molten and the base flaky.

“About four years ago, a friend and I were in a mall in Kuala Lumpur and we got this amazing smell,” says Varalaxmi. “We walked towards it. And there was this huge line, which we joined just to see what the fuss was about. It was a counter for Hokkaido cheese tarts, and when we ate it, it was like heaven in your mouth!” She adds, “Whenever someone came from Malaysia or Singapore, I would ask them to bring me some.” During lockdown, she decided to recreate it herself.

Varalaxmi Sarathkumar’s cheese tarts

Varalaxmi Sarathkumar’s cheese tarts   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“I’ve been baking through this lockdown, doing really random things like cakes, quiches and hasselback potatoes,” she says, adding quickly, “I’m not a cook at all. I don’t have any recipes. I just looked at You Tube…”

After trying multiple versions, Varalaxmi hit upon a process that worked with locally available ingredients, in her home kitchen. “I have a really basic set-up here… I tried making it with three kinds of cheese, then finally found one that worked. I obviously can’t get Hokkaido cheese here, which is why I won’t call this a Hokkaido tart,” she says.

Baking through the day in this steamy summer cannot be be easy, yet the actor seems hooked on her new project. “I started at 6.30 am today, and only finished by 4 pm,” she says, adding with a chuckle, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s not like we have anything else to do during the lockdown! I’m also getting a workout with this.”

Varalaxmi’s version is inspired by the Hokkaido cheese tart

Varalaxmi’s version is inspired by the Hokkaido cheese tart   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Right now, Life Of Pie is a one-woman show, from baking, packaging and washing dishes, to even delivery. “Before the lockdown, I was the last person you would find in the kitchen, now I’m there all day,” says Varalaxmi, adding “I still need to get the packaging right: I do not want them to get squished. So I’m asking people to pick them up, and I’m also trying to drop off the tarts.”

In the meantime, the Life Of Pie page has quietly surfaced on Instagram (@lifeofpietarts) with barely 20 followers, a stark contrast to Varalaxmi’s own (@varusarathkumar) Instagram page, which has 842 thousand followers.

“I have not posted anywhere that I’m doing this. I don’t know if I will able to handle orders once I put it on social media,” she says, adding that she has not decided what to do with this brand once movie shoots restart. “You never know what starts up, and what clicks,” she says, adding, “Right now, I’m just going with the flow.”

Life Of Pie’s cheese tarts are ₹125 for one, and ₹600 for five. WhatsApp 7358755577 to order.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 5:11:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/want-to-try-varalaxmi-sarathkumars-signature-cheese-tarts/article31803013.ece

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