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What does Masterchef Australia and The Whitefield Baking Company have in common? – Kate Bracks!!!

Masterchef Australia can be credited with starting a revolution that completely altered that way that anyone approaches food. It has within the span of three years turned the nation (and I mean India here) into a completely food obsessed one. Not that we were not connoisseurs of the good stuff already, but the appreciation and knowledge of a variety of cuisines and techniques definitely stems from there. The regular dal-chawal eating home was now attempting to get a perfect crust on their pie!  Dinner time (the holy thread that bonds us in an Indian family) was moved to an hour earlier, so that we could all sit down to watch Masterchef at 9:00 PM. Who ever heard of a food show being given a prime time slot?
Masterchef Australia Season 3 was one of my favorite seasons.  I don’t think I missed even one episode. I knew each and every contestant by name and followed their escapades in the kitchen closely.  And Kate Bracks – Dessert Queen and  mother of three, took home the title with a sweet flourish! For people like me who live and breathe food – these are our celebrities! So do you think I missed a chance to meet Kate when she came down to Bangalore – no freaking way!!
Mike – the GM of the Bengaluru Mariott Hotel and Kate, launching The Whitefield Baking Company
How did this miracle come to be? Bengaluru Mariott Hotel, Whitefield got Kate down to launch their deli and patisserie – The Whitefield Baking Company. They offer a wide variety of goodies like cakes, tarts, muffins, quiches and pies. Because of WBC, Whitefield can boast of having the luxury of freshly baked artisan breads everyday now! Kate being an avid baker and lover of desserts was a right fit for the Mariott’s latest venture. 
I was invited to a special Masterclass (yippee) by Kate and even got to ask her a few questions. She is charming, down to earth and a fireball of energy. Kate is such an animated cookie that getting a decent picture of her where she’s not moving is close to impossible. (See for yourself!). Here’s what Kate said about Masterchef, her love for Baking and where she had the best butter chicken in her life!  
The many moods of Kate Bracks!
On Layered Coffee Cake
One of my first memories of cooking was when I was 8 years old. Summer holidays can get terribly boring, so my mum asked me to cook something. The result was a whole afternoon spent in the kitchen making a layered coffee cake complete with piped icing. You can say that was the kicker.
Applying to MasterChef
Applying to Masterchef was one the most difficult decisions I had to take. I was arguing with my husband about all the reasons I couldn’t go and he counterd it with all the reasons I should go. Being a mother (of three), it creates a huge internal conflict when you need to leave your kids behind for your own dreams. Having a supportive and encouraging husband helps! I honestly couldn’t have done it without him – he dindn’t complain one day the seven months I was away. Of course it’s funny that when I left for Masterchef he said, ‘Go for it, it’s not like you are going to win it anyway!’. Boy, were both of us in for a surprise.
Secrets to making it to the top and impressing the Judges
The pressure is really intense. You are away from your family for so long and you always have to perform at your peak everyday because everyone is so talented. Maybe I had an advantage because I was a mom – we are so used to juggling things! I took one day at a time, listened during masterclass and the once a week phone calls and skype chats from home were the saving grace. The episode where I had to cook for my family was the best. It was lot of pressure trying to put up a dish that would impress the judges but I wanted to cook something that my children loved to eat as well. (Comon, I was a mum cooking for her babies after 6 months!).
In the earlier episodes of Masterchef, none of us imagined that we could turn out beautiful food. Practice does make perfect and I also had a little formula that I used. The judges were always looking for a balance of flavors and textures. And my mantra that I tried to incorporate in every dish was sweet, salty and sour for flavor and crispy-creamy for textures! That way I had covered my bases! I am truly grateful to Masterchef because it has deepened my passion for food and given me a lifepath that fuels it!
Gary or George
Hmm… this one is a tough one because both of them are so wonderful in their own ways. Gary is more the father figure. He would always come to us during the show and enquire about our well being. He even had a list of father jokes down pat! George on the other hand was the funny one… someone who would crack a joke and wet his pants laughing about it! He is the one that pushed us harder and was passionate about making each contestant a better chef. He was inspirational.
Life after Masterchef and cooking at home
It’s been a whirlwind of activity. I’m a full time working mom now! I work with food and people – two of my favorite things and for that I feel blessed. Also when you love something you do, it doesn’t really feel like work.
A typical Aussie family will have sausages and mash for dinner and so do we. But  as soon as I got back from Masterchef the kids and family expected fancy food from me. They even started scoring my dishes! Of course I put a stop to that, but I do make an effort to present my food well and ensure it’s good for the family. There is lot of difference in the food from a fancy professional kitchen with the best ingredients and uninterrupted time to churn out something fantastic, to what a regular person in a home kitchen with kids running around, door bell ringing and twenty minutes can churn out! Luckily, my kid’s favorite breakfast currently, is still just hot toast with butter and cinnamon-sugar so …Take heart! 
The Sweet Life and Chocolate
I love the sweet stuff – desserts. So it was only natural for me to bring out a book on desserts. I love baking (and chocolate) and this one plays to my strengths and more importantly passions.
Chocolate is my favorite ingredient to work with. If you get a good quality chocolate (not compound) most of your work is done already! And it tastes so good and is so comforting. I can’t resist it!
India and Butter Chicken
This is my first visit to India and I love it! I have always eaten Indian food in Australia but it tastes nothing like what I had here. I ate at this restaurant on Church Street called Queens – it had the best butter chicken I had tasted in my whole life! I wish Indian restaurants in Australia would make it this way! I went shopping on Commercial Street (my husband is keeping a close eye on the credit card, I’ve already run up a big bill!) and even went to Russel Market. The sights, sounds, flavors and smells are all wonderful! 
We were lucky to have a Masterclass with Kate where she demonstrated her Chocolate, Hazelnut and Raspberry Muffins! Delish! Here’s a recipe for you to replicate the same at home. And like Kate said – “the better ingredients you use – the better the end product”!
Chocolate Hazelnut and Raspberry Muffins
What you need:
Prep time: 15 mins
Baking time: 35 mins
Makes 12
What you need:
330 gms Plain Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
100 gms Hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (you can use Almonds as well)
300 gms Caster Sugar
½ tsp Salt
250 gms Unsalted Butter
60ml Hazelnut Oil (or a regular neutral vegetable oil)
480 ml Buttermilk (or whole milk + 3 tsp lemon juice left to sit for 5-10 mins)
3 Eggs
150 gms dark coverture Chocolate (high quality, extra cocoa butter 32-39%)
150 gms Raspberries (we get frozen ones in India)
30 gms Demerera Sugar
What to do:
Preheat you oven to 180°C.
Line the muffin tin with paper muffin cups.
Combine dry ingredients (flour, hazel nut meal, caster sugar, salt) into a large bowl.
Melt the butter and whisk to combine it with other ingredients (hazelnut oil, buttermilk and eggs)
Pour wet mix over the dry mix and stir to combine. (micture should still look a little lumpy).
Gently fold through the chocolate, hazelnuts and finally the raspberries.
Spoon mixture into muffin cases until almost full.
Sprinkle tops with Demerera sugar.
Bake 30-35 mins until cooked through and golden on the top.
You can meet Kate too! There is a special Masterclass on 16th Mar from 3-4 pm. Head to:
Bengaluru Mariott Hotel Whitefield
Plot No 75, 8th Road, EPIP Area,
Near Satya Sai Speciality Hospital,
Whitefield, Bangalore.
Ph: 080 6732 0000/ 080 6690 1111
Cost: Starts from Rs.60/- plus taxes.
Parking: Valet Available.

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