DAY THREE OF LOCKDOWN: 27th March 2020
By Kulsum Mustafa
Inspirational Indian: Hailing from a family of doctors, she a full- fledged dentist, it was no easy decision for Afreen Usmaan to take off her white coat and replace it with a baker’s apron and hat. But she did, simply because she had one strong reason for doing so- Her family. They needed her undivided attention. Afreen decided to stay home. It was then that her childhood passion – baking, came to her rescue. She decided to work from home. Ten years on she is a well known and happy home baker of Lucknow-the city of Nawabs and kebabs.
Her cakes have both a classic appeal and drolly yummy taste. The ingredients used and the precision and presentation have a scientific touch which makes them stand out. And all this because today’s well known Home Baker was some years back Dr. Afreen Usman. A short break after the birth of her first child grew longer when she had her second child and it became impossible for her to go back to the dentist’s chair. It was then that her hobby of baking she turned to for passion and before she knew she started enjoying crafting cakes professionally.
I did my dentistry because I suppose I came from a family of doctors and it was kind of expected of me to join the medical line. Later I started working for a Charitable Hospital and even started my own clinic, “ said Afreen
But life took a turn after she had her daughter. She found it difficult to manage the clinic and home together. Eventually, Afreen chose her family over her career,” she says candidly.
But soon she realized she was getting bored with just being at home. So she started baking for friends and relatives. Happy with the response, she enrolled for a course in advanced baking.
“My big chance came when people started placing orders, this truly surprised my family. Till then they were expecting me to join back dentistry, “said Afreen, adding that her contentment brought around by the passion for baking was visible to the family so they accepted it wholeheartedly and did not insist she goes back to dentistry. Her husband, Professor at the Lucknow Medical College, Dr Kauser Usman and other family members supported her.
Once she had taken the decision to bake commercially Afreen started to acquire more knowledge and to keep herself updated with the latest trends and techniques enrolled for professional courses.
In these years she must have baked hundreds of cakes and taken requests for cannot remember how many desserts but she mentions three orders that stand out.
The first order- a doll cake for a little girl.
“It was a little unnerving because the cake immediately after baking had to be taken a little distance. . Luckily it reached the party table intact and I got a beaming birthday girl selfie on my mobile and great reviews of her friends and their parents as my return gift.” Said Afreen
The second cake she baked last year for Kishwari Konnect’s chief patron veteran broadcaster K K Nayyar’s ninetieth birthday. “It was an honour that I was asked to make this cake,” said Afreen, expressing her grief on Mr Nayyar’s death this January.The next favourite order on her list is the dessert table for a one-year-old. It was the first time I made about a hundred cupcakes, puddings and cookies but it was well worth the effort.
As part of her future plans, Afreen wants to expand her baking base and apart from the rich birthday and occasion cakes she would like to step into healthy baking.
“I plan to use locally grown grains in my baking to give it a new flavour and introduce them as healthy alternatives,” she said.
She bakes for cancer patients, does baking workshops free for those who cannot pay. She ensures that occasionally her goodies are distributed among those who would never know the taste of a cake- of course totally free of cost.Afreen wants to give employment to women and make baking accessible to people who can’t afford ovens. Her ultimate aim is to set up an academy for not just baking but a variety of skills apart from cooking.
Considering that these are difficult times and one cannot really afford to splurge instead of cake she offered to share with us the simple recipe of Filled buns.
Here it is Enjoy and as your stomach fills with satisfaction do not forget to send off a little prayer that the hungry get to savour too some morsels and fill them with gratefulness to the Almighty- Ameen.
Recipe for Stuffed buns
6 medium sized buns
2 eggs beaten
1/2 capsicum chopped
1 large tomato chopped
1 onion chopped
6 tsp mozzarella cheese grated
1/3 cup corn
Chilli flakes, salt and pizza seasoning to taste.
Scoop out the mid portion of the buns.
Beat the eggs with salt and chilli flakes.
Butter the insides of the buns.
Add some chopped capsicum, tomato, corn and onions.
Put two to three tsp of beaten eggs.
Cover with grated cheese.
Sprinkle pizza seasoning on top.
Bake in a pre heated oven at 170 degrees for 20 minutes.
Serve with tomato ketchup.
Other ideas for the filling
– Leftover vegetables
– mashed potatoes mixed with chaat masala, chilli flakes, zeera
– shredded chicken cooked in white sauce powder, chopped green coriander and salt
Morale of the Story: Bliss follows by making the right choices in life, no matter how tough the decision
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