Noor Mubarak, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate and pastry chef, found her calling when the pandemic struck. She decided to turn the newly found extra time and opportunity to fulfil her dream. She began baking.
While the people around her entered the kitchen to make the usual banana breads and dalgona coffee, she had something else in mind. Noor decided to dig up all the recipes she always loved to bake, and contribute the proceeds towards helping migrants struggling to make their way back home.
Months later, her babka’s doughnuts have become fan favourites. And this pastry chef baking up a storm from her home kitchen (with a “small oven and erratic supplies”) couldn't be happier.
We had a quick chat with her between the baking adventures.
Notting Hill bakery has become an instant hit with sweet-toothed foodies. What made you think of a bakery?
I’ve always wanted to have my own bakery; it was just a matter of 'when', not 'what'. Earlier this year, I was meant to start a consulting job with a restaurant and was going to work on creating a new dessert menu for them. That is when the lockdown happened and everything came to pause. For the first month or two, I wasn’t doing much. I wasn’t planning to start my business until a couple of months later once I was done with the consulting job. It’s then that I thought about baking to raise some money for the stranded migrant community of the state. And for that, I decided to launch the business.
When was your first time baking?
As clichéd as I’m about to sound, I started baking when I was a little girl. My older cousin was living with my family at the time and she used to bake at home for fun after her classes at the university. I started to bake with her, and I just fell in love with it.
What's behind the name?
I am basically from London and I grew up around Notting Hill. Growing up in London influenced me when it comes to food as London is known for its amazing restaurants and its overall food culture. Having my childhood memories tied up there, the name just felt right.
The lockdown was a tough time for businesses in general. How did Notting Hill cope and grow in these difficult times?
During a time like this, it is important to take it one step at a time because you never know what this pandemic is going to throw at you next. But honestly, I just went with the flow instead of sticking to any particular route to success.
We heard many stories of hardships during the lockdown. Tell us what was the biggest issue the bakery faced?
Ingredients! Getting certain ingredients at one point was a nightmare, especially eggs, as random as that might sound.
Milk Bar’s pie, Homer Simpson D’oh-nuts... sounds delicious! Tell us more about your special menu.
My brioche doughnuts and babkas have been the biggest hits so far. I am planning to add some more quirky stuff to the menu along the way. Currently, I haven't got something new that is quirky, but I'll come up with something soon.
Which is your favourite pastry?
This is such a hard question for a pastry chef to answer! I LOVE TO EAT THEM ALL! But if I have to pick one, I do love eclairs, any sort of choux pastry, and anything with praline in it. I love making tall, fun, and colourful cakes. As for teaching the recipes for them, I haven’t taught anyone yet. It’s just me in the kitchen, a one-woman show as I like to call it.
What's your baking philosophy?
Honestly, I don’t have one. But I do believe you have to put your heart into it because if your heart isn’t in it, it’ll show in the end product. So, would “bake with your heart” count as a baking philosophy?
Where do you find culinary inspiration?
Many places. Cookbooks, Instagram accounts of bakers, Pinterest, even the content on YouTube. I often find myself gathering inspiration from some video of a dessert being made that I randomly come across.
Tell us about the stories that come with the pastries you make.
There are multiple stories associated with the menu. Here’s the story behind the crack pie. So, the crack pie is a popular dessert from the Milk Bar in NYC, and I instantly fell in love when I had it for the first time, which was very long ago. I knew one day I’d want to have it on my menu, especially since nobody serves the crack pie in Bombay, even though there are so many people here who have either studied or lived in New York, and have loved the Milk Bar crack pie. I even thought about the people who would have visited NY for a vacation and wanted to have the pie again. I simply decided to make it for them.
The pastry/food scene is constantly changing and new trends emerge every now and then. Do you feel like you have to keep up with the changes?
I feel it is important to follow the changes. It’s always good to see others at work and what dishes are gaining popularity world over. However, I do not feel there’s a need to keep up with anything as such. But that said, if I come across something that I think is cool, and would do well, I wouldn’t hesitate to add it to my menu, or at least my version of it.
Baking bread became a big thing during the quarantine. Chefs have been hosting online baking classes and people have been posting their baking feats on Instagram. Do you see anything emerging from this?
I think it’s great! Online classes are definitely a great way to learn even though, I haven’t tried or done any. I love how many people are channelling their inner baking gods and goddesses during this quarantine.
To order, WhatsApp Noor Mubarak at 7045542681 or DM her on Instagram @thenottinghillbakery. Orders must be placed a day in advance.