Dairy products and Cheese
Milk: I use regular Nandini milk with 3% fat in it. Full fat milk is used when I make puddings, halwas, kheer or when a recipe specifies it. Else skimmed milk works just fine.
Cream: 25% fat Amul Fresh Cream has worked for all my recipes and I love the fact we atleast get this one in market. Whipping Amul/low fat cream to stiff has been a common problem to most of us living in India. :) Warm tropical weather makes it worse. I am sure most of you will agree on that. Although, that’s not entirely possible to whip it stiff, I can suggest alternatives here.
1) Make an old fashioned cooked frosting called Custard Frosting for recipes that call for whip cream/frosting. It holds the shape well and tastes pretty good.
2) Another alternative is to increase the fat content in low-fat cream you whip. The higher the butterfat content, the better it will whip, since the whipped fat traps the air bubbles. Introduce butter in slow streams while whipping cold low-fat cream till it holds stiff peaks.
3) If using gelatin is not a problem with you, add gelatin to low-fat whipped cream. The gelatin will help to stabilize the cream. Read here.
We get non-dairy Rich's whipping cream which most coffee joints across the city use, but since it's sold only for industrial/commercial use, getting access to it easily is another task itself. Apart from this, there are imported brands like President's Whipping cream and Whip cream sprays available in supermarkets, however I have never used them, so I can't vouch. However these are quite pricey and not worth the money spent in my opinion.
Whip Cream powder: I bought whip cream powder only once. It was fetched from my trusted local bakery. And although it whipped well and tasted exactly like fresh cream, I did not go back to it again with the fear of using an unbranded product and not knowing it's constituents. If you are like me, curious to explore options, catch hold of a local bakery that can part away with a sample for a small price. It will be good for a try. I recently came across Bluebird products online and will be keen to order some soon. They have whip cream powder on their list.
Butter: It's Nutralite: Better than Butter most of the times. Amul Lite is my alternate choice. I have always used them confidently with results which are on par with butter. These are low-fat, low-salt table margarine derived from vegetable oils. That saves me from the task of adding extra salt.
Condensed Milk: I use either Nestle's Milkmaid or Amul Mithai Mate. It can be either and depends on which one has the latest date on stands.
Mascarpone cheese: I have tried Italian cheese available on stands in Foodworld. It's almost similar to what we can make at home. Bring some milk cream to boil, add in a teaspoon or two of lime juice and allow it to curdle. Give some standing time and strain using muslin cloth. Allow it to set in the refrigerator for atleast 2-3 hours. Mascarpone is ready to use. Homemade mascarpone cheese is better since it's fresh and free from additives and preservatives.
Mozzarella cheese: There are many brands out there, but Britannia or Amul are my trusted brand. I use it in pizzas with pretty satisfying results.
Cheddar cheese: It can be either Amul or Britannia, again depending on which brand has the latest date on stands.
Cream cheese: Philadelphia cream cheese is easily available in most supermarket counters and is my go-to cream cheese for any recipe. I've tried Britannia cream cheese just once, and they are good too considering they are a local brand and more economical in comparison to the imported peers, however their supply is quite tardy and getting them available on ease hasn't been any easy. Again, about 180 gm pack costs about INR 150, which is still quite expensive. So I am happy trying alternatives for cream cheese if I'm making a cheesecake at home.
Greek Yogurt: I haven't come across Greek yogurt anywhere in Bangalore, possibly because making yogurt at home is a very domestic task for every homemaker in India, hence its sale in market would be frail. Greek yogurt varies from regular yogurt in terms of its density. Its thick and has very little water content, more akin to sugarless Shrikhand. If you want make Greek yogurt at home, simply tie the regular yogurt in couple of layers of muslin cloth and hang it in a cool, dry place with a bowl placed underneath to catch the whey for a couple of hours. The thick yogurt can be used in recipes that call for Greek yogurt. Typically works well for savory dips and dressings such as Tzatziki. If using in desserts, I substitute Amul Shrikhand. It's thick and works like magic in cheesecakes. I always have stock of homemade yogurt which we consume on a daily basis. So if it calls for use in eggless cakes or brownies, I use homemade yogurt only.
Oil: I use Saffola or Dhara vegetable oil. There's no certain preference over these.
Olive Oil: I'm currently using a Spanish product called Musa. Colevita is another trusted brand that I've used and liked in the past. There are many available in the market, hence you can make your choice. Taste is a matter of personal preference.
Flavored oils: Where recipes call for flavored oils like garlic oil or herb oil, I heat up some oil, add in the garlic and allow the flavors to infuse for couple of hours. I make mine at home and since it's fresh it adds great flavors. The same goes to herb oils as well.
Sugar: Parry's superfine sugar works like a charm even where caster sugar is asked for. I use it in my daily tea as well as in baking.
Caster sugar: Eagle caster sugar is the best I use. When I don't have one at hand, I simply put my regular sugar into mixer and grind them fine.
Brown Sugar: It's been long since I purchased brown sugar. Imported variety of light and dark brown sugar is now available here, but they are expensive. They cost about INR 250 for 500gm pack and I think it's not totally worth spending that pricey amount when baking at home, unless you are a professional baker or serious about sticking to the recipe to the T. I would rather put that money in sourcing fresh local ingredients, preferably organic.
FabIndia sells Organic Brown sugar and Damerara too. When in stock, I prefer buying my Brown sugar from them. At INR 125 for 500gm, they are the best deal I can get.
Demerera sugar: Again Eagle's sugar is my best choice.
Icing sugar/Confectioner's sugar: I pretty much use regular sugar powdered in my mixie.
Miscellaneous Baking Products
Flour: I use regular all purpose flour or maida for baking almost everything. We do not have easy access to highly refined flour or bread flour in India, hence this is the best choice. I sieve the flour once for cakes and cookies and twice to make breads and pizza base. I have never faced problems with that till date. Again, Bluebird products online have Super Sifted Flour on their list.
Self-rising flour: If you only have all-purpose, here's how you can make one at home. Measure the desired amount of flour into a container. For each cup of all-purpose flour measuring about 125 gm, add 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt. Sift well to combine.
Cake Flour: Make your own with one cup sifted cake flour with 3/4 cup (85 grams) sifted all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch.
Baking powder: I use Weikfield baking powder and it gives me a good rise.
Baking soda: It's Weikfield again. The thumb-rule is to always keep it closed in an air-tight container and never use a wet spoon while handling baking powder or soda.
Yeast: I source fresh yeast from a local trusted bakery nearby, specially for baking pizzas and bread. I've used instant dry yeast from Eagle's and Baker's, they are good, but do not give the best rise. I've been told that Gloripan instant yeast works well too. If you have relatives or friends traveling from West, request them to fetch you a couple of sachets of instant yeast. You will find a world of difference if you can manage to lay your hands on them.
All spice powder: For an Indian, all spice powder would probably mean garam masala, but this does not suit baking. I always have a stock of homemade spice powder which is an instant rescue for recipes that call for it's use. My mixed spice is homemade and is freshly ground with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg going into it. I store it in air tight glass container and it stays fresh for months.
Vanilla extract: I buy my bottles of vanilla extract during my trips to hill stations. It's been long since I bid bye to the synthetic vanilla essence you get in markets. I've come across blogs which tell how to make vanilla extract at home and I know it's super easy, but I haven't attempted them yet. May be some day!
Vanilla Sugar: Honestly, I have never used it or did not see the need to use it.
Dark/Milk/White Chocolate: Morde and Marco chocolate compound. Those are the choices we have here. As much as I love Ghiradelli and Lindt, I don't see it's worth using them for my regular baking as they cost a bomb. And with a bar costing close to INR 550, I would rather enjoy eating them as is. :)
I buy my chocolates from Tuscany, Forum Value Mall. A little over-priced than what it costs outside, I buy it from here since this is the closest to where I live. You can fetch the same from many other vendors across Bangalore. I have purchased dark chocolate bars and chocolate chips from Nilgiris, Brigade Road and Durga Enterprises in Madivala. The ones sold in Durga Enterprises melt easily on heating. If you want chocolate chips that hold shape even after baking, look for them at Nilgiris. They work great in muffins.
Cocoa powder: I have used Cadbury's before Hershey's hit Indian market. I have been using Hershey's since then as I love it's dark, denser color and taste.
Canned/ Dry fruits and Nuts
Blueberries, Cranberries, Cherries: These fruits are not common in India, atleast I have not seen any of these in form of fresh fruits anywhere in Bangalore, though fruit jams are easily available in most supermarkets like Foodworld and Reliance Fresh. I use Mother's Maid and I pretty much like it. I get them imported from Dubai and these are canned blueberries that come in tins. I used to get fresh blueberries whenever my husband would visit the States, but unfortunately, they rot easily and have a short shelf life.
Unfortunately, we do not grow these in India. Northern part of India does grow peaches, plums and cherries, but these are very expensive in South. I use imported dried blueberries and cranberries from Ocean Spray which I got from US. It will last me for a couple of months. They work good in cakes and muffins.
Fruits and Fruit preserves: I always prefer using fresh fruits and organic preserves. I buy my jams, marmalades and fruit preserves from Fabindia. They have host of good organic products. They also sell organic vanilla pods and vanilla powder.
Cherries: I purchased a can of tinned cherries from Durga Enterprises in Madivala. When fresh cherries are available, I like to pick them then.
Hazelnuts, Pecans, Pine Nuts: Again these nuts are not so popular in India, but I have seen them in Hypercity mall, AECS Layout, Bangalore. I have purchased hazelnuts from there, but never tried bought Pecans or Pine nuts.
Cashews, Almonds, Pistachios: My parents used to buy almonds and cashews in bulk from wholesale dealer and I would take it from them, but I have now moved to buying in smaller quantities from supermarket. I buy half a kilo packets and use them as required.
Slivered almonds: Slivered almonds are ideal for baking and for making cookies and to me, beyond baking, the task of chopping almonds, powdering sugar, lining the tin, softening butter, happen to be the most boring. I wish I could avoid them! I used to buy packs of slivered almonds from Nilgiris, but again, it's expensive and hardly last for 2-3 bakes or so. So I have been doing this job at home in my kitchen. I suggest you follow the recipe given on this site. It works beautifully!
Dried herbs: I use Keya products for oregano, basil, thyme when fresh herbs are not at hand. They are freeze dried and are pretty good to serve the purpose.
Herbs: Nothing beats the flavors from fresh herbs. I buy organic spinach from Namdharis. I purchase all my herbs from Foodworld, Whitefield. Whenever they get fresh stock of rosemary, parsley, lettuce or basil, I love to load my shopping carts with them. They have a wide variety of herbs which are uncommon to Indian cooking.
Vegetables and other products: Foodworld, Whitefield is my one-shop-stop for most products. It has a good range of fresh, local and imported products which satisfies my requirement for baking. It stocks many imported ingredients like variety of cheese ranging from Mozzarella, Parmesan, Cream Cheese to Flavored cheese, Whipping Cream Spray, Lindt Dark Chocolates, Haagen Daz ice creams, imported tinned fruits, imported soy milk, imported silken tofu, variety of local and imported pastas, gnocchi and lasagna sheets, Range of sauces like Teriyaki, Worcestershire, Tabasco. They also have fresh rare seasonal vegetables and fruits like Chinese cabbage, celery, broccoli, oyster mushrooms, asparagus, wheat-grass, lemon grass, fresh parsley, Granny Smith apples, prunes, kiwis, chinese pears, dragon fruit, mangosteen, plums, etc. Most of these products are also available in Hypercity mall, AECS layout and Nilgiris on Brigade road where I do shop often. For organic products, my choices are Namdharis and FabIndia.
DISCLAIMER: The products mentioned here are not meant for advertisement. This is not a paid endorsement or any kind or promotion for any product or shop. These are product I use and shops I visit. This has been posted with sole intention to help others.