How chef Umber Ahmad went from banking to baking

Born to Pakistani immigrants in Michigan, Umber Ahmad excelled in school and later graduated from MIT. She earned two more degrees before starting a career in investment banking where she met world-famous chef Tom Colicchio, who was one of her business clients. When he sampled the incredible desserts she baked as a hobby, he encouraged her to make it a career. Colicchio went on to advise her as she opened Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery, her award-winning pastry shop in New York City’s West Village.

Here are some of Ahmad’s signature recipes: 

Sautéed fennel with pink grapefruit and olives


Sautéed Fennel with Pink Grapefruit and Olives
1 bulb fennel, reserve some of the fronds
1 large pink grapefruit
¼ cup green olives, drained, pitted and cut in half
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt 


1. Slice the fennel bulb into thin slices. Set aside. Peel and segment the pink grapefruit. Take each segment and slice along the vein to remove the outer membrane. Place all remaining, naked segments into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Coat bottom of the pan with olive oil. Be generous, but not crazy. Once the oil starts to glisten, add the fennel slices. Season with kosher salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

3. Add in grapefruit slices and green olives, toss gently. Sprinkle with some of the reserved fronds before serving.



2 packets active dry yeast, 14 grams total
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
7 cups all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
4 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 cups evaporated milk
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup warm water
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
Pearl sugar
Slivered almonds


1. In a bowl, sift together flour, salt, and ground cardamom. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together yeast and ½ teaspoon granulated sugar. Add in ¼ cup warm water and mix gently. While…

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