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Ditch the recipe

Asia’s favourite pastry chef, here for a Kala Ghoda baking studio launch, on salvaging split ganache and undercooked cake

Two flights up a wooden flight of stairs at Jatia Chamber, Kala Ghoda, the latticed glass door on the right leads to Wisk by Cakesmiths, a baking studio that launched last week. Step in and everything is so fairy-tale white, naughty kids would itch to scribble.


Janice Wong, who was crowned Best Pastry Chef in Asia at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards this year. Pic/Bipin Kokate

It houses two rows of squeaky clean metal workstations that can comfortably seat up to 12 bakers, a master table at the far end with a backdrop of stocked cabinets, and a refrigerator camouflaged behind a white door panel. A tilted mirror frame is perched on the wall to reflect what’s unfolding on the table.

All of five feet, Janice Wong, who was crowned Best Pastry Chef in Asia at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards this year, coolly walks in for the first demonstration at Vrinda Jatia’s studio.

With a plan to create an Indian-inspired dessert, the founder of 2am:dessertbar in Singapore, begins to work with pomegranate, mango, guava, cardamom, condensed milk, hibiscus compote and plums. She whisks plum puree, blasts mango pulp with nitrogen to make a sorbet, and midway, ditches the recipe. “I ate the Mumbai vada pav, and I’d like to use the red chilli powder from there in this dessert,” says Wong, as her assistant nods knowingly. “Nothing surprises my team anymore,” laughs the chef-artist.

Taste and memories play an important role in Wong’s creations. “My baking philosophy follows a balance of flavours, temperature, texture and aesthetics. Food is art,” she says, calling on volunteers to plate up. But there are no plates. “Who needs plates when we have tables?” she quips, spooning rows of plum puree across the shiny table, placing buns of gelatin-treated guava filled with mango sorbet, condensed milk cubes, and calling on volunteers to squirt hibiscus compote and sprinkle rose petals as garnish.

She steps back satisfied. “Dig in.” Tips for home bakers “Often, it is interesting to see a dish evolve and you don’t need to finish the recipe. If you are happy with the meringue, don’t fold in all the ingredients,” says Wong.

Split ganache: Ganache is the filling inside chocolate bon bon or on a cake, made with boiled cream and chocolate. If the temperature is not right, it will split. Usually, people will add more cream to fix it. But a quicker fix is to add water, a non-fat base.

Burnt caramel: When you burn something, you cannot un-burn, the next step is to salvage. One of our signature dishes, Burnt caramel mousse, is a product of burnt caramel. Add cream to it, and fold it into a mousse. You’ll get all the creaminess and a slight bitter taste.

Keep in mind, that it is okay to change a recipe, and think of ingredients that go with it. Or best, use it as ash by smoking it with a smoking gun.

Undercooked cake: Usually, when you pop an undercooked cake back into the oven, it could go dry. Maintain the moisture by spraying some water before you bake it again.

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