What Say You? Wasabi!

My baking history is one part having baking stuff sent to me , part need to waste not, part obsessive compulsiveness to tweak, and a stupendous degree of being cake happy! But I don’t always do things by the book.  I am for the change up!

I take my many hats (master of none, hehehe) off to the serious baker, the studied, and the pastry pros and am in awe of what they turn out, but I have ,uh, limited resources (if you only knew ...really!)  so please excuse me for breaking some rules.  I can’t help it! I am also quite proud of my “accidental” discoveries and epic fail bakes that my small circle of tasters love - thank you, family and friends!

I may be my own worst enemy and critic but I can’t help but forgive myself  ; )

I’ve been told I should go into business (not easy as pie) and evolve from selling a few on request, to a) supplying a cafe or restaurant; b) selling online; and improbably, at this time c) setting up my own cafe.  In an ideal world, I would do all that! Get a loan; hire an assistant baker who technically knows more than I do - just leave the creating and the tweaking to me; set up a birthday cafe (every day’s a party hehehe).  Dream!

I’ve had a little experience with the setting up part.  There was a concept cafe I helped name, set up, r and d’d the cake line and gave ‘em birth names with lovingly described what all! Fancy that! So I know how difficult or how fun it could be. 

For now I am just doing what comes naturally and falling more and more accidentally in love 
with the bakes : )

Here’s the thing: my baked goodies are non-commercial tasting and though rather ambitious (in taste and uniqueness anyway – or so I hope), I intentionally do not use ganache or make too expensive stuff since I don’t have a regular outlet or clientele.  My “regulars”(suki in Tagalog) consist of  four friends which dessert indulgence, cake gift and cookie stash I top up monthly. 

I also live very far from my, uh, market, so I wanted stable items that could last a week or more – just in case my friends don’t put it away stat
Never happens, so I am told.

My friends do not mind the understated, "organic" (read: homemade hehehe) look of my goodies because they appreciate the richer and deeper flavor more than they do gloss and towering frosting.  I do use ganache, fluffy frosting and some fancy bakes for celebration cupcakes on order –
 also for one particular good friend/“suki”   : )
The chocolate cake picture here is stripped of all frou frou: my downtime and photo opp can only happen while the cake sets. I always forget to snap the finished piece. 

Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to a boutique cafe, thinking I can handle supplying them some of my stuff a few times a week.  She has such faith hehehe.  I am hesitant, but it is a small cafe – a lounge really, where a guy can sit and sip while his girlfriend/sister/mom/wife got her nails done or do some clothes shopping  within cozy conversation/consult distance.  Example: “Hon, what do you think? Is this nail polish sooo me? Or does this dress show off my curves?”  Guy looks up from his coffee and paper/mag, mutters non-committal  “uhhmmm” with a little nod and then bites into a brownie to save himself.  I figured: I could do this.  My brownie could save guys from stepping on a minefield that could explode at the hint of a negative : )

So I brought samples, but never met the owners.  Turns out, my friend with the good intentions didn’t set up an appointment or even recall the owner’s name, whom she chitchats with every time she has her nails done.  I left the samples anyway.  I figured if they liked my stuff, they have my number.  They didn’t. call. Somebody they knew called instead.

Here’s the thing: this is an August (when I wrote this) month for meeting a very gracious, appreciative restaurant couple – Chef D and wife A.   They have a restaurant and wine bar on soft opening mode.  They have their own dessert line, but needs a few more as complement.

I sent them pictures and a list of what I have, so when told that I need to come in and bring samples I thought, “small cafe/lounge set up” because, like I said, my stuff is great (ehem, ehem) just not dolled up in fancy swirls, mirror finish glaze or tall twisty icing.  So I lug my stuff in plastic boxes in a huge S&R shopping bag, no make up, my most comfy “delivery girl” outfit and an umbrella with a conspicuously broken handle.  I look at the exterior and thought “very nice”.  I go in and thought I should have dressed better and presented with a little more ceremony.  Darn!

They really liked my stuff! I got “wow”, “amazing”, and “really, really good”. Chef D encouraged me to do more because I've got talent.  I am abashed but happy that someone legit thinks I am!  This, despite my inexperience, no training and a very, very basic set of equipment. 
Pat, pat, pat! 

I amused them with my confessions about the accidental bakes and epic fail I somehow “saved” with flour and whatnot that turned into something else   Apparently, I made tuille (which I’ve read about but hasn’t made) or employed some technique I haven’t even Googled yet. 
So! Some of my stuff  made it on their personal list yey! Some might be on their menu in the future! That has me quaking in my slip ons and begging for “more practice time” and “polish”.   One experiment rated a “very interesting but I like it”. 

This is my white chocolate wasabi cake.  I love wasabi.  I pile it on my sushi despite the torture of a sinus clearing heat shooting up the nasal passages and making your eyes tear up.  Wasabi is a spicy kind of Japanese radish that doesn’t burn the tongue.  What you buy in stores, paste or powder, is not the real thing apparently, because the real thing has heat that dissipates fast.

I found a few recipes for white chocolate and wasabi online, so it isn’t a novelty.   Paradis has wasabi ice cream I have yet to taste.  Some recipes are so complex and needed a standing mixer (I don’t have one) and other stuff I can’t afford to botch on experiments.  Besides, I wanted to make one for me : )

I like spice in my cake.  I have made dark chocolate cake spiked with chili oil before and cookies with coriander and cloves.  I love those! I wanted to see how white chocolate and wasabi would taste.  My friend Mae (thank you ,Ma-e!) said I am good at balancing flavors and talked me through some imagined contrast and textures and what’s possible, after I’ve had her taste my “prototype”.  I’ve made it twice before, tweaked every time.  This time I made two cakes in one –a lemon and white chocolate layer cake.  I folded in chunks of white chocolate in the wasabi (see the green?) laced cake so I can bite into

something almost too sweet (white chocolate tastes like solid chunks of condensed milk) with a zing of wasabi to break the cloy.  The lemon comes “clean” in the end.

 Mae suggested something salty and I thought Nori strips (those dark green, almost black paper thin seaweed wrapped around sushi) baked like pretzels (don’t ask me how hehehe) or crisps you buy at the Japanese store (except I have a moist cake so it would only get mushed) .  Hmmm...why not wasabi, pistachio and nori biscotti dipped in white chocolate? 

When I made the cake, I found it didn’t need salt! White chocolate and wasabi (a lot of it) together tastes sweet and then surprisingly salty – the way more salt in regular chocolate makes it even sweeter! If you use paste, the saltier it gets.  I toned the wasabi down some (Chef D’s words were “lay off the wasabi” hehehe). 

I saved this small cake from a batch I baked August 12 and this has been cooling forever in a Tupperware in the fridge.  I cut it today to see how it held up.  Pretty good!  After it was out for a while (for pictures!), the cake got moist enough for eating.  My dad said it was good, but not “normal” for cake.  It’s like eating pastillas (basic recipe in this link) with wasabi.  I love contrasting tastes.  I like! I just haven’t decided what drink would go with it...or what to call it yet.  Suggestions? : ) 

P.s.  Eating Wasabi – it is an acquired taste,some people aren’t that adventurous.  I am – as long as I am not served brains, innards (save for isaw and tripe) and pets.  Not even pigs and cows I’ve already “met” : )
BTW, wrote this two weeks ago but haven't had a chance to post. 

P.s. 2: Wa sabi is a Tagalog phrase for speechless. Wa is a clipped version of wala which means nothing and sabi means said. Clipped words are just that – shortened as slang, cutting out extra syllables to save your breath (or plain laziness) and for text messaging convenience.  You learn something new everyday ; )


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