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Dessert masterclass: Learn from pastry chef Janice Wong

She makes edible orchids that glow in the dark. We get cooking advice from Janice Wong, ‘Asia’s Best Pastry Chef’.

art and culture Updated: Aug 29, 2015 14:09 IST
Poorva Joshi
Poorva Joshi
Hindustan Times
HT48Hours

Janice Wong - 'Asia's Best Pastry Chef'

Titled Asia’s Best Pastry Chef two years in a row (2013 and 2014, by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards), Janice Wong is known for her edible art installations — the latest one being glow-in-the-dark, edible orchids at the Orchard Central, Singapore. She has a cooking studio Wisk by Cakesmiths in Mumbai's Kala Ghoda.

During her recent visit to the city, we caught up with her to speak about her baking philosophy and her take on the global dessert trends.

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Whisk by Cakesmiths, Kala Ghoda (Photos by: Arijit Sen/HT).

The rules of baking: “There are no rules to baking (laughs). I am an easy-going person. My philosophy is to simply go with the flow and make the most of the ingredients that are available. The key to baking, however, is to have a clear mind, be organised and precise with what you are doing.”

Common baking mistakes: “Following the recipes to a T is the biggest mistake people make, specially while baking. It’s a very delicate process. So, instinct matters. Another mistake is throwing away things that are burnt or over-baked. One can use over-baked batter as crumble.”

Next big thing in desserts: “Art through food is booming in cities across the world, from Berlin to Hong Kong, and even Mumbai. Cooking is an art, it is the creation of something unique. A lot of effort goes into conceptualising and designing the food. Also, I believe digital media has become an integral part of this process. Instagram, in particular, has been instrumental in widely showcasing edible art.”

Five must-have desserts around the world: “Pastries in France, the classic tiramisu in Italy (my personal favourite) and Churros in Spain. I think the tangy popsicle (kala khatta) you get in India is interesting. As is the Gulab Jamun.”

Desserts versus Indian mithai: “I believe in working with whatever ingredients are available in a country. Here, I went out into the markets and tried native Indian products. There are many wonderful desserts here that need to be showcased before experimenting with international cuisines.”

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Wong's edible orchid installation at Orchard Central, Singapore.

Wong’s edible art installations
At her recent edible art show (at Orchard Central, Singapore) she installed edible orchid flowers that glowed in the dark (see image left). The 3,000 flowers took a record six weeks to finish.

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The instllation was glow-in-the-dark.

5 baking tips for home-chefs:

Baking is about precision. One needs to be organised while baking. Otherwise there is a lot of chaos and that spoils everything.

Set a plan and be particular about it. Baking often requires you to pair flavours, for instance, chocolate and peanut butter, or chocolate and mango curry. But to finalise the flavours, one requires a lot of pre-planning.

Ensure your kitchen is organised according to your needs. The appliances, ingredients and all other apparatus should be set up in a way that adds to your flow of baking.

Store your ingredients in the order you use. Label your containers, mention the expiry date in bold so you can see it clearly.

Most importantly, recognise and understand the ingredients. Know the ingredient’s exact function in the process of baking.

Recipes by Janice Wong

GUAVA cloud, Mango cardamom sorbet, Plum pate de fruit, Sweet milk gelee, Sweet milk sauce, Thyme snow, hibiscus sauce

GUAVA CLOUD
Ingredients:

250g guava puree
5 gelatin sheets

Method:
Soak the gelatin into cold water, squeeze dry.
Heat 100g puree. Add gelatin
Mix with the rest of the mixture. Then charge into a siphon chill until it sets into 1 whole block.
Pipe mixture into a mould
Freeze and unmould

MANGO CARDAMOM SORBET

Ingredients:
250g Mango puree
1g stabilizer
15g sugar
20g trimoline
1g Pectin NH
5g Cardamom

Method:
Combine sugar, pectin and stabilizer.
Heat up puree and trimoline and cardamom
Stir in sugar pectin mixture into the puree
Sieve.

PLUMPATEDE FRUIT

Ingredients:
Plum sauce
50g Asian plum powder
100g water
100g Asian plum sauce
3.2g pectin
25g sugar
50g sugar
18.75g glucose
2g citric

Method:
Heat up puree
Whisk in pectin and sugar
Bring it to a boil
Add in sugar and glucose. Boil until 107 degrees
Add in citric acid
Leave it to set

THYMES NOW

Ingredients:
10g malto dextrine
2g thyme oil

Method:
Combine thyme oil gradually to maltodextrine and continue whisking.

SWEET MILK GELEE

Ingredients:
40g sweet milk
16ml cream
46ml milk
2 gelatin sheets

Method:
Soak the gelatin into cold water, squeeze dry.
Combine the cream, milk and sweet milk into a pot. Cook over low heat
Dissolve the gelatin into the above mixture
Pour into moulds, let set in the refrigerator

SWEET MILK SAUCE

Ingredients:
60g sweet milk
25ml milk
20g glucose
1g agar

Method:
Mix all ingredients together in a pot. Put it over low heat and strain

HIBISCUS GEL

Ingredients:
115ml Hibiscus liquid
100g glucose
25g trimoline
2.5g agar

Method:
Mix all ingredients together over heat
Blend
Sieve and reserve in a squeeze bottle in the refrigerator