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September 2011 Art Show Preview: Interview with Jennifer Garrison of Wildlands Bakeshop

September 8, 2011

Wildlands Bake Shop Truffles

If you would like to view the full menu and order some goodies from Wildlands Bake Shop please click here. Revel Alvin recently purchased and recommends the Black Bottom Pecan Tart.

As some of you may have heard through the Revel newsletter, our September 2011 show celebrates the first six months of our show, bringing back six of our favorite artists and musicians. Also returning, is Jenn Garrison, owner of Wildlands Bakeshop. When she donated her sweets to our June show we were delighted by the great amount and types of treats she had ready for us. Little did we know, all of them would be in the bellies of our guests and friends long before the night was over! Here is an interview Revel Alvin did with Jenn regarding her passion for baking while enjoying some suds at Pangaea Brewery.

REVEL: What sets Wildlands apart?

As much as possible I get everything local. I have an egg guy who can deliver to me, most of my stuff I get from farmer markets or from really high-quality sources. However, that aside,  I have these science degrees, and everyone says baking is chemistry, and it is! If you can understand that chemistry you can create stuff that’s outside of the norm.

Now that you know the rules, you know how you can bend them.

I can look at a recipe, and sometimes you just have to try it flat out, and other times you can tweak if you know what each ingredient is doing in the recipe. So, I just made this zucchini coconut bread, kind of tastes heavy, kind of tastes green. I ended up adding flaked coconut and coconut cream, did some alterations to ratios, ended up with a white cake that looks more like a pound cake, high, flavorful, with this flavor you may not point out as coconut; it’s just really lush. Stuff like that, to me it’s easy.

But ultimately,  we live these really busy lives, and we never seems to treat ourselves to sweet — one of my taglines is “Everday Goodness and Special Occasions” I like to provide things for people that’s a little decadent a little lush, add something sweet, truly sweet to their day.

Have you found that the more experimental, “bending the rules” recipes sell better or is it more of the comfort sweets?

Some of it is definitely comfort. For the longest time people would give me recipes from their moms, their aunts, their great-grandmothers. In those there’s no guarantees how it’s going to turn out, there’s a bit of that.

Last Thanksgiving I made something like 100 pumpkin pies. My take is a pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate ganache on the top. That’s my version — some people like that, some people don’t.  My Mexican hot chocolate brownies, I made it for people who love that spice, it’s one of my best selling items. So I think people do like the “thinking outside of the box.”

But people can be picky also, you have to state things you neverthought you had to state. Like, “my brownies are more fudgey gooey, than cakey.”

[Laughs]

 There are very firm camps.

No! You have to have the gooey ones! Cakey is no fun, it’s just dry.

My brownies if you pull them apart you can see the sugar strings. I no longer buy brown sugar. I make my own, depending on the recipe I have four different brown sugars (also 3 different cinnamons, Sri Lankan, Chinese, Standard). I have a special molasses I get from the deep south, the same that my grandmother and great-grandmother used to use and based on that and different sugar ratios I make my own brown sugar.

It’s like a savory cook and salts.

Yes!

It does really adds something. I’ve made a bunch of different truffles, especially near Christmas. I go after high quality boozes like Four Roses Bourbon and it’s mostly because I was traveling along the bourbon trail with my sister and we came across it. We had never heard of it so we stopped in, and it had such an amazing flavor, this had hints of vanilla and oak. 

I also make one truffle that I take crystallized ginger and let it sit in the cream overnight.Ernest Hemingway had a drink he loved called the Dark and Stormy and this truffle is based on that. The truffle is a hit of rum, a hint of ginger, I toss it in very fine almonds — I can’t keep those in stock. A lot of things I make have some sort of sentimentality base. I’m inspired by my friends, my neighborhood, my travels.

 

What does baking mean to you, how did you start getting interested in it, or when did you take it from an occasional thing, but really develop it and make your own mark.

One of my jobs in college was to work as a night baker for a restaurant, so I made 10 different types of bread, cheesecake, and cookies. It would be late at night, the music would be on — no one would be there. Quiet. It was the only true quiet I would get in my day — there was something about that.

Fast forward a few years, I would ask people what they would want for their birthdays. I baked for friends and family, and a year ago, last Thanksgiving I heard loaves and fishes needed donations, so I posted on facebook that I was going to take orders on pie. I asked “who wants pies,” listed six, and said “get your orders in now.” I received 200 some orders, so (1) it was profitable, but (2) I was able to use the profits to donate about 70 pies to loaves and fishes. And that was the impetus for all of this. Then people started to ask for stuff!

Is there a receipe that’s special for you?

I made these cupcakes for friends of mine, based on ones I made in a dream. I used bulted salted caramel and put it in each cupcake and put old school cocoa frosting on them.

Each time I write a recipe, I share a recipe (on her website), there’s a story behind it. The story is what makes those recipes special to me. But ultimately it’s the process of baking and providing something — when people reflect give feedback that it’s a big deal to them, that they enjoed it, it means a lot to me. Cooking for me is like the one true me time. When the business gets really going, people are always over, they come and hang out…it reminds me of college. They’ll bring magazines or we’ll set up the Scrabble board, it definitely becomes more communal. I want the same feeling when I open up my own place.

Why Sacramento?

It’s hard to get into a groove to figure out why we live here, a lot of people they don’t want to be here, it’s a stopping point for them. You’re going to have to tie me up, bind me, gag me, throw me in a trunk of a car to get me to leave this town. I love this town. And it’s not because it’s “amazing and wonderful” – it’s because Gunther’s has been in business for since 1940. It’s because you can hit Fox & Goose for trivia night. It’s Magpies, it’s because it’s bike friendly. There are really good people in this town. I could live anywhere, but I truly truly choose to live here.

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