Ode To Abu

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Baker Brigade - JoAnne Saldanha

JoAnne Saldanha
Jo Jo with the MOJO is how I’d like to refer to this home-baker! A typical Bandra babe, she has all the spunk and sass that comes from being a Bombayite. Confident, chatty and charming, JoAnne Saldanha a.k.a. Jo is a Montessori school teacher in Chennai, for students of Class II-VI. Her primary ‘audience’ mostly consists of a group of 6-12 year olds who hang on to her every word. JoAnne is basically a professional storyteller. She links stories from world mythology and folklore and weaves it into the curriculum.

Contrary to what almost every baker says these days, for JoAnne, storytelling is her passion -- work that gives her immense joy and satisfaction. She says, “Working with elementary age children, I thrive on their enthusiasm, eagerness, receptiveness and imagination. I share this passion in teacher and parent workshops as well.”

Back in Bombay, and growing up in a family that thrives on food, JoAnne was constantly surrounded by food-related discussions. The knowledge she gained inadvertently, and as she interestingly puts it – “absorbed by osmosis”, automatically steered her into studying Hotel Management. Food and stories get her ‘mojo’ going and she has blended the two interests on her blog.

After moving to Chennai post marriage, JoAnne took a break from food and baking. Despite having been a professional wedding cake maker, she did not find herself as enthused to taking orders as before, having spent so much time in the food and catering business.

After her two little kids came along, JoAnne realized her days in the kitchen were now filled with ideas on cooking and baking healthy and nutritional tuck. She began experimenting with organic ingredients and altered her tried and tested recipes. She incorporated the use of whole grain flours, unbleached or natural sugars, organic cocoa, organic butter and organic fruits, veggies, nuts and dried fruits into most of the kids’ meals. The results were nutritious and healthy. The kids loved them, as did their friends, and Mom JoAnne was graded a 100/100 on the mommy report card!

Wholewheat Citrussy Date & Walnut Muffins

Her friends loved the goodies as much as well, and soon she found herself generously giving them away. Next thing she knew her neighbours and their friends chimed in with baking requests and orders. With over 22 years of serious baking experience behind her, JoAnne finally decided to set up a baking biz and aptly christened it MOJO - Mostly Organic by Jo. She worked out a menu that focused on delicious healthy and indulgent baked items and desserts. The former is called 'Naturally MOJO' and the latter half of the menu is termed 'Indulgently MOJO'.

Sourcing organic produce once a week, JoAnne generally bakes two items once a week. She informs those listed with her of the available baked items she plans on making that week. Her customers can choose to order as much or as little of the items as they wish. The only request and requirement is that they pick it up from her directly.

There are a couple of things unique to JoAnne vis-à-vis the home-bakers and other participants of the Baker Showcases. She has a wealth of baking and cooking knowledge, practice, and experience to her credit -- 22 years to be precise, and as she puts it "plenty amateurishly even before that!". Her strength lies in the fact that she makes most of her own ingredients and painstakingly sources and uses only the best organic produce in her recipes. She bottles her own plum preserve using fresh plums. She also makes dulce de leche from scratch, with fresh milk and flavoured with real vanilla bean, and simmered for over 3 hours! She prefers doing this to using condensed milk. She also does not use frosting (the current trend amongst most bakers & bakeries today) for any of her baked goodies. All of the above place her in a ‘school’ apart from most other bakers for having the patience and the passion towards her creations.

Home-made Organic Plum Preserve

Whole wheat flour, brown sugar, organic maida/butter, organic oil, lots of fruits and veggies, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, organic cocoa powder, and dried fruits and nuts occupy pride of place in JoAnne’s kitchen. She uses them in all her cookies, biscottis, and muffins. I’m curious about her pumpkin muffins that I’ve been hearing about…she says the seeds create a texture that enhance their flavour. Looks like our taste buds are in for a treat!

Some of the items we can look forward to from JoAnne’s table are pinacolada muffins, home-made plum preserve-based flapjacks, mixed dry fruit and nut oatmeal cookies, brownies, apple and caramel bars, and pear and chocolate yoghurt mini loaves. Phew!! Quite a list, isn’t it?

Passionfruit Cake

Currently, JoAnne does not take orders as she is busy juggling schoolwork and workshops, but she is open to it if time permits. My prediction is that all this is gonna change, and how, post the 2nd Baker Showcase this Saturday, October 13th!! J

JoAnne's Blog

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