White Wolf Japanese Patisserie blends French technique with Japanese simplicity

Yakisoba pan.
Yakisoba pan.

Detroit is establishing itself as a bakery town. Within the span of several years, the list of its excellent bakeries has grown from a few old-school mainstays like Avalon to include spots like Warda Pâtisserie, Ochre Bakery, and Cannelle, among a handful of new Avalon expansions.

This summer, another joined their ranks. How does a new baker carve out a space for themselves in this market?

Doran Brooks, president of White Wolf Japanese Patisserie, Clawson's new bakery that's under the same ownership as neighboring Noble Fish, seems to have an idea. The modern bakery he opened blends French technique with Japanese appreciation of simple, high-quality ingredients to create a concept that's original in town.

Brooks's résumé is also filled with top restaurants like New York's Morimoto, and Boston's and Silicon Valley's Four Seasons, and he isn't just baking a few pastries and breads. In the mix are plated desserts that would be at home at a white-linen establishment.

One good example of that is the multilayered, rich tiramisu, which Brooks has spent years honing. He says there are two schools of thought when it comes to tiramisu: one that calls for the flavors to be melded together and another that calls for everything to be broken up into distinct, individual layers that can be tasted separately.

White Wolf''s excellent tiramisu is the latter. It's housed on a foundation of cocoa shortbread that's pressed into a mold and baked, then topped with a layer of rich Italian mascarpone custard. That's made with milk, egg yolks, and sugar, and is cooked with vanilla until it turns into a thick, creamy custard, which is then folded in with the mascarpone. That's topped with housemade ladyfinger soaked in a mix of cold brew, spiced rum, simple syrup, and vanilla. The ladyfinger is topped with a cocoa ganache layer, which sits under a layer of high-fat Guernsey chantilly that White Wolf slowly whips to get a silky smooth texture. Once that's filled in, the package is set in a white miraglaze. Epic.

But while the plated desserts are awesome, there's range in the menu. Among the best savory dishes is the yakisoba pan, which is essentially a noodle sandwich. The deeply flavorful buckwheat noodles are done in a yakisoba sauce that's sweet and sour and partly flavored from pickled ginger and tomatoes, as well as sesame seeds. The noodles are tangled with small shreds of cabbage and carrots, and the mix is served on a long, soft Japanese milk bread bun. It's a light and pretty package.

The katsu sandwich comes with a tenderized pork cutlet that's fried with Japanese panko crumbs, then set between two pieces of slightly sweet shokupan bread with pickled red cabbage, Japanese mayo, and katsu sauce — a rich and slightly sweet umami-laden sauce made with soy and tomato. The tamago sandwich arrives with shokupan bread holding a Japanese curried egg salad with lettuce and thin-sliced Japanese cucumber that provide just enough crunch.

White Wolf also uses a rich, robust curry in the curry pan, a soft nugget that's deep-fried and covered in crunchy panko. The curry filling is composed of carrots, potatoes, and onions that are roasted in thick Japanese curry and veggie stock and cooked down to make it thick and strong — it's one of several vegetarian packages at White Wolf, and one of its most popular items. A similar dish is a soft and slightly sweet Japanese kashi bread encasing gooey gruyere and thick-cut applewood bacon.

click to enlarge Raspberry Chiffon. - Tom Perkins
Tom Perkins
Raspberry Chiffon.

Back on the sweet side, the chocolate raspberry chiffon cake is much simpler than the tiramisu. It's what Brooks characterizes as an "old school" Japanese chiffon made with fresh raspberry folded into the whipped Guernsey chantilly. Brooks says it's a good example of simple ingredients doing the talking. Matcha azuki Swiss roll is made with a traditional Japanese chiffon cake and matcha tea powder from Birmingham's Eli Tea. That's rolled with coarse red bean paste mixed with chantilly.

White Wolf also offers a range of breads, including a focaccia that's a bit more dense than some with a beautiful, simple flavor from the olive oil, oregano, and salt. The coffee program revolves around beans from Ferndale's awesome White Pine Coffee, though White Wolf also selects other coffees that Brooks is excited about for pour-overs.

If the bakery is indeed successful, then we could see a lot more of White Wolf. Brooks says this is a trial run, and they may grow the brand into a local chain. Hopefully it's a success, as easier access to that tiramisu can only be a good thing.

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