The secret to baking is all about timing.
STORY BY CHAD WALSH
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF MIO’S DELECTABLES
If you’re wondering why the pastries by Mio’s Delectables are so darn pretty, it’s because the woman behind this small Farmers Market–based business, Mio Asaka, was a graphic designer in her previous life.
While still living in Tokyo, Mio decided to switch careers by trading in her laptop for an apron and going to work in kitchens. That experience paved the way for her plum baking role at one of Portland’s best bakeries, Hillsdale’s Baker & Spice, after she immigrated to the U.S. From her perch in the kitchen, she laminated, mixed, and frosted her way along this new career path for two and a half years before she realized that something was missing.
“I loved to work in other bakeries, but I didn’t have a chance to make my own things,” Mio says. “I left so I could make my things with my own style.”
That style — a marriage of French technique and Japanese simplicity — has proved to be a winner with the farmers market crowd.
At first, Mio offered only a few treats: small seasonal tarts and shortbread cookies. But when her first customers became her loyal customers, she broadened her repertoire to include Instagram-worthy galettes, puddings, quiches, and New York–style cheesecakes that taste as good as they look.
Mio and her helpers bake at her commercially approved home kitchen, but the Shemanski Park and PSU farmers markets are her grocery stores, where she buys — and sometimes trades for — fruits, vegetables, and edible flowers.
“I think it’s very important that you have good ingredients, but I think the secret to baking is all about timing,” Mio says. The recipe for good baked goods, she adds, is a process of precise measurements, technique, and knowing when something is ready to come out of the oven — mixed in with a lot of hurry up and wait.
But what sets Mio’s Delectables apart from its competitors is Mio’s attention to detail — just browse the gallery on her website, and you’ll see how seriously she takes it — and the small amount of sugar she uses.
When she first arrived in the States, Mio was perplexed at how sweet American desserts are. “I want you to be able to taste all the ingredients in it,” she says, whether that’s fresh fruit, green tea, or garnishes like basil or mint. She just wasn’t sure that we’d buy it. And then something dispelled those doubts.
When the idea for Mio’s was still at a simmer, Mio decided to take a tasting trip to San Francisco. While there, she decided to eat at least one meal at Alice Waters’s famed Chez Panisse.
“I ordered a galette,” Mio says — a very good galette. “It was so good, I cried. I said, ‘My level of sweetness … I’m okay. I don’t need to put in more sugar.’”
Waters’s kitchen staff, she adds, let all the different flavors in the galette breathe, which gave Mio permission to do the same.
You can find — and taste — Mio’s Delectables at the Wednesday Shemanski Farmers Market in the spring, summer, and fall, and at the PSU Farmers Market all year long.
Chad Walsh is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon. He contributes to Eater PDX and writes for other publications, like Edible Portland.