Beard Papa's Cream Puffs
Posted 30 March 2005 - 08:43 AM
Shirokiya Department Store
O.K., this has been a real long hiatus, but finally here's something again. And only a few weeks after the fact, which is pretty damn quick for someone like me. So you guys who stood in line foreverto buy exactly 5 (five) double-crusted cream puffs can look back in nostalgia.
This Beard Papa cream puff has apparently become kind of a cult thing in New York, and apparently some similar, on a smaller scale is happening in Honolulu, as this story by Betty Shimabukuro points out. We don't actually have a permanent Beard Papa's in Honolulu; they just crop up every now and then in the food floor of the Shirokiya Department store in Ala Moana Center.
But for whatever reason the line stretched past the Minamoto Kitchoan, the Yoku Moku, and even the Dee-Lite bakery stands. You had to wait for at least half an hour to get your maximum allocation of a single 5-pack of choux pastries per customer. It's Shirokiya's most popular seasonal rotating feature by far. Given that, it seems only a matter of time before they set up a permanent Beard Papa's somewhere around the city.
Anyway, the wife, kids and I waited, and waited, and finally were able to scrouge 2 5-packs, which constituted our dinner. But there's been enough discussion earlier about how the stuff tastes - the vanilla bean specks, the "lightness", and the real contribution of the pie crust. I don't have much to add to this other than the things that make it most distinctive by U.S. standards is simply that it's made from scratch, not mix, and uses real vanilla, yet is available in a takeout context that doesn't require exhorbitant prices. The double-layer shell, I kind of doubt this is the key to the whole thing. The whipped cream / custard mixture - I bet you most Americans would prefer pure custard, but maybe I'm wrong. . .
Since cream puffs are not a Far Eastern exoctica, why hasn't the U.S. developed its own Beard Papa-style establishments long ago? Japanese pastry takeout (even the scandal-plagued Mr. Donut) tends to be somewhat more upscale in general than that of the U.S. One can speculate - but perhaps the most plausible reason is that sweet pastries in Japan occupy a different place in the traditional eating culture. They are less likely to be a grab-and-go breakfast or the ending after a big meal, but something eaten on its own in the afternoon as a leisurely interuption to the work routine. I'm not claiming that contemporary Japanese are going to be sitting down with Beard Papa and sencha in the gardens, but rather that the context of eating pastries still involves, to a greater extent than in the West, or for that matter, even typical Japanese meals, sitting down in one place, enjoying extended conversation, and nibbling slowly on your pastry, whether it be wagashi (Japanese-style sweets) or a cream puff. In such a context, you're more likely to care about the actual taste of what you are eating.
Given this, what seems routine in Japan can seem like a revolutionary idea in the U.S. It seems less likely that Muginoho's other major takeout concepts will take off to quite the same extent. The "Garam to Masala" (sic) kareepan (curry meat bun) is something that is distinctively Indo-Japanese conglomeration and I may simply appear strange to those who were not raised on Japanese-style curry. The "Tio Gluton" cheesecakes may have a better chance, but are playing into a market that already exists in the U.S. (slightly upscale cheesecakes), and may seem too "light" for American tastes. . .
By the way, it took me about three years to realize that shuu kurimu (the Japanese term for cream puffs) had nothing to do with shoes . . .
But anyway, this kind of sloppy musing aside, I thought it would be more interesting to look at the cooking process for the Beard Papaa cream puff, since it's (mostly) done on site and in the open. So here is the obligatory pictoral essay:
The whipped cream is produced in this cool machine. In fact, the process is about as mechanized as you can get for a product that is touted as all-natural. No whisking until their arms fall off, no superfluous drugery. . .
The whisking comes in when they're mixing the custard and whipped cream. She was obviously not that thrilled having me take her picture but stoically decisded to continue going about her business. I can tell you that there were about 10 gallon cartons of Meadow Gold milk sitting on the side - I bet they got it at Costco - local sourcing and all that. The vanilla is supposed to be ground pure Madagascar, and it seems to be brought over from Japan.
O.K., I'm too lazy to rotate the picture. If the shells were made on-site, they had been completed long before the customers started to arrive. So all you could see was the baking process. So small and cute, yeah, the uncooked ones? So you get the super-expansion and hollowing-out of the choux pastry when it's heated. But a question - how do they do this without breaking the pie crust on the outside? I was too ashamed to ask. . .
So you end up with a huge pile of shells. There's actually a sign asking customers not to massage the shells, which is actually really tempting. . .
The squirting process. They do this incredibly fast using a diabolical device that somehow seems to shoot the whipped cream / custard mixture into the shell through a tube that looks much to thin to work. Somehow it doesn't explode and leave the mixture (is there a specific term for this e.g. demi-anglaise?) all over everyone's faces.
The confectioner's sugar is an extremely light coat - I don't know why they bother since it hardly shows once it's in the box.
itsutsu ni narande, shuukurimu shuukurimu. . ..
Enjoy! You can actually eat an entire 5-pack of these without getting too full, though you won't hit all the major food groups.
Former Hawaii Forum Host
Posted 30 March 2005 - 03:45 PM
Thanks for that great report.
I am still waiting for them to open up a branch in my neighborhood.
In Japan, they also have the option of matcha (green tea) flavored cream.
Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"
Posted 30 March 2005 - 05:39 PM
I'm intrigued by the "double crust" and the filling having more whippd cream than custard sounds good to me. (must be my Austrian roots peaking through...)
Does anyone know if there are any in the US besides Hawaii and NYC?
Edited by ludja, 30 March 2005 - 05:41 PM.
-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"
Posted 04 April 2005 - 05:04 AM
I'm glad you got to try the cream puffs at Beard Papa's...finally. I also had some when I was in Singapore. The shop was located in the basement food court at Takashimaya. Funny thing though, there was absolutely no line whatsoever.
I don't know if you saw my original post on Beard Papa's the first time they visited Hawaii back in November, but if not, here's the link.
Posted 08 April 2005 - 02:48 PM
It's hit the suburbs here too--at least the ones with big Japanese populations.
This Beard Papa cream puff has apparently become kind of a cult thing in New York,
Nice nice report. I've yet to eat my first Beard Papa, but plan to seek one out now.
I can't possibly see what's wrong with mixing two such great ingredients together.
The whipped cream / custard mixture - I bet you most Americans would prefer pure custard, but maybe I'm wrong. . .
Maybe I'm not normal anyway. I tend to like the filled Duncan Donut variety with cream better than the custard one anyway, but that could just be because DD custard sucks.
Posted 08 April 2005 - 03:44 PM
My mother and grandmother used to make cream puffs from scratch for special occasions. They were a hands-down favorite with everyone in the family. The puffs had a flakey, shattery shell with moist, eggy interiors. My mom would uncap a little opening in the shell and introduce a spoonful of blueberry compote, then a spoonful of lemon custard. Then she filled the rest of the interior of the puff with whipped cream (don't leave out the whipped cream!). Sweet nirvana. Certainly I would travel far to relive this memory.
Posted 10 April 2005 - 10:43 PM
Some Japanese people of course did speak French, and I noticed that they pronounced shuu kurimu correctly in French, not as it was written. It was a time, I think, when people were beginning to try to pronounce foreign words (including Korean and Chinese) as they might be spoken by the foreign speaker. Japan was notorious for Japanifying Chinese names - that is, using the Japanese readings instead of the Chinese, totally ruining people's names.
There was also a great leap in interest in foreign food. Bagels were available in many department stores - actual bagels! Anyway, just then, darn, we had to leave.
These kind of shuu kurimu were available all over. Near where we lived there was an excellent bakery and their shuu kurimu was quite nice, although I have no way of course to compare them to Shirokiya's. And I doubt that they had the fully automated machinery.
Posted 06 May 2005 - 04:04 PM
Posted 08 May 2005 - 04:44 PM