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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Korea Roundup 2011: Korean Bakeries, You've Come a Long Way

There is one thing I didn't expect to get completely and hopelessly addicted to in Korea -- anything produced by the venerable Paris Croissant bakery (it doesn't have an English website. Interestingly, it has a baking academy. Here's the Korean website.). Mind you, this isn't the ubiquitous Paris Baguette (same owner) you could even find in LA, which is nothing special. We're talking about the upscale version of Paris Baguette that has all sorts of mouth-watering pastries that I still day-dream about.

The first one doesn't look particularly appealing, I know. But it's a genius combination of two of my favorite breads -- soboru pang, is a classic bun with a sweet and crumbly crust added on top and pat pang, a bun with red bean paste filling. Who woulda thunk it, seriously?! When I saw "soboru pat pang" being sold at Paris Croissant and other bakeries, it was one of those 'I can't believe no one's thought of that before now' moments.

Then I perused and tried other pastries like the cherry tart, whose outer shell was flaky and crispy, with a light custard in the center topped with some real cherries. None of that gross fuchsia ones used in cocktails and cheap parfaits (you know what I'm talking about). It wasn't overly sweet and yet the crust, custard and cherries all complemented each others' flavors and textures so well.

The large, round apple tart with some raisins thrown in was divine in the same way. The little pod-like breads were filled with excellent quality, pitted manzanilla-type Spanish olives that would be perfect with wine as appetizers before a meal or just munchies at a cocktail.

All of these were washed down with a heartwarming grapefruit tea full of freshly squeezed pulp -- perfect for that vitamin boost you need in the winter.

Then there were cream puffs. I've always been a huge fan of Beard Papa, but these were excellent in their own way. The puffs were as, well, puffy and fresh as BP. They differed most in their custard filling. BP has more of a yellow-toned custard that's creamier than this one, which was creamy but closer to a whiter-toned custard and closer to a good whipping cream than custard. I didn't think I'd like it judging by the color and texture but I did.

Ah, I predict a rant in the near future about a lack of Paris Croissants in LA! Paris Baguette just doesn't cut it. I just heard about Cream Pan in Tustin that allegedly makes the best strawberry croissants and I can't wait to trek out there to try them. Also, must visit the new Bouchon Bakery in BH.

Korean bakeries have come a very long way and now I can't get enough. Oh, the apple turnover with sugar sprinkled on top wasn't good because of the sugar. Apple turnovers should be left alone. They don't need to be sprinkled with sugar. The filling was good but they should NOT sprinkle any sugar!

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