After the JAQK Cellars wine tasting at Bacchus, I was craving a cream puff from Beard Papa's, maker of these amazing cream puffs of Japanese origin. I had recently discovered that the Beard Papa counter at Cafe Zaiya, a Japanese bakery and café, had closed shop back in 2009, and the only other location I knew that carried these awesome pastries was near the Greenwich Village, which again to my dismay, had been closed also! So I pulled out my trusty smartphone, crossing my fingers that there was still a place in Manhattan that sold them. Luckily, I was able to find an actual Beard Papa's, and an added plus was that it was also located in the Upper West Side, a few blocks north of Bacchus Wines!
Beard Papa's "Fresh'n Natural Cream Puffs" café!
Known as the bakery of the "world's best cream puffs," Beard Papa's began in a small store in Osaka, Japan back in 1999. Since then, Beard Papa's has expanded worldwide, throughout Japan, China, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Thailand, the Philippines, Tahiti, Malaysia, Russia, Canada, and here in the United States. I remember a family friend taking me to Sogo, a Japanese department store in Hong Kong, to the Beard Papa counter during my visit there, and there was a crazy long line!
Beard Papa's offers five types of shells, detailed above. I went with the eclair puff and the original cream puff. As for custard, they offered original vanilla as well as green tea, which was the flavor of the day. I just went with the original vanilla for simplicity.
The original shells (for both the regular cream puff and the eclair puff) are made from a pie-crust outer shell enveloping an inner shell made from French choux pastry, i.e., a light pastry dough that contains only butter, water, eggs, and flour and employs high moisture content to create steam during cooking to "puff" the pastry. Per Beard Papa's website, this patented, two-layer pastry recipe creates a unique crunchy and spongy combination." All shells are baked fresh daily. The only difference with the eclair puff shells are the obvious--it has a dark chocolate top layer, emulating a French éclair. The eclair puff shells are refrigerated and brought out only when ordered.
The counter attendants use the above contraption to pump in Beard Papa's original vanilla whipped cream custard, which takes over two hours to prepare. They blend the custard in several steps and whip cream directly into the custard just before the cream puffs are served. This detailed process creates a "delightful, fluffy texture and a fancicul marbled appearance" of the custard. The vanilla flavor within the custard is made with all natural ingredients and is made from the highest quality, imported vanilla bean grains available.
My goody bag from Beard Papa's!
Here is the eclair puff, with a generous amount of dark chocolate for its top layer!
The eclair puff was absolutely scrumptious! The choux pastry shell was crunchy and in tact (not at all soggy from the custard). The dark chocolate top layer was hardened from being refrigerated (adding a nice texture and bite) and had a balanced richness and bittersweet flavor, meshing really well with the pastry shell (like the way Nutella does successfully on toasted bread) and the custard. The custard was light, creamy, and very aromatic with vanilla. In fact, you can see the black vanilla beans right in the custard! I saved the original cream puff for breakfast the next morning, so it isn't pictured here.
Findings: I think I have fallen in love with the eclair pastry, more than I already have with the original cream puff. Unlike the traditional French dessert, Beard Papa's take on the éclair arguably works better than ones I've had before. Its patented two-layer pastry shell does wonders for lightness and crunch, and the dark chocolate used to top the pastry is quality chocolate, making a huge difference! If you don't want something overly rich, but rather something a tad bit sweet to end your night, the original cream puff will fulfill that for you! With either cream puff, it'll be filling, but not super filling as a normal-sized cupcake. Even as an afternoon snack between meals, Beard Papa's is the way to go. I'm looking forward to my next visit, when I will want to try the other pastry shells to see how they fare against the original choux pastry shell.
Price point: $2.10 for an eclair puff, $1.95 for an original cream puff.
--March 18, 2011
New York, NY 10024