Monday June 13, 2011

I Love it When You Call Me Beard Papa

No country holds the humble pastry in higher esteem than Japan. Say what you will of France; Japan boasts unmatched appreciation for pâtisserie. From relatively obscure treats like Mont Blanc to ubiquitous macarons, the average Japanese teenager knows Team Pastry’s roster better than most culinary school graduates.

So leave it to Japan, better known for technological innovation, to improve upon pâte à choux (the pastry-Zeus from which cream puffs and éclairs spring forth). I refer, of course, to ビアードパパ. Beard Papa's Pipin’ Hot Cream Puffs truly up the ante, encasing each puff in a layer of pie dough to create a uniquely crisp and delicious pastry hybrid.

Beard Papa's style cream puff with custard and rhubarb

On a strictly epicurean level, Beard Papa’s puffs are completely forgettable. The first time I had one in Tokyo, I took a single bite before throwing the rest away. Perfectly tasty, but I didn’t want to blow my day’s caloric budget on something as pedestrian as a cream puff. Beard Papa’s deliciousness has more to do with the fact that they’re filled à la minute than any pastry trickery. The idea of a double crusted cream puff, on the other hand, was unforgettable.

The English language version of the story simply describes Beard Papa’s innovation as a cream puff wrapped in pie dough. It sounds so easy. But I can assure you from experience, one can’t recreate the lightness of those cream puffs by merely wrapping pâte à choux in pie dough.

As I gazed at Beard Papa’s jolly Santa Claus-like visage, I began to wonder. Did he affect that benevolent demeanor to hide a dark secret?

double layered pate a choux with elderflower custard

I put on my deerstalker hat and lit my pipe.

What if Beard Papa wanted, at all cost, to hide his cream puff secret? Yet, what if he simultaneously wanted to appear forthcoming by offering frank “explanations” of that very same secret? Fellow beard sporting, Japanese food serviceman Col. Sanders, would never discuss his chicken secret with such candor. So why would Beard Papa?

What if, instead of giving us the answer we sought, he gave us a red herring? What if he engaged in a plot to deliberately mislead consumers? Under this new hypothesis, I deduced the true nature of the Cream Puff Conundrum had nothing to do with pie dough. That, in fact, the answer lay in the exact opposite direction.

And what substance could embody the elementary opposite of pie dough, my dear Watson?

Cake batter, of course.

Anyone who’s made a butter cake before, whether a pound or layer cake, will have noticed its golden brown crust. What if this crust enveloped a cream puff, rather than a tender bite of cake?

To answer this question, I made a batch of pâte à choux and brushed each generously with cake batter before baking.

The result? Puffs that baked up as fluffy and crisp as the classic should, but with a secondary layer of buttery crunch fused to their shells.

profiteroles with lemongrass poached rhubarb and st-germain pastry cream

I still can’t say that I’ve entirely cracked the Beard Papa’s code, but I think I’ve made good progress and perhaps discovered a whole new pastry at the same time. The addition of a cake-wash causes the puffs to take on a deep, golden brown color and an intriguingly textured surface. Like a Beard Papa’s cream puff, they have a double layered shell, but a unique golden hue all their own.

The cake batter exoskeleton doesn’t distract from the flavor of the finished dessert, but offers an intriguing variation for those wanting to recreate a little bit of Beard Papa’s at home. Even if you’ve never had a cream puff from Beard Papa’s, this recipe offers a unique spin on the classic French pâte à choux.

For those merely interested in a simple profiterole, these St-Germain cream puffs with lemongrass poached rhubarb taste just as good with a traditional shell or a Beard Papa’s double crust.

The aromatic lemongrass balances rhubarb’s naturally tart acidity while the elusive flavor of St-Germain lends a floral sweetness to the whole. I think this is one of the girliest desserts I’ve ever made. Delicate, pretty in pink, scented with flowers and lush with vanilla.

Maybe not a flavor you’d ever find at Beard Papa’s, but one worth enjoying while you can still find spring rhubarb in every farmers’ market.

lemongrass poached rhubarb profiteroles with st germain custard

Many thanks again to Victor Sizemore for dropping by the restaurant and taking so many dreamy pictures for me. I especially love the last one, which shows off the golden brown cake-layer and the paler pâte à choux layer quite nicely.

For those who read the blog regularly, you’ll undoubtedly notice this is the third rhubarb-centric post photographed by Victor. Coincidence, or does Victor make himself more available for rhubarb? We’ll find out as rhubarb season draws to a close…

Here’s what you’ll need to make these at home:

Pâte à Choux or Beard Papa's Stype Pâte à Choux

St-Germain Pastry Cream

Lemongrass poached Rhubarb

posted byStellaand filed under:  Fruit  Vanilla  Victor Sizemore

34 comments and counting

Jun 13, 2011 · 10:16 AM

Wow. This is brilliant, Stella. Choux pastry with the cake batter? I have to try this! Love the beautiful rhubarb touch, too – and the photos are stunning. Couldn’t agree more about the Japanese. Haven’t been to Japan (something I have to correct) but my favourite patisserie in Paris around the corner from work was a Japanese pâtisserie. They sure knew how to make the best croissants!

 · Jill Colonna ·

Jun 13, 2011 · 10:45 AM

GENIUS! how very clever.

 · Swee San ·

Jun 13, 2011 ·  1:02 PM

Looks incredible. Plus I am a rhubarb hound. Thanks for the killer ideas.

 · KitchenCru ·

Jun 13, 2011 ·  1:13 PM

This looks awesome-love the explanation of how you arrived at making these. Thanks so much for sharing!

 · Tina@flourtrader ·

Jun 13, 2011 ·  1:55 PM

Beautifully plated! I know I’ve said it time and time again, and I hope I don’t sound like a creeper, but I love how creative you are. I never ever ever would have thought to use cake batter as a wash. You’re awesome!

Also, Mr. Sizemore takes lovely photos. As much of a treat to see as the puffs themselves

 · kaitlin ·

Jun 13, 2011 ·  9:58 PM

The title of this post makes me love you 20 zillion times more than I already did. And just when I thought I’d never make p.a.c. Ever again, you come up with a way to make it interesting. You are my pastry hero!

 · Mallowsota · 

Jun 13, 2011 · 10:32 PM

@Jill, the Japanese have such an incredible attention to detail. In all my time in Japan, I never saw a sloppy pastry. Well, if you need a translator for your hypothetical future trip, think of me.

@Swee San, haha, I knew you’d be excited!

@KitchenCru, I should get some savory rhubarb ideas from you, I am totally lost when it comes to things not involving vanilla and sugar.

@Tina, that Beard Papa is crazy like a fox. Had to use all my pastry wiles to outsmart him!

@kaitlin, as someone who’s actually had a creepy stalker, let me just say I would be thrilled to have had you instead. Get all creepers on it. JK. Isn’t Victor amazing?

@Mallowsota, I love you to infinity plus 12 already. I came up with another pastry/hip hop reference today. “They see me rollin/ my pastry/ profiterolling / they tryin to catch me bakin’ purty.” Or something like that. Haven’t worked out the kinks yet.


Jun 14, 2011 ·  3:59 AM

I’m with Mallowsota on this one! But I’m also glad you stopped the Holmes analogy before you got to playing the fiddle and the whole injecting bit! LOL

I’m still searching for St Germain, no luck yet here in the outer reaches of the globe.

In all the mucking about with crusting choux, you might find this of interest – a sable crust. Looks great, not sure what it tastes like. Friends wax lyrical about but I’ve not tried it. x

 · Chocolate Chilli Mango ·

Jun 14, 2011 ·  4:08 AM

I love Beard Papa! I’ve had them in Korea and New York, and they never disappoint. Thanks for sharing the secret to their pate a choux…that sounds really hard to encase that batter with pie crust, there must be another trick to it. But cake batter! Would never have thought to use it as an egg wash alternative.

 · Jessica ·

Jun 14, 2011 ·  9:43 AM

Hi Stella – these look absolutely AMAZING!!! Love your blog and your writing style – I keep coming back for more!! ps – thanks for checking out my post on your Swiss Buttercream – I’m pretty sure I didn’t let it cool long enough – I will definitely try it again

 · Kelly Neil ·

Jun 14, 2011 ·  6:57 PM

@Viviane, hahaha, you had me laughing so hard with that comment.Try tweeting at @StGermainDrinks, they might be able to help you find some!

@Jessica, I will have to post on my other attempts (wrapping the puffs in dough) which were successful too. I’m still not quite there, but this is definitely a case where the journey is as much fun as the destination. Beard Papa’s Forever!!

@Kelly, wow, thanks so much! Your photography is so stinkin’ dreamy, I can’t take it. SMBC will definitely bite you in the butt if it’s too warm when the butter goes in, or if the meringue and butter are both too cold. You definitely have to wait for the “Goldilocks Zone” when the meringue is cool and the butter’s soft. Keep me posted if you try it out again.


Jun 15, 2011 ·  1:44 PM

Savory rhubarb stuff I have done:
Poach until soft, puree well in foodpro, put back over heat and add lots of butter and a little salt. Pass through strainer. Use as sauce for fish. BTW mix poaching liquid with syrup and soda for cooler, or create a cocktail.

Spiced rhubarb bread & butter pickles. ‘Nuff said.

Add rhubarb to stews as part of mirepoix, works especially well with pork and chicken.

Add rhubarb to fish cooked en papillote, matches well with saffron and mint, believe it or not.

Rhubarb vinaigrette

Rhubarb glaze for lamb, poultry, fish


 · KitchenCru ·

Jun 16, 2011 · 10:56 AM

My mind is blown. I need to come to PDX for an apprenticeship. When it comes to the savory side, I can execute all the techniques perfectly well, but somehow I have negative creativity. I’m like “Okay, I will roast a chicken with salt and pepper and serve some Parmesan risotto on the side!”

It’s not that I like eating super plain and simple things, it’s just that PUTTING RHUBARB IN MIREPOIX WOULD NEVER OCCUR TO ME!!!

You’re a splendid person. I think I love you.


Jun 16, 2011 · 12:21 PM

Did the pastry stays crunchy the next day? I have eaten bread papa and it tasted so delicious!

 · Jeannie ·

Jun 18, 2011 ·  9:10 AM

Come visit us any time! I know we could learn a thing are two as well

 · KitchenCru ·

Jun 18, 2011 ·  1:49 PM

@Jeannie, of course, if you fill the pastry, it won’t retain its crispness for a whole day. But unfilled, they’ll keep crisp for a week or more, if stored in an airtight container.

@Kitchen Cru, consider it a date!


Jun 30, 2011 · 11:37 AM

Alchemy! Fraud!

 · Chefjames · 

Jun 30, 2011 ·  8:59 PM

@ChefJames, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, dear. What do you think “melty non-dairy cheese” is, if not alchemy?


Jul 07, 2011 · 12:09 AM

Makes me wonder if they got the idea from Tempura. A variation of Tempura cream puffs?

 · beth · 

Jul 07, 2011 · 11:07 AM

@Beth, that is a brilliant idea!! I will do a battered version soon; I’ll email you whenever I get to it. Genius.


Apr 17, 2012 ·  8:30 PM

Hello again Stella! So, I just got an awesome book (Grand Finales – Neoclassical Desserts) and guess what I found there was a crunchy cream puff recipe. Where the pastry chef basically topped plain old pate a choux with a thinly rolled round of chilled chocolate butter cookie dough that had some demerera sugar pressed gently into the top of it. The puffs look EXACTLY like what’s shown on the Beard Papa website – except all chocolatey and cracked and sparkly on top. The cookie actually kind of disappeared into a bunch of crunchy um… I guess dots? all over the baked cream puff.

I wonder if this could Beard Papa’s secret?


- Eve

 · Eve ·

Apr 18, 2012 ·  6:46 PM

@Eve, that’s such an insight! I believe it! Japan is famous for a kind of bread called “melon pan” (melon bread), which is a sweet milk roll with a thin layer of sugar cookie dough laid over the top. It cracks as it bakes, giving it a rough surface that looks a bit like a melon rind, hence the name. Soooo, knowing that, it does make a ton of sense that would be a Japanese company’s take on the cream puff!

I made a version with a thin layer of pie dough over the top, but didn’t try cookie! I’ll have to try that out!!


May 10, 2012 ·  4:18 AM

I am such a fan of your site and whole approach to baking! I came out of lurkdom just to share (though you probably know this) that the French use something they call “craquelin”, which is really a rich pâte sucrée (hence the notion of pie dough) and roll it extremely thin between two sheets of parchment paper and freeze it. Then they cut out shapes with a cookie cutter and put the thin disks of dough on top of the unbaked puffs. Search google images for “choux craquelin” and you’ll see what I’m referring to.

 · Astrid ·

May 10, 2012 · 10:27 AM

@Astrid, how cool is that?! I actually hadn’t heard of it the only “cracquelin” I know is the kind made with brioche and orange soaked sugar cubes. It sounds intriguing, I will be sure to look it up. Thanks for the tip (and for coming out of lurkdom!).


May 14, 2012 · 12:40 AM

Hello! How do you fill your cream puffs with cream? Because they look like they’ve already got cream before its cut and it’s the biggest mystery to me how its done without it looking like the puff has a hole.

 · Krysten · 

May 14, 2012 · 10:29 AM

@Krysten, I always use a paring knife to poke a hole in the bottom corner (where the bottom meets the dome of the puff), then insert the pastry tip into that whole and then pipe in the filling. Hope that helps!


May 15, 2012 · 11:28 PM

One of the secrets of the world revealed. Thank you very much for your time!

 · Krysten · 

May 16, 2012 · 10:32 AM

@Krysten, haha, glad to oblige!


May 17, 2013 ·  9:17 PM

Papa Bear has a shop here in Miyazaki but they do not always fill them to order. There is an obsession in most of Japan over the last 10 years around choux ,or cream puffs as I know them. The most common method of obtaining a crisp top crust is a heavy dusting of confectioners sugar. I wonder if you have tried the popular ‘crumb’ choux? The crispy crumb top is made the same way as done for bread- with flour but sugar is added. It has a a ‘crumb’ which is very crunchy. You opted for a cake batter- have you also tried a biscuit or cookie bat ter?

 · wildflourandthyme ·

May 18, 2013 · 10:07 PM

Hi wildflourandthyme! I haven’t tried a biscuit or cookie dough, to me they just seem so thick and difficult to apply. But you know, the more I think about Beard Papa’s, the more I think they’re sort of like the meron pan of choux, you know? I worked at a Japanese bakery for a while, and we made the meron pan by rolling out a thin cookie dough to wrap around each piece of bread dough. I do wonder if something like that would be a good solution for coux, but I haven’t figured it out just yet.


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