From our far flung correspondents…
The couple of folks who actually read my posts may have noticed that I seem to be posting at crazy hours.
I've been working in the Ryukyu (or Okinawa) and although beginning to suffer from baking withdrawal have been absolutely blown away by the beautiful breads in the nearby department store. Unfortunately, to a Western palate, many of these breads are tasteless - but they sure are beautiful.
I finally bribed a colleague who has both a camera and photography skills to take pictures.
Here is a shot of a "simple" pain de mie that seems to have been laminated and twisted in some way to produce a wide open, fluffy crumb and a parquet style crust. If anyone out there knows precisely how this is done - I would love to know.
These pastries reminded me of my days at the Back Home Bakery (Was that even in this same lifetime?). That is if we had put our inner pastry chefs on steroids.
These sweet little pussy cat buns are almost too cute to eat. You just want to pinch their little cheeks.
These chocolate breads are an enriched bun only very lightly flavored with chocolate (again, beautiful, but not much flavor.) The lighter flecks are sweet crispy peanutty things.
That layer on top that looks like extra chocolately goodness is actually just an egg wash.
There are many more, but we were becoming an embarrassment by acting like insane tourists. I really wanted to ask if I could spend a week being free labor in the bakery, but my limited Japanese language skills stood in the way. I tried my normal means of communication (pointing, smiling, and nodding...) to no avail.
I also had the chance to visit a store with a baking factory in the back. Even on the street we could catch an unusually delicious buttery aroma. The factory was dedicated to baking little boat shaped tarts filled with purple sweet potato filling.
This machine took a large chunk of pastry dough and measured it out into the tart molds, then tamped it down.
You can see the finished tart shells exiting the machine in the next picture.
This one squirted in the sweet potato filling and it was a hoot to watch it make the little curlicues.
Then the pastries were baked and a machine delicately lifted them onto a conveyor where gossamer wheels straightened them on the belt in preparation for wrapping. They are quite delicious and no baker required!
Of course, this isn't all I've done - but I'm trying to stay "on topic." I will just say that I haven't had a bad meal since I got here, and as I type I'm watching the tide go out on the East China Sea.