The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

From our far flung correspondents…

proth5's picture

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.

pain de mie

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.pussy cat buns

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.

chocolate buns

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.

tamping machine

You can see the finished tart shells exiting the machine in the next picture.

tart shells


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.

Happy Baking!


ehanner's picture

Thanks for the post Proth5! It is interesting to see how other cultures manage to accomplish similar tasks. Okinawa is a beautiful place. Please show us more.


proth5's picture

I'm trying to be a good TFL'er and not post travel pics.

This is indeed a beautiful place and I'll be spending some serious time here.  Next time I might bring my camera - of course I can't use it...

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

This is probably as close as I will ever get to Okinawa.  It is, with absolute certainty I'd guess, the closest I'll ever get to the inside of a commercial bakery there.  It looks like they produce a lot of fine looking products.  It is sad that there is such a wonderful appearance, and not much taste to reward the buyer.  That is a reminder  that I am making food!  An appetizing appearance is important, but it better not be false advertising.  Thanks for the tour, and for the reminder too.


proth5's picture

As I chow down on sticky rice in the morning, I am reminded that taste can be a subtle thing.  There is a marked preference for "wonder" type breads on this island - which may be more in line with the subtlety of the rice taste.

Two other island specialities are "taco rice" (rice with taco toppings - I do not kid - you can buy taco rice kits in grocery stores) and Spam (no joke, Spam in lots of unexpected places.)

Team Japan (and Japan and the Ryukyu are somewhat distinct culturally) also produced heartbreakingly beautiful breads at the Coupe, but may have had the same "taste" problem (as well as timing problems.)  As I grow in my baking life I will forever remember these beautiful breads and strive to emulate their forms without sacrificing taste.

LindyD's picture

Wow, I knew that Hello Kitty was a major line in Japan, but didn't realize it extended to buns.  

Great post, Pat.  Did you find a sheeter anywhere? ;-)

proth5's picture

Like a moth to a flame, I did locate a sheeter in a bakery whose location must remain undisclosed.  It was a small sheeter and could fit in my kitchen.  Who knew?

LindyD's picture

But will it fit in your suitcase?  

shallots's picture

My husband suggests the blandness in some of the breads comes from the use of rice flour. 

The machines make me sad, not hungry.  Sort of the same way I felt when I saw the first bengniette stamper at the French Market in New Orleans.

proth5's picture

it is rice flour.  However I have looked some of these breads very closely and am theorizing more that it is the specific type of wheat flour and intensive mixing that make them so bland.  I could be wrong, though.  I do know that the breads are hand shaped.  I have seen the workspace and the bakers doing the shaping on some of them.

The baking factory (which is in a totally different venue) is an interesting thing to ponder.  On one hand, as an artisan, I am somewhat miffed that a machine is doing the job of a baker.  On the other hand, it seems economically efficient (given the amount of work that would be required to make these by hand) to turn out large numbers of pastries using machine power.  The engineer in me just thinks, "Cool!"  The pastries actually are quite delicious.

Chacun a son gout!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

My first thought when looking at the fan fared loaves is that the dough was extruded.  Maybe not as a liquid mind you but as a long thin narrow length of dough (coming out of a sheeter) that was stacked loose accordion style into the pan until the proper weight was measured.  Pullman type pans.  

What do you think of that brain child?

proth5's picture

This same bakery makes a bread that resembles a baguette  - except that it has semi layers almost, but not quite like a croissant (nearly tasteless alas! except for the butter!) .  I took one apart and it does show some very ill defined layers and has a crispy crust like a croissant.

That is why I theorize something very close to your idea - that the dough is laminated - but not as many folds as a true croissant, then the dough is cut and stacked in the pullman pan.

Again, alas, it will be some time befor I can work on duplicating this bread...

(no oven) Pat

SylviaH's picture

Thank you, Pat for the wonderful photos and catch-up info.  Glad to hear you are also enjoying the local food!  Looking forward to hearing more and seeing more photos.  Thank you for sharing.