Japan's Must-Eat Pastry Dessert


If you would have asked me when I was a child, "Who invented the cream puff pastry?" I would have told you that シュークリーム ("Shu Cream") was a Japanese creation, and I would have added that it was some old man with a beard affectionately known as Beard Papa.  Why?  Well, Shu Cream is something that every kid in Japan grows up eating, as it can be found in convenience stores and high end bakeries, alike.  However, like so many other things, the Japanese simply took a foreign creation (in this case, the French Choux Pastry), perfected it, and made it their own.  Over time, Shu Cream has become such a staple in Japanese cuisine that I urge all travelers to try it at least once while in Japan.  
So where is the right place to get good Shu Cream?  While myriad Japanese bakeries offer their own versions of Shu Creams, there has been one mainstay ever since I was a teenager, and that is Beard Papa's.
While Beard Papa's is available in limited locations abroad, there are hundreds in Japan, and it is fairly easy to find one while touring the country.  The shop offers a few pastry options including its signature Shu Cream, each priced between 150 and 500 yen.  While the other options like cheesecake and tiramisu have their merits, Beard Papa's justifiably focuses on its signature dish.

The process is simple enough: (1) bake the choux pastry until it has risen, is crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.
(2) Insert a custard nozzle in the side of the pastry, and give it a few pumps to fill it with custard.
(3) Give a light dusting of powdered sugar.
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The product is an aesthetically pleasing dessert pastry. 
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Still, what sets Beard Papa's apart from others is the freshness of the pastry (they bake it fresh each day) and the ratio of custard to pastry.  If either of these important factors are ignored, you can get an overly doughy or soggy Shu Cream.  Just look below at how Beard Papa's masters the ratio.  Perfect!

There are multiple varieties of standard and limited edition Shu Cream available at Beard Papa's.  Check out the website here to see what is available in stores now.  Pictured above are the original custard and the cookies and cream versions.
I hope you find the time to enjoy what has become a fixture in Japanese dessert culture at Beard Papa's.
[Bonus: For Disney fans, Beard Papa made a cameo in the 2012 film, Wreck-It Ralph]
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Mike B