Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bakery Review: Beard Papa

Beard Papa - visited September 6, 2013
I feel funny calling Beard Papa a "bakery" since I usually view bakeries as places that offer a full line of different baked goods and Beard Papa doesn't.  But that's what they call themselves so I'll stick with their nomenclature.  Although they have a few different bakery items for sale, they are predominantly all about cream puffs. They don't fit my definition of a mom and pop small business as they're actually an international company out of Japan with multiple stores in 15 countries but they franchise and franchise owners are small business owners.
The franchise in Cupertino, CA is conveniently located right next to J.T. McHart's Pizza so almost every time after I get pizza, I stop off at the Beard Papa's next door for a cream puff.  I'm not actually a big cream puff fan and don't love them enough to make a special trip for them but since they're right next door and I can't seem to break my habit of wanting something sweet to top off lunch (or dinner), Beard Papa's is extremely convenient.
The inside of the store looks deceptively small but they manage to utilize the space efficiently with baker's racks of cream puffs, display cases of sodas, juices and bottled water and even a bookcase.  There's limited seating with a counter height table and tall chairs but I think most people take their cream puffs to go.
The cream puffs appear to be baked in the store if the picture below shows working ovens (as opposed to just warmers).  Cream puffs are made from pate a choux dough which is essentially flour, butter, water and eggs cooked on the stovetop then piped into mounds and baked until they're puffed up, hollow and dry on the inside.  You can start them at high heat to get the initial rise to maximum puff (similar to popovers) but it's important to lower the oven temperature later and bake them at a low temperature so the inside has time to dry out while the outside doesn't get too brown.  
Once filled, cream puffs have a very short shelf life and should always be refrigerated if you're not going to consume them immediately.  Their filling is typically comprised of dairy ingredients like - you guessed it - cream which will spoil quickly if not refrigerated.  Beard Papa offers several different varieties of both cream puff flavors and custard fillings and they put together your cream puff only when you order it.
For this particular trip, I got the dulce de leche with chocolate custard.  Once you have a cream puff in hand, it's best to eat it right away.  Not just because you're (or I'm) greedy for sugar but because the shell is crisp to start with but will soon become soggy from the filling the longer you wait.
At Beard Papa's in Cupertino, each cream puff is $2.60 which is a pretty good price for dessert. Cream puffs are messy to eat so arm yourself with napkins and/or wipes.  They're worth the mess.
Inside the Dulce de Leche Cream Puff

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