As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of custard-filled doughnuts, jam-packed pastries, and sweet cheese-stuffed croissants. During rare childhood trips to Tan’s Donuts after church, I often chose a treat based on the amount of oozing and not the number of sprinkles. When it comes to sweets, any drive to eat daintily is swiftly banished from my thoughts.
On a work trip to San Francisco, I indulged in a famous, Beard Papa cream puff one morning as a silly, saccharine reward for a long week. Beard Papa is a popular, Japanese bakery chain that has been scattering its locations across the United States to the thankful grins of pastry cream lovers everywhere. Their bright yellow shops with blue lettering and the cartoon face of a friendly, beanie-wearing, bearded old man beckon you inside the small shop.
After you scan the limited menu and choose your puff destiny, you stand with your fellow patrons watch eagerly while large, airy, golden shells are filled in front of you by hand. Each puff is gently pumped full with a cold mixture of vanilla pastry cream and whipped cream (or chocolate, coffee, or caramel flavors available the day I visited).
Finally, your puff is dusted liberally with powdered sugar before being handed over gently in a wax paper bag. The presentation alone dares you to dive into your powdered puff with childlike glee, but I resisted. As I walked out into the bright sunlight looking for a place to sit in the courtyard, I held the Beard Papa bag between my palms like a delicate orb of glass that I dared not break.