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Chinese Baked Goods [Split from Ontario]

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[This thread has been split from this thread on the Ontario board: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/10344...

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In telation to posts about chinese bakeries on this thread, I really do not think that "chinese" and "bakery" are words that should go in the same sentence. I take for example furama and a few others. All their cakes are bland, bland, bland. You feel like you're eating air. And the famous buns? Please...

Honestly, if I had a choice between those bakeries and Tim Horton's.... I would forego dessert altogether.

And regarding Granowska's, it is a damn good bakery. Everything i had from there was always fresh, flavourful and just the right amount of ooomph...

Quite a few other bakeries are not as refined and need way more polish! Ok, I had to say it...

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  1. To each their own, but please consider that Chinese bakeries are not catering to western tastes. They ARE less sweet, and tend not to use the heavy dairy of western bakeries. This makes them bland to western tastes but it is often preferred by Chinese tastes for baked-style desserts (take the level of sweetness in traditional bean desserts, for example and you get an idea of the customer's tastes. The lightness of chinese pound cake - it is supposed to feel like eating slightly sweet air!). Many Chinese find western baked goods too sweet, fat and heavy (some get used to it), and they just avoid them. Cheese is not generally popular among Chinese (some even despise it!) though some get used to it over time.

    All of this is to say that it is about expectations and personal preference: Chinese bakery cakes (e.g. Furama, T&T, and the others) have a style of their own and should not have the in-your-face sweet/heavy western bakery style of product. Many Chinese just wouldn't buy the stuff if that were the case. So as long as one knows to expect this from a Chinese bakery and/or one wants that type of product then it's all good.

    Interestingly, because a lot of Chinese cakes use less heavy ingredients and tend not to have the buttery icings, etc. (will vary from place to place, and use of skim milk powder is popular), they can sometimes be less fattening... nice! Unless you eat the entire cake at one sitting, of course.

    5 Replies
    1. re: balthazar

      Chinese cakes use less heavy ingredients like lard....ha ha ha...

      had no idea lard can sometimes be less fattening....nice!

      1. re: phoenikia

        Depends on which cake/brand. That's why I said it varies. Some use lard. Others skim milk powder. The range is surprising. You have to read the ingredients or ask for them... as always.

        1. re: phoenikia

          Lard is pretty much as fattening as butter, vegetable oil or Crisco, gram for gram. It's the *amount* used in the product that accounts for how fattening it is. Chinese cakes tend to be more airy (like balthazar explained) because they contain *less* fats and oils whatever they are.

          Personally I'd rather see the bakeries use lard in their pastries and cakes as they do traditionally, because it is much more flavourful, but most have switched to vegetable oils under the pressure of catering to the more healthy-conscious.

          balthazar: Thanks for doing Chinese bakeries some justice. I pretty much agree with what you said!

          1. re: tarteaucitron

            I was being sarcastic- all fats are equally fattening.

            Some Chinese pastries, such as egg tarts and milk tarts, contain far more fat than would be found in their European equivalent,such as a Portuguese custard tart.

            I really don't buy this Chinese sweets are healthier, lighter and less sweet argument.

            1. re: phoenikia

              Okay, I agree many Chinese pastries are major artery cloggers (pun not intended). Especially the old-school types such as mooncakes and other bean-filled pastries.

              I'm just saying that, if you have a taste for cakes that are lighter (in texture) and less sweet (and thus naturally having less sugar), you have the option to, from a Chinese bakery, with things like the malaigo and "Japanese" cheesecake:

               
               
      2. Fster, by what you said you obviously haven't ventured into the realm of old school Chinese pastries. How about those flaky pastries that are filled with lotus seed paste, thousand year egg and ginger? That would probably give you more "flavour" than you can take. Or the Taiwanese cookies that have a rich, buttery, shortcake-type exterior and filled with concentrated pineapple, plum or strawberry paste? When I bite into one of those, I would think it is anything but bland.

        I agree that a lot of the Chinese buns and cakes here in Toronto do not measure up to their counterparts in, say, Hong Kong. They simply don't have as much filling, or are not made with as much care, even though still being satisfying if you have a taste for them.

        I tend to think it is because the people here are less willing to pay the bakeries enough to inspire them to improve the quality, and they still have to make their ends meet.

        1. your appreciation for the cultural differences in pastry needs more refinement and way more polish! i had to say that.....!

          i'll agree with tarteaucitron that what you can get here is likely a poor example of what chinese bakery goods have been and could be. even still, they're simply just a different style. accept that for what it is and don't write something off just because you haven't had the best version of it nor can understand some of its subtle pleasures.

          if i could sit around and peel and eat the skin off of the white steamed buns all day... their subtle sweetness and beautiful texture would make me quite happy.

          1. It's not really fair to compare Chinese bakeries to European ones. Western style cakes are not their forte. I agree the cakes from Chinese bakeries are bland and airy though I love the steamed sponge cakes. Stick to steamed/baked buns, moon/"wife" cakes, egg or coconut tarts.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mrsleny

              Agree whole-heartedly! I hope there are enough supporters of this stuff, so that they can keep making it here in Toronto.

              However I did find really good "European" style cakes in Chinese bakeries, just that they are not in Toronto.

              There is *one* in GTA though, where they make a type of meringue cake that even some people I know who regularly munched on Celestin/Rahier products adore (I'm lucky to have one of these sitting in my fridge right now)..

            2. I would have to agree with you and say Chinese baked goods aren't my thing. I like the steamed buns and the steamed rice cakes and some mochi. However, the baked yeasty stuff doesn't jive with me. I don't think it's the "lightness" factor as a lot of French goods can be very light and not sweet, and I love French pastries. Perhaps it's the lack of butter in Chinese goods that bothers me. For example, if I'm going to have a palmier, I'd rather have one made with butter than a Chinese one made with either lard/shortening/oils/margarine or whatever fat they're using. Whatever it is, I'm in no hurry to eat them. My husband feels the same way (and he's Chinese-American).