Saturday, May 19, 2018

85°C Bakery Cafe

Travelin' Tues, Bakery Review Thurs, Chain Review Mon ... I could pick any of these categories to publish about 85°C Bakery Cafe, a chain of bakery cafes not found in San Francisco.  But chain review day it is.

85°C is a Taiwanese based chain of bakery cafes, with 1,000+ locations worldwide, including a slew of locations around the Los Angeles area (the first US location opened in Irvine).  It is a fairly impressive company, founded only in 2003, first US location in 2008, and now seemingly everywhere around there.

This is no American style bakery and cafe though, they feature predominantly Japanese and Taiwanese items, and everything is shockingly inexpensive.  The focus is on quality, freshness, and affordability.  Nearly every time I visit LA, I seem to wind up walking by one.  

I've previously looked in, drooled, but needed to move on to my other plans.  On my recent visit to Pasadena however, I sought out 85°C explicitly, so I could finally try the goodies that so often beckoned to me.
ZOMG, #allTheBakedGoods
It was just one visit, by myself, so I had to narrow down my choices, which was ridiculously difficult.  I wanted it all.

I loved what I did select though, and will return again in a heartbeat.

If only they'd open one in San Francisco ...

Setting

This particular visit was to the location in Old Town Pasadena, but they have locations throughout the Los Angeles region, Texas, and, worldwide obviously.
Corner Location.
I don't know if intentional or not, but I swear every location I have seen is located on a corner.  Maximum windows, double store front, why not?

The locations are also all huge.  And, if you go in the afternoon or evening, always quite busy.
Front Seating.
A small seating section is adjacent to the cake display cases, with very basic metal chairs/tables, but most seating is in back.
Back Seating.
A spacious area with a long communal table and fancier tables fills the other side adjacent to the drink area.

That said, most people seem to be getting big boxes of goodies to go, and it was relatively empty when I visited (granted, it was 9am on a Saturday!)  Every other time I've ever walked by one, it has been packed.

Drinks

Along with the bakery, the other section of the establishment is drinks, ranging from milk teas and slushes to hot and iced espressos and teas.  In Taiwan, apearantly this is what they are known for, where Taiwanese style bakeries are far more common, and the coffee sets them apart.  In the US ... things are reversed.

Coffee is actually where the name 85°C comes from:
"We believe that coffee holds its flavor best at a steady temperature of 85 degrees Celsius. To us, the name 85°C symbolizes our devotion to provide coffee of the highest quality. We hope to give our customers the best drink possible."
They take the coffee in particular seriously, offering no drip coffee, only espresso based beverages.
Drink Prep Area
Drinks are made in side portion of the space, ordered when you pay for baked goods, but made to order, so your number gets called out when ready and you fetch from the counter.

This area has a classic joint bubble tea and espresso bar setup, which I’ll admit looked pretty crazy to see side-by-side.

Again, if I wanted more, there were many great things here (included taro based lattes and frozen smoothies), but, I skipped it.  This time.   I was also drawn in by the ones topped with sea salt cream ... again, next time.

Self-Serve

One full side of the very large space is filled with self-service items, mostly breads, pastries, sponge cakes, and tarts that you must grab with tongs and place on a tray, plus some packaged items like cookies.

These items are all mixed throughout the displays, with the exception of a few chilled items, so I'll do my best to break down the categories and still provide photos.

85°C make it a point that items are all baked on-site.  Not frozen and reheated, baked fresh.  And not just daily.  They claim to produce 50 varieties of pastries baked fresh ... hourly.

I do believe it, actually.  While I was there, I saw a constant stream of fresh items being brought out.  All of my selections were indeed warm, even though not kept under heat lamps.  And they clearly rotate through many items, you might not always be able to find something you had last time.
Cashier.
You take your tray of goodies up to a cashier in the front (e.g. the long line), where you can also order cakes and drinks.
My Goodies: Squid Ink Bacon, Marble Taro, Taro Puff.
I settled, finally, on one savory item (to have alongside lunch later), and two sweet taro items.  I was so drawn in by the taro!

My items were each placed into individual plastic bags, since I was getting them togo.

Packaged Chilled Items

Chilled Packaged Items.
The first display case of self-serve items I believe is chilled, packaged items.  Here you could find a fairly random assortment of things, "shells" filled with taro or custard, "coconut snow cubes", cheesecake bites, cream puffs, red bean panna cotta cups, and a packaged "honey cake".

Basically, it seemed to be all the things that could be packaged up individually for easy self-service, but required refrigeration?
Half Moon Cakes.
On top of this area was large half moon cakes, almond or pork sun (labelled backwards, lol).  These are vanilla sponge cake with cream, and toppings I think just on the outside edges.

Sponge Cakes

Next, moving into the main self-serve section is tons and tons of trays of goodies, starting mostly with sponge cakes.
Tarts, Sponge Cakes, Danishes.
This section had 3 types of rolled sponge cake (coconut custard, chocolate cream, matcha red bean), and egg custard tarts on the top row, and assorted pastries on the bottom (coconut twist, taro danish, spinach kale danish, ham & cheese.

No real rhyme or reason to this lineup the best I could tell, sponge cakes, tarts, and both sweet and savory danishes all together?

On top was package nougat candy, pineapple cakes, and a really fascinating "sun pastry" that I impulse grabbed, but did put back.  It was like a soft pastry-cookie, and strangely flat like a pancake?  I read later that this is a traditional Taiwanese item, filled with a chewy sweet filling.  I wish I"d kept it!

I came *so* close to grabbing the taro danish too.  Flaky pastry.  Taro.  Yes!  But I moved on.
Tarts, Danishes.
This section continued with different tarts (Mixed Berry, Hokkaido Cheese, Coconut Raisin), and one more danish style (Apple Almond).

The offerings on top, packaged up, were cookies (chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia, fudge nut brownie), and mini lemon cakes.  I'm curious who visits and gets cookies here, given the other selections!

Breads

85* makes 4 main styles of breads: Taiwanese style, Japanese style, European style, Toast style (e.g. loaves), plus some danishes and other pastries.

The bread menu is further broken up into 7 categories: Puff Pastry. Savory Bread. Sweet Bread. Toast. Danish. Multigrain. Yudane. I wanted nearly everything.

Since I was just getting treats for one day (and actually, only planning for breakfast and maybe something to have alongside lunch … ) I had to limit my selections, particularly as things are HUGE. I picked a savory, a sweet, and a puff pastry.

Toast

The "Toast" category is certainly the most boring, just loaves of bread (white, multigrain, milk).

European Style

European Style & Yudane.
The second least exciting section of the bread menu for me, European breads, although if I really just wanted some hearty bread, the berry multigrain looked appealing.

This area featured large loaves of plain, walnut raisin, and berry multigrain on the top row, walnut sesame on the second.

The second row was still bread forward, but more interesting options, like cream cheese stuffed chocolate or cranberry bread, known as Yudane.

"Yudane" was a concept I wasn't familiar with, but seemed to just be cream cheese stuffed buns?  I'd gladly try one (probably the chocolate cream cheese?), but, with one day of snacks only, this category also was low priority for me.

On the bottom, a few more savory breads, garlic cheese and salted butter.

Danish

Danishes and other pastries.
The final category I didn't get anything from was danishes, although this was a hard call, and they seemed scattered across most of the display cases.

I love my pastries, and this one had a slew of heavy hitters: the "Boroh", with or without cream filling, seen on the top row here, alongside Portuguese style egg tarts .

The second row had puff pastry items, considered a separate menu category than the danishes a distinction I didn't quite understand.  Here there was a "Jumbo" guava cheese strudel, potato cheese turnover, and chocolate croissant.  I laughed that the strudel was the only item named "jumbo" and was less ridiculously oversized than many other things.

The bottom was more puff pastry based items, another "Jumbo" strudel (coconut), their play on a kouign amann, and cinnamon twists.

Puff Pastry

The puff pastry category was too hard to look past.  Some were more standard (like the cinnamon twists and turnovers), and those pearl sugar topped strudels (guava cheese, coconut), but then there were puffs filled with great sounding options (milk butter? taro!).
Taro Puff Pastry. $2.15.
 "This puff pastry is light, flaky, and layered with delicious taro filling inside."

I went for the taro puff pastry as the last item I picked up. I was planning to get just one taro item, and I had sooo many choices (the aforementioned danish, several different sweet breads, cakes, and more), but … it was an impulse move, I’ll admit it.

And it was the best move, it turns out.

It was fantastic!

Incredible, really. Still hot. Basically kinda like a sweet buttery croisstant, very, very generously stuffed with taro. The bread was not quite as flaky as a European style croissant, but, a bit flaky still. I loved it. Warm, soft, sweet.
Taro Puff Pastry: Inside.
And inside? Yes, that taro filling I was after.

So generously stuffed, a lovely taro mash. Sweetened, but not too much. Amazing real taro flavor. Loved it.

The creamy taro filling and the puff pastry were magic together. I’d have one of these for breakfast, or a afernoon treat, anyday. At 480 calories, it wasn't light, but also was not worse than a scone or any other breakfast pastry from a bakery or chain, and it only had 6 grams of sugar (unlike what you see at Starbucks, Panera, etc), although 22 grams of fat.

Truly incredible, and I’d get another in a heartbeat.

Sweet Bread

And then we get to the sweet breads.  From this category ... I'll be honest.   I wanted it all.

The standard items of glazed cinnamon rolls, fascinating twists, and fruity breads were easy enough to look past.  But other options include a HUGE brioche loaf that everyone adores. "Berrytales" and "Mangotales" that are also signature items, stuffed with fruit and cream cheese.

Chocolate fans have sooo man options, from simple chocolate buns, to a huge chocolate chip "bowl", to a chocolate cookie bread with a cookie crumble topping, to cream cheese stuffed chocolate buns. Coffee lovers? Yup, they have coffee breads, coffee breads filled with milk butter, and mocha bread.

Want creamy pudding filling?  Many options there too. "Milk Pudding" filled, "Premium Milk", "raisin milk butter", and more. You could go for red bean filled, a fascinating looking sugared cream cheese brioche, or, my other strong choice ... the taro swirl.

Picking one was nearly impossible, but, I did it.
Sweet Breads.
The top row here was all large sweet breads, some of their most popular items: the brioche, mocha bread, and marble taro.  My understanding is that the brioche and marble taro are literally brought out every 2-5 minutes, as they disappear that fast, and they often keep some near the register just in case the racks are empty. Or something like that.  Both high on my list, as simple as the brioche looked, and sounded.

The next row, more sweet options, starting with two coffee breads - one filled with milk butter and topped with chocolate chips, the other filled with red bean and mochi, and a chocolate cookie bread covered in oreo crumbs.

And finally, the bottom row, another chocolate option (a small chocolate yudane bun), the premium milk, and a coconut twist.

The "Premium Milk" was very high on my list, a soft sweet milk bread, filled with white chocolate.  But I couldn't move past the marble taro.
Marble Taro.  $2.40.
“Our top seller Marble Taro is a sweet bread made with mixed grains and filled with signature taro filling.”

Yes, I went for another taro option, the huge, huge, huge Marble Taro.  It was a beast!  But it promised taro in the bread, and taro inside, AND is the top seller?  Also, it was a beautiful purple color.

I had to get it, even though it was insanely large. Much heavier (physically too!), than the puff, 640 calories, far more sugar (33 grams), but hey, less fat (only 16 grams since not puff pastry I guess). I had read many testimonies that it keeps fine for a day, and you can heat it up later successfully.  So I had plans for this.

But of course I had to try it fresh! It too was hot.

The bread was entirely different from the taro puff pastry. A sweet bread, slightly taro flavored, more hearty, since it uses mixed grains (rye flakes, rolled oats, rolled wheat, flax seeds, millet seeds, sesame seeds, and whole wheat flour), in addition to the regular flour and cake flour base, yet still very soft and fluffy.

It was fine, but wasn't that taro-forward, at least in the bread ...
Marble Taro: Inside.
From the cross section you can see better why it wasn't very taro-y in the bread itself, there really was just a marbling on the outside, the bread was the plain multigrain.  But inside the taro delivered, plenty of the taro mash.  Creamy, smooth, but with bits of real taro, great flavor.  Given the huge size of the bread, sooo much taro filling.  I love that filling.

A very different item from the taro puff though, and it was good.  It really is just a question of what you are in the mood for, a flakier puff pastry, or a more bread-like item.  I really liked the filling again, but I'd like to try the taro danish and swirl before I'd go back to this.
Sweet and Savory Breads.
The top row here was savory, with a s spicy sausage bread, and the space for more cheese dogs, but that section was empty (no fear, the other one had plenty),.

Row two started savory with garlic cheese bread and ham and cheese, but moved sweet with the berrytale.

The bottom was all sweet, with the raisin milk butter, taro swirl, and mangotale.

I had read so many things about the taro swirl, it looked like puff pastry (but isn't made from it), topped with powdered sugar, and filled with the taro.  But since I picked the taro puff already, I didn’t want both.  Doubling up on taro was fine, but I wanted to try to do more diverse bread type. I think it would have been similar, just more flaky

The taro swirl really is next on my "To Try" list.

Savory Bread

The savory line up at 85* is fascinating, in the way that Asian bakeries are.  Bacon, hot dogs, sausages, corn, squid ink, pork floss, galore. Lots of mayo and cheese.
Savories.
The back side of the chilled section had some savories, including the super random ham, tuna, & corn sandwich, even more egg tarts, an espresso bun, and a bacon & cheese roll.

I wanted bacon, so this was on my list of savories to try, but not high enough.
Puff Pastry & Savories.
More savories were mixed into the next section.

The top row here was a milk pudding filled roll and the taro puff pastry I adored.

Below that, a pork sung bun, a milk butter puff pastry (what is milk butter anyway?), and ... the cheese dog!

On the bottom, more savories: cheese bread (cream cheese stuffed and cheese topped, a crazy sounding combo to me), Hawaiian chicken (with tomato sauce? A la pizza?), and a butterhorn.

I was drawn in many directions.  I wanted the cheesy dog.  I wanted the pork floss.  But there were many more savories that also called out.
Assorted Sweet and Savory Breads.
The top row was non-savory: chocolate croissants, MORE egg tarts, and mango bread.

Next, a huge chocolate chip 'bowl', alongside the start of the squid ink line-up, with corn, chicken, and cheese. Then, a giant whole wheat roll topped with mushroom and cheese.

On bottom, more squid ink, a version with cheese and bacon, one just called a "calmari stick", and, a sugar and cream cheese topped round brioche.

Squid ink was the fascinating, so I picked one of these to be my savory choice, passing up the hotdogs.
Squid Ink Bacon.  $1.80.
Once I decided to go for squid ink, I still had a slew of options. A cheesy “calamari stick”, one topped with corn and chicken, and, one with bacon. Well, that choice was easy. If there is bacon, pick bacon.

This I planned for later on, as part of my lunch. Cheesy, meaty, savory, seemed appropriate alongside some salad right?

But it was hot, so I needed to try it fresh too!

The bread was much different from the others, chewy, not as fluffy as I associate with Asian bakeries, yet still quite soft.  It had a complex flavor, but didn't actually taste particularly squid-y.  The ink certainly colored it, but, the fishy flavor was quite mild.

The bacon and cheese though were quite detectable. On top was two lines of melted cheese (Swiss), plus breadcrumbs, which both gave it some nice visual appeal.
Squid Ink Bacon: Inside.
Inside was like a filled croissant, like a standard ham and cheese croissant, with melted Swiss cheese and chunks of bacon.  When I heated it up later, the cheese melted nicely.

The Swiss was a great match for the bacon, very flavorful.  The bacon pieces were a flabby style though, not quite my thing.

I describe this as interesting, and much better than a ham and cheese croissant, but, not particularly awesome.  Next time? CHEESY DOG!

Displayed Cakes

Most of the cakes are separate from the other baked goods, not self-serve.  They clearly don't trust us to serve these beauties ourselves.  Or maybe because they require refrigeration?

Instead, you order at the cashier, and on every transaction, without fail, they ask, "And would you like any cakes or drinks?"

"Cakes" is not quite accurate to describe this area, as it contains far more than just cakes, but that is what they call it.  Broken into full size cakes, medium sized bars cakes, slices, rolls, cups, and more.  All are very complex, not just sheet cakes, mostly all layer cakes, and all beautifully decorated.

And yes, taro options here too.  So many options.
Cakes.
The top row was 8" full size cakes: Taro Snow, Royal Chocolate Strawberry, Mango Creme Brulee, Black Forest, Fruit Cheesecake,  and something chocolately and square Deluxe Chocolate Mousse.

Next individual slices: Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake, Taro Snow, Classic Tiramisu, Deluxe Chocolate Mousse, Deluxe Strawberry, Cream Cheesecake.

Below that, bar shaped cakes, called "Full Month Cakes", which looked to serve 4-5 people: Fruit Topped Cream Cheesecake, Black Forest, Chocolate Cookie Crumble, a randomly packaged honey cake, and more slices (Mount Formage, Red Velvet).

These names don't really do the items justice.  The item called "Mango Creme Brulee" is actually "Vanilla sponge cake layered with vanilla brulee and mango mousse. Decorated with fresh mango, strawberries, chocolate, and mango cream."

So many great things.

Taro Snow.  I resisted the urge to *also* get cakes, but that was at the top of the list.
More Cakes.
That was only half the cakes.

The next section again had whole cakes on top: Deluxe Chocolate Mousse, Deluxe Strawberry, Mango Creme Brulee, Sea Salt Coffee Brulee, Red Velvet, Strawberry Chocolate Mousse.

Next, cups and slices.  Mango Panna Cotta Cup, slicesof Strawberry Chocolate Mousse, Sea Salt Coffee Brulee, Red Velvet, Black Forest, Mango Creme Brulee.

The bottom row had individuals: Chocolate Delight, Mango Delight, Coffee Cream Brulee Cup, Fruit Jelly Cup, White Chocolate Strawberry Cup, and a Fresh Fruit Tart.
85 C Bakery Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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