"Cross-cultural pollination at its best?"
There are many things to love about little Panya Bakery in the East Village— its wide array of Japanese confections; its fluffy, milky white bread sold by the half-loaf; its almost eerily cheery counter girls. But green tea cookies and pumpkin cupcakes aside (at least, before noon), the tastiest breakfast may well be Panya’s adzuki cream croissants: generously-sized pastries with sweet adzuki bean filling.
"Beans? For breakfast?" (You may be thinking.) For those unfamiliar with Asian bakeries, the idea of beans in a croissant does sound suspect. But the dark-reddish bean paste is a staple of many Japanese, Chinese, and Korean sweets, from mooncakes to daifuku mochi balls. Made from adzuki beans that are cooked down and mashed to a pulp, with more than a little sugar or honey, the resulting paste is earthy, smooth, and very sweet.
Japanese bakeries love the stuff, and Panya is no exception, but my favorite adkuzi conveyor is decidedly non-traditional: the croissant. Cross-cultural pollination at its best?
The proper name of the guy you see above is up for debate—the sign calls it an adzuki cream danish, the take-out menu, a croissant—but the latter seems a better description. It's made from layers of flaky dough, crispy and very buttery, wrapped up pain au chocolat-style and covered in powdered sugar. And inside, it hides a lode of smooth red bean filling. While adzuki paste itself is dense and sticky, Panya lightens it considerably (in texture, at least) with whipping cream. The result is a mellow cream that keeps the distinctive beany taste but cuts its candy-like sweetness.
While they’re lovingly wrapped on the shelf, the counter girl assured me that they were baked fresh every morning. And with still-flaky pastry and filling that doesn’t seep into the dough, they taste fresh, too.
This is no lightweight croissant—it rivals currently-shuttered Patisserie Claude's for its sheer mammoth size. But with the added heft of the bean paste, it's much more sustaining than other sugary pastries, almost a meal in itself. And beans are good for you, right?
10 Stuyvesant Street, New York NY 10003 (b/n St. Mark’s and E. 9th; map) 212-777-1930
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