Japanese bakers are proud of their historical legacy. From introduction by Portugest centuries ago –today bakers produce Castella cakes (above) with layers of a paste made from blueberry puree. It is a best seller especially in the South of Japan! UHSBC participates in Japanese baking industry activities including the Patisserie & Bakery Exposition Japan 2018 (P&B).
Here is the story of centuries of baking innovation in Japan.
Baking in Japan.
小麦 is the Japanese symbol for Wheat. Actually it is a “Katakana” symbol from China as wheat is not native to Japan. When we think of Japan it is all about rice and rice flour which is known as mochi.
>The first wheat probably arrived in Japan in the First Century AD over the Silk Road which stretched from Central Asia to Japan. It was surely a novelty and was establshed in small pockets in the North of the country where rice does not grow naturally.
>In the 15th Century, the Kurofune (Black Ships) contacts from Portugal and the 16th Century Rangaku (Dutch Learning) enclave in Kagoshima (South Japan) brought in some of the European traditions of wheat-based foods and baking. Some of the most popular foods such as a rolled and filled cake called Castella (se above) came from Portugal and exist today nationwide Japan.
>During WWI, defeated German soldiers were taken from their enclave of Qingdao, China (A German concession and trading port). They were settled in villages in remote areas of Japan. The Japanese became fascinated with all things German including baking and opera. One of the soldiers was a skilled baker from Bavaria named Karl Juhheim. He eventually settled in Japan and established a chain of bakeries that still operate. Juhheim was one of the pioneers in bluenerry baking in Japan!
>After WWII, wheat and flour were shipped to Japan from the USA for humanitarian feeding. To many outside of Tokyo, wheat was considered a famine food and a poor substitute for rice. The US Wheat Associates (trade Association of wheat growers and millers) worked with millers in Japan and established bakery training programs. This included primitive “oil- barrel” ovens in the streets. Breads at that time were the soft white pan breads that are so popular today in Japan. Today, baking ingredients including are distributed by some of the same milling companies which started with the US Wheat activities.
>The 1960 Olympic Games spurred the development of a Japanese hotel and restaurant infrastructure to receive the world. Modern hotels and canteens were established including the New Otani and Okura. Journeymen French and German chefs flocked to Japan to fill executive positions. The standards of Japanese baking rose fast to international standards.
>A new generation of Japanese bakers rose to prominence in the 70s and and soon teams from Japan were capturing medals at international bakery and culinary competitions such as the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (World Cup).
Now: Blueberries are considered a special ingredient in Japanese baking and the story continues today with USHBC FoodTech activities in the sector!
Thanks to Andersen’s Bakery Chain for allowing us to use their historical photos.