“American-style bread is a little tough and big,” says Ms. Kim, a customer at Yoon’s Bakery. Ms. Kim said she’d rather not give her first name, but she did offer to serve as a translator for Sunhyup Yoon, who opened his namesake bakery last fall in Plymouth Mall.
Korean baked goods are based on French-style baking. “I try to purchase French or Japanese flour,” Yoon says via Kim, because he’s found that even the most finely milled American pastry flour won’t work for his recipes. Kim and Yoon spread out a tray of samples: delicate buns of fine-grained, white brioche, baked until just pale gold, and filled or topped with freshly made creams or custards flavored with chocolate, coffee, or fruits. Some, filled with pastes of sweet potato, red bean, or green pea, veer gently into more Asian territory. Egg tarts are also on the daily baking rotation, and, as strawberry season begins, Yoon will continue to offer a particularly delicate bun filled with strawberry-dotted cream; it’s big enough for two or three to share.
Koreans aren’t big on sandwiches, but Yoon says slices of his high, square loaves of white bread spread with jam are a popular after-school snack in Korea. He also makes a few savory treats, like sausage buns and deep-fried croquettes laced with chopped vegetables.
Yoon learned his trade in a Seoul bakery. He came to Ann Arbor on a visit a few years ago and was surprised that with all the bi bim bab palaces around town, there were no Korean bakeries. He knew Koreans were feeling the absence, but says he has been surprised by how many Americans also have adopted the Korean habit of dropping in to take home a few treats, which he says Koreans mainly eat as snacks.
An American customer leaving with a sack of red bean paste buns stopped to say she’d lived in New York and Baltimore, where these bakeries thrive. Americans who want a real taste of Korea, she advises, should start with these–she recommends the classic, baked bun, though Yoon also offers a fried version, as well as one made with whole red beans.
Yoon’s, says Ms. Kim, is in most ways exactly like the bakeries you’d find on the streets of Seoul, with one exception: it doesn’t “have the cute style.” That’s a subset of the bakery world in Korea and Japan dedicated to intricate baking and decoration of clever animal figures: think Hello Kitty! cakes.
When the summer heat arrives Yoon will also be serving Korean shaved ice–fluffy, ground-up ice, topped with condensed milk, flavored syrups, fruits, and mochi.