You have to hand it to the lovely folks running JiPan Japanese Bakery: despite the appearance of Singapore’s BreadTalk and now Korea’s Tous les Jours, they’re still going strong, still baking up those lovely French-style breads, cakes, biscuits, and pastries with a decidedly oriental twist.
While the Monroe bread (a loaf of bread made in the same way as a croissant) and the kouign aman (that decadent buttery and sugary Bretagne specialty) remain consistent best-sellers, JiPan also has a number of baked treats that will appeal to both those with a ravenous sweet tooth and their more savory-craving counterparts.
Case in point: the chicken and spinach pizza and the bacon and olive ring.
The former adheres more to the pizza rustica format that is rarely ever seen outside Italy. Instead of lumping all the toppings onto a flat disc, the pizza dough is pressed onto the bottom and sides of a loaf tin, essentially creating a yeast-pastry case / deep-dish pie crust. The toppings instead become fillings, layered as they are within the case before baking. Plus, this pizza doesn’t involve tomatoes in any form whatsoever. Instead, bits and bobs of chicken popcorn are layered with cheese, spinach, and bechamel sauce before being topped with more cheese and a quick drizzle of sweet-savory Kewpie mayonnaise. As small as it looks, it’s actually quite rich and is best served split in half for two people to share. The resulting pie is a pleasant mix of flavors: savory chicken against sweet mayo, salty cheese with the nutty taste of spinach.
The bacon-olive ring, on the other hand, is also quite pizza-like but has more of a French aesthetic to it as it was pretty much modeled after the fougasse, a flat yeast bread slashed in places to give the finished loaf a leaf-like appearance. It is most savory: smoky bacon playing against the sharp, salty flavor of olives. The bread-base has a neutral, classic plain bread flavor that helps the other ingredients play each other off.
You can have your floss buns and your Hokkaido domes, your frou-frou cream cakes and whatnot. I’ll stick to JiPan’s stock in trade; after all, even old standbys such as these still have the ability to surprise even the most jaded palates.