Friday, May 27, 2011
Nippon Ham Chilled Bakery Cheese Pie
I once read a blog post on an aggregating site which offered information on more ecologically sound living which said that cheese is an addictive substance. The article talked about how cheese is engineered to act like cocaine and that the reason we enjoy it so much is that we are chemically bound to it in a manner which is equivalent to the crackhead and his pipe. Realizing that this was vegan propaganda, I closed the tab and never read anything on that site again.
Of course, assuming it is true that we're addicted to cheese, I can't say that I would care. Some addictions are worth the suffering (though I do apologize to the cows). If I could eat just one food for the rest of my life in all of it glorious permutations, it wouldn't be chocolate that would win, but cheese. I'm guessing that I spent a past life in Wisconsin. The grim irony is that I live in one of the worst places in the world if you're a cheese lover. It's a wasteland studded with bizarre mixtures of cheese and other things that don't belong in the majesty of its dairy kingdom and processed dreck.
The thing is that I think I'm starting to become so used to the weird experiences with Japanese cheese that I'm starting to like what I have available. This troubles me slightly, but on the other hand, a crack monkey probably will smoke whatever he can get if the best isn't available so why should a cheese monkey be any different?
With the full knowledge that this was going to be odd, I picked up this package of 4 "cheese pies" at Inageya Supermarket for 298 yen ($3.68). They are sweetened with honey and use Gouda cheese and I knew I was stepping through that looking glass of savory and pungent mixed with sweet that the Japanese do so often, but not so well.
These pies are sold as "premium", which is rather funny considering the fact that they're just slightly squished pre-baked dough with a little filling. In fact, the filling only covers about half of the total length of the hand-length pie. The size is pretty good though for a continental breakfast and at only 181 calories, they fit easily into a sensible diet.
The instructions say to bake at 1000W for 4 minutes, but I found that this browned the outside but left part of the cheese filling cold. A better method is to bake for 3-4 minutes then allow it to rest in the oven an additional two minutes to allow it to heat through, though this does make the pastry a tad darker. This leaves you with a really nicely crispy outer crust and a tender inside. The dough portion is slightly sweet and has an adequate texture and "baked" flavor. That is, a nice floury, margarine-y taste. I liked the dough quite a lot, but I am not comparing it to a fresh croissant. It's good for what it is, but doesn't compare to fresh and hand-baked.
The filling is lightly sweet, slightly pungent and not too terrible, but, again, I think I've adjusted to this odd mix. I'm not sure other foreign palates would find it so acceptable. My husband didn't care for it at all, though he prefers much sweeter things than I do anyway. The texture of the filling is similar to cream cheese offerings, but not similar in flavor. It's not gooey, but rather closer to creamy, though also a bit chunky.
I was surprised that I actually liked this, and would buy it again if I wanted to have a pastry on hand to toss in the toaster oven for a hot breakfast. Depending on how acclimated you are to the cheese in Japan, you might like this, but I'm not making any promises that it'll suit all Western taste buds.