Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, April 7, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Ted Nakamura, baker, co-owner and president of Ted's
Bakery in Sunset Beach, with his No.1 chocolate cream pie.


Ted Nakamura's chocolate
haupia pietakes the cake
in our blind taste test

By Betty Shimabukuro


The brothers Nakamura are discussing the use of pure vanilla in the making of a chocolate cream pie.

Glenn says such an expensive ingredient isn't necessary with chocolate -- not the way it is with other cream pies. Imitation vanilla should do.

But Ted is the baker. "There he is, pouring the stuff in just like it's free," Glenn says, waving his arms as though astounded by the audacity of it all. "Here I am, saying, 'Ted! We don't need it!' and he says, 'No. We need it,' and I'm saying, '$245 a case! That's $60 a gallon there, boy!' "

But -- as mentioned before -- Ted is the baker and he believes that purity of ingredients makes all the difference. So, at Ted's Bakery, the chocolate cream contains pure vanilla, and enough of it, Ted says, so you can taste it.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Jane Lawton takes her pie judging seriously.

The cost, Glenn points out, is 6 cents per pie.

And what a pie. Ted's chocolate haupia cream pie was chosen best on the island by judges in the Star-Bulletin's Chocolate Dreams pie contest.

Judges pronounced the crust flaky, tasty -- "great," was all one judge said -- and the chocolate filling creamy, smooth and well-balanced against both the haupia and the crust.

The pie is the most popular of the 15 varieties baked at Ted's, accounting for more than 40 percent of sales. (But wait until word spreads about Ted's new pie -- a chocolate mocha that's just a month old. That pie is seriously fabulous.)

New tastes are always under development. Just out is a strawberry guava cream pie, and coming soon is a butter pecan pie, reminiscent, Ted says, of Almond Roca candy.

Ted sticks with cream pies and three types of cheese pies because the ingredients are stable.

Fresh fruits are expensive, the supply is unsteady and the quality varies. That's why a once popular banana cream pie is gone from the menu, Glenn says. Couldn't get enough apple bananas to meet demand and customers were going away disappointed.

"We have to be able to open a can," Ted says.


In a cramped baking space behind the family store in Sunset Beach, Ted and 32 employees bake 1,500 pies in an average week while Glenn runs the office and keeps an eye on the money.

Around holidays, things kick into overdrive. For Easter, they had orders for 1,500 pies just for the weekend. Production started Wednesday night and continued non-stop through Thursday night. Deliveries went out Friday, and then another 1,000 were produced to sell at the store on Saturday and Sunday.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Theo Stahl takes a sample from the array of pies set
out for judging. It was a tough job, but someone had
to do it. Stahl was selected from among dozens readers
who nominated favorite pies, and themselves as judges.

For Mother's Day next month, Glenn expects they'll have to stop taking orders by April 28, a week and a half before the holiday.

The business has exploded since last Mother's Day, the first time they took orders for deliveries in town. Ted went from baking maybe a dozen pies a week to 200, and up and up from there.

"People started tasting it and they starting going NUTS over it," Glenn says. "Especially the haupia-chocolate," Ted says.

"They started passing it around and they started going MORE crazy," Glenn finishes the thought.

Four refrigerated vans take pies to town three times a week. Still, 38 percent of Ted's business is done at the tiny bakery. In fact, if you call too late to place an order, Ted strives to have pies for all walk-in customers at the store. Even on Mother's Day. All you have to do is drive to the North Shore.


For the succulence of the pies, Glenn gives full credit to "Brother Ted" and the baking skills he learned at Leeward Community College and in a succession of hotel kitchens, beginning at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe and ending at what was then the Kahala Hilton.

Ted recalls experimenting to perfect the crust and the chocolate filling back in the mid-'80s when the brothers opened the bakery.

He was after a crust that would be flaky and stand up to all that cream filling. The solution turned out to be a blend of pastry, cake and other flours and a top grade of vegetable shortening. The result is a crust that won't get soggy. "Even the fourth day, it's good yet," Ted says.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Kenneth Young peers through the plate of Ted's
Bakery's topping machine, which squirts the whipped
cream topping in a precise design on top of the
pies. It does in seconds what used to take
much longer by hand.

Moving on to the chocolate filling: The goal was something rich, firm (for clean slicing), smooth and well-balanced, with "sweetness the way we wanted," Ted says, meaning a gentle sweetness.

"If it's so sweet -- like candy -- you cannot eat too much. ... The mouth is tired already."

The winning formula was lots of eggs and butter, an expensive powdered Dutch chocolate with a high cocoa-butter content, a good grade of evaporated milk (containing lots of cream) and the all-important pure vanilla.

Top ingredients show in the final product, Ted says. He wants no dissatisfied customers. "Something good, it goes around," is his philosophy. "Something bad, it goes around, too."

Expect to hear more from the brothers Nakamura. Their little space in Sunset Beach is under renovation and once that's done they venture into new territory: pizza pies. Ted already has the crust worked out.


The winner:
Ted's Bakery

Bullet Address: 59-024 Kamehameha Highway, Sunset Beach
Bullet Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, even holidays
Bullet Price: A 9-inch pie, any of 15 varieties, $8.50
Bullet Town outlets: Columbia Inn, Hungry Lion, Boulevard Saimin (prices will be higher)
Bullet Deliveries: Wednesdays and Fridays, minimum five pies, to business addresses only
Bullet Call: 638-5974 or fax, 638-5188

Other winners

Bullet Second place: Tom's Place, 324 Coral St., Kakaako, 537-9065; $6.75 for a 6-inch pie
Bullet Third place: Sunny Side, 1017 Kilani St., Wahiawa, 621-7188; $5.75 for a 9-inch chocolate-custard pie


The judging

Bullet Nominations were taken from readers, with almost all going to Ted's and Sunny Side.
Bullet Pies were tasted side-by-side in a blind tasting.
Bullet Judges were from the Star-Bulletin staff plus readers Jane Lawton and Theo Stahl, chosen for their expressed love of chocolate.

Bakers' tips
from Ted's

Ted Nakamura's pie recipe is a secret, but he does offer these tips to home bakers of cream pies:


Bullet Use baking tiles on racks above and below the crust for even heating.
Bullet For an evenly baked crust that doesn't shrink, bake it upside-down: Fit the crust to the pie pan, then put another pan inside the crust. Turn the pie over and bake at 300-350 degrees, depending on your oven, for 40 minutes. Remove inner pan and bake another 40 minutes, right-side-up.
Bullet If your crust gets soggy you aren't baking it long enough. Use low heat.


Bullet Use a double boiler to prevent scorching and have a good quality whisk handy.
Bullet Buy the best Dutch chocolate you can find. Look for a high percentage of cocoa butter.
Bullet Use pure vanilla.
Bullet For best texture, mix milk and/or water with your cream or the pie will be too heavy.

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