HAWAII'S BIG-TIME BAKERIES
THE Napple room is kept at 50 to 55 degrees. Chilly for humans, but better for butter.
The Napple is the apple
of Napoleons eye
Second in a series
Your Favorite Bakery
By Betty Shimabukuro
Butter is all-important to this famous dessert and is what makes a Napple a Napple -- many moons removed from an ordinary turnover.
In the normal world of turnovers, you have your fried pie (remember the McDonald's Apple Pie?) and your pie-crust turnover. At Napoleon's Bakery, it's a classic puff-pastry dough that makes the Napple such a buttery, flaky favorite.
The Napple -- particularly the alliterative Apple Napple -- is Napoleon's claim to fame. The chain's 22 stores sell 100,000 of the 99-cent Napples a month, half of those being apple, the others divided among coconut, cherry, chocolate and occasional specials such as blueberry-cream cheese.
Jan Tsukazaki, manager of Napoleon's bakery plant in Waipio Gentry, developed the Napple recipe along with head baker Eddie Kaneshiro shortly after the bakery first opened as an adjunct of the Zippy's chain in 1983.
Founded: 1983 by Zippy's owners Francis and Charles Higa
How to identify your Napple: An Apple Napple has a single decorative cut in the crust, coconut has two, cherry has three. Special flavors are baked in rectangles instead of triangles; chocolate is rectangular with a chocolate glaze.
Product that didn't make it: Chocolate bread. "Nobody knew what to do with it. It wasn't for dinner, it wasn't for breakfast, it wasn't sweet," says Jan Tsukazaki, bakery plant manager. "It bombed."
Their aim was a unique pastry that would put the new bakery on the map. "We wanted to make something really good that no one had been making before."
This did not involve reinventing the wheel, just fine-tuning a classic.
Puff pastry is made by folding butter between layers of dough. "When it bakes, the butter causes the layers of dough to flake up," Tsukazaki says.
The filling, in the case of Apple Napples, is a commercial apple-pie filling, she says. "We doctor it up."
Production began with three people making about 300 Napples a day, just apple and coconut. "We were actually cutting the dough with a yardstick and a pizza cutter."
But it was an immediate hit, Tsukazaki remembers. "In the beginning our stores couldn't keep up. People were waiting in line for them to come out of the oven."
Today's production line consists of 10 people who make more than 5,000 Napples per workday.
The process has been partially mechanized since the second year, Tsukazaki says, but the butter is still pressed into the dough by hand, and individual turnovers are still filled, folded and sealed by hand. Some procedures just couldn't be automated without changing the recipe, she says.
The No. 2 product at Napoleon's is its family of cakes, but unlike the bakery's special touch with turnovers, its approach with cakes was slower to take off.
Napoleon's was possibly the first local bakery to put out cakes in the round, instead of the usual square shape, Tsukazaki says. Seems like a pretty minor thing in hindsight, but at the time, customers were confused.
They were actually calling, asking how to cut the cake. "It was difficult for people to accept the shape, I don't know why."
Our series, "Hawaii's Big-Time Bakeries," focuses on large-scale outlets, but we know there are lots of smaller, neighborhood bakeries throughout the islands known for particular pastries and treats. Tell us about your favorite and we'll compile the results in a guide to bakeries that will close out our August series.
YOUR FAVORITE BAKERY
My favorite bakery is: ________________________________
The best item from the bakery is: ________________________
Your name: __________________________________________
Phone number: _______________________________________
Send comments to: "My Favorite Bakery," Honolulu Star-Bulletin Features Section, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802. Fax: 523-8509. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline is Aug. 18. Comments may be published without compensation to the writer.
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