85ºC Bakery: The Way Bread Should Be
If you don’t already know about 85°C, you’re in for a treat… or 10… or 20.
The bakery, whose name comes from the “ideal” temperature for coffee (185°F, for those who are now anxiously wondering whether or not they’re making coffee correctly), has been a worldwide phenomenon since it opened in 2004.
The Irvine location is 85°C’s first U.S. store, and I have to say…there’s one more reason Irvine is a better city than Los Angeles (have less traffic, then we’ll talk). Between the absurdly large array of pastries, the perfectly chewy boba and the absolutely incredible cheesecake, this bakery is bound to make Diamond Jamboree a pastry lover’s pilgrimage site.
The cream cheesecake, as mentioned, is nothing like one of Cheesecake Factory’s overly-sweet creations that weighs more than a pre-teen. No hate on Cheesecake Factory, but you’re not even playing the same sport as 85, let alone in the same league.
Instead of mediocre graham cracker crust, they rest the star of the show upon a firm layer of sponge cake. The “cheese” part of the cheesecake is light and smooth and topped with fresh, seasonal fruit. It is unholy, and I’d like to eat it for every meal.
While the bakery is seated right next to a Lollicup store, which specializes in boba tea, I think 85°C has them beat there, too. When I grabbed lunch with Ryan, I ordered a basic boba milk tea, half-sweet (I cut carbs where I can).
The tea was a little weaker than I had hoped, but the sweetness level was on-point. The tapioca pearls have a perfect texture — chewy, not hard, but supple. I’ll definitely be ordering it again, though I may order it hot next time.
I tried several of the pastries that Ryan ordered (more on that later), though I’m no stranger to 85°C’s selection. Where I work, we all tend to grab their pastries if we’re bringing in something to share. I’m already familiar with the buttery Garlic Cheese Bread, the simple Chocolate Bun, and the almost-cloyingly-sweet-but-I’ll-allow-it Premium Milk pastry.
Since I had already had those and declared them all winners (Try them!), I helped Ryan decide on some selections I was less familiar with. We eventually decided on the Milk Tea Bun, the Egg Tart, the Cheese Dog, the Marble Taro bun and the brioche.
We were also tempted by some of the unconventional options, like the pork floss-topped bread, or the entirely-fried ham, tuna & corn sandwich (still not sure about that one). As curious as I was, my inability to eat pork prevented my journey into those worlds.
I was content with my milk tea, but I wasn’t satisfied, so I split the Milk Tea Bun with Ryan.
The supple, springy dough reminded me of an old-fashioned doughnut. However, it was fluffier and dense in a way that reminded Ryan of days when he’d munch on pieces of dough while his mom baked bread. (Is that normal? Never mind, he doesn’t care.) I’m an amateur bread baker, but I can’t even guess as to how they accomplished that.
As far as the taste, I definitely notice notes of caramel, except they’re more complex than usual. The filling tastes more like dulce de leche than milk tea, but make no mistake: we highly recommend it. It’s a bit of a misnomer, sure, but we’ll allow it.
Someone sitting nearby me would’ve thought that I was working on my Owen Wilson impression. “Wow.” “Oh, wow.” “Woooow.” The word began to sound less like a word, but the emotion behind it was the same every time. It was all just so… good. Let me get specific, though.
This was my breakfast, although there were enough calories on the table for all three meals, so I thought it was only logical to start with the Egg Tart.
I bit into this thinking it would be a weird experience, given that it’s a dessert mainly featuring egg, and my Western sensibilities aren’t super used to that concept. After this, though, “used to” would be a dramatic understatement concerning my feelings for the Egg Tart.
As soon as I bit in, the flakiness and buttery nature of the pastry stuck out to me. It’s not oversaturated, in fact, it’s juuuust there, remaining hearty yet stable.
The top is a whole other experience. Complete with burnt spots to add some extra texture, this becomes a whole other factor of the tart, rather than just being the upper section of the egg.Well, now that I’ve mentioned the egg I have to talk about it, otherwise it’ll dance through my head, taunting me forever.
It’s sweet in a very specific sort of way that complements its eggy nature, and it’s creamy without being runny in any way. Every aspect of biting into this makes sense. Thank you, 85ºC, for making me believe in egg as a dessert.
Moving onto the Marble Taro bun, I tear it open and find a hollow yet intriguing cross section. The bread is soft and seems plenty thick, and we see a light purple taro root spread covering the bottom layer. The exterior reminds me of the crust one might see on a concha, which was interesting and certainly welcome.
I bit into it, and I immediately notice that it’s a brighter flavor than I expected. With bean and root-based desserts, I go in expecting a more humble flavor than the sickly sweet fillings we’re used to in the U.S. It’s humble, but that doesn’t mean it’s not flaunting in its own subtle way.
Let’s not ignore the bread, though: the fluffiness & lightness of this delicious shell is what helps the taro root rise up to the lofty cloud it lounges on.
Bret described the Milk Tea Bun better than I could have, so let’s talk about this brioche. First off, this isn’t the brioche you get in the form of a hamburger bun at fancier restaurants. No, this is what I will eternally think off when this type of bread is brought up.
If you’re not a fan of bread with a stronger egg presence, this might not be for you, but if anything has ever been for me it’s this. It evokes a similar feeling as the bread used for the Milk Tea Bun, although it’s slightly firmer and more akin to, well, bread, than a soft doughnut.
The top of it adds dimensions to the texture that I wouldn’t have ever expected, and I could barely stop eating to do a voice recording of my thoughts.
Be careful, though, because the loaf is over 800 calories, and if I wasn’t told that I would have very easily wiped it out in seconds. This warning goes for the rest of the baked goods too, but they thankfully provide calorie counts on the name cards when you’re picking things out.
Ignoring my inevitable blood pressure issues, I began the end of my experience and welcomed the cheese dog as my lunch.
Now here, you’re essentially getting a larger, better version of a cheese-covered pigs-in-a-blanket. Their bread, as I’ve come to expect at this point, is soft and chewy while being perfectly cooked, and the cheese provides a nice bit of crisp that helps introduce the hot dog to the party.
Wrapping up the halves of each item that I stopped myself from demolishing, I felt a sense of…accomplishment? What? I’d done nothing but order some very cheap baked goods (nothing I ordered was more than $3) and eat half my daily calorie allowance.
But that’s the thing; it’s that good. Even the incidental guilt of setting back your diet is overpowered by the knowledge that you made the best possible choice. Sometimes it’s worth it, and that’s the case here in every sense of the word.