Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN)–In an age when Chinese food is no longer alien to international visitors, there is one culinary field that has not yet received much attention worldwide: baking.
Christina Chu, who published Mooncakes and Milk Bread: Sweet & Savory Recipes Inspired by Chinese Bakeries, aims to change that by offering a rare collection of recipes inspired by the Chinese-American bakeries and cafes she visited during her childhood.
After graduating in architecture and interior design, Chu switched her profession to baking a few years ago, when she was not satisfied with the scope of her work.
Eventually, she founded her own blog, Eat Cho Food.
Zhou’s grandparents moved from Hong Kong to Cleveland in the late 1960s. Among Zhou’s memorable memories are her trips to Chinese bakeries across the United States, where she ate egg tarts.
With that, Zhou decided to devote a cookbook to the baked goods traditionally found in American-Chinese bakeries.
“Chinese bakeries originated in Hong Kong and were heavily influenced by British culture, which is why you find so many custards, sponge cakes, and crusty pastries,” says Xu. “Over the years, bakers have adapted recipes and flavors to attract more Asians who appreciate the recipes that are Don’t be too sweet.”
In addition to recipes, Zhou’s book also includes stories about famous American Chinese bakeries across America, such as Fei Da Bakeries in New York City, Oriental Bakeries in San Francisco, and Phoenix Bakery in Los Angeles.
“Chinese baking is an aspect of Chinese and Asian culture that is not really talked about, and I am grateful for the opportunity to explore it,” Zhou said, adding that “Chinese bakeries are more than just a place to buy your favorite cake. Bakeries are community centers that connect them to return to their homes and their heritage.”
When asked what makes Chinese baked goods unique, Zhou mentioned milk bread, saying, “The first thing I think of is the very soft texture of the baked cake.”
She added, “The majority of baked goods in Chinese bakeries use milk bread dough, which is a paste rich in butter, eggs, and milk.”
Chu’s book focuses mainly on Cantonese-style baked goods such as cocktail cakes and egg tarts, but also covers recipes from other regions.
“I also wanted to show that there is a lot of diversity and cultural influences in Chinese baking,” the book’s author said, explaining, “Depending on the bakery and which part of China the bakers are from, you might find more flatbreads or steamed buns. And stuffed with salty ingredients.”
Among the other desserts mentioned in the title of Chu’s book, moon cakes are a great example of how Chinese bakery has evolved and embraced different cultures.
Each region of China has its own style of serving this dish. Today, mooncakes can be stuffed with everything from ice cream to custard, some even served with beef.
“For me, moon cake can be any shape, but it’s filled with a delicious filling, and it’s made to be shared with your loved ones,” Chu said.
Finally, Zhou hoped to introduce people to bread, even though they had not gone to Chinese bakeries.
She emphasized, “For readers who visited these bakeries and cafes growing up, I hope that they will be filled with feelings of nostalgia and comfort throughout the pages of the book…I still say this is the cookbook I wish I had when I was growing up.”