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Innovative Pastry Chefs Elevate the Art of Baking

LifestyleFoodInnovative Pastry Chefs Elevate the Art of Baking

A fluffy, palm-sized pastry shaped like a lion’s head has taken the internet by storm, receiving millions of “likes” on the Chinese short-video platform, Douyin. The pastry, with its large gleaming eyes and two layers of eyelashes, has sparked a craze among netizens who have been attempting to recreate it in their own kitchens.

The creator of this lion’s head pastry is Wu Yang, a pastry chef from Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province. Wu has been devoted to traditional Chinese puff pastry and dough sculptures for more than a decade. He has created a wide range of pastry items, displaying his skillful hands and boundless imagination.

Wu’s inspiration for creating the lion’s head pastry came from the traditional Chinese folk art of lion dancing. He was watching the Wong Fei-hung film series, which began in 1991 and centered on a martial artist who lived in Guangdong province, when he gained the idea to create the pastry.

Wu is now sharing detailed steps on how to make this pastry with his followers, hoping to spread the culture behind Chinese puff pastry to more young people. He offers instructions on perfecting the dough and performing specific cuts to the pastry to achieve the desired shape and texture.

While Wu has observed numerous failed attempts by netizens to reproduce the pastry, he is still determined to help them. He hopes to see more people appreciate the culture behind this pastry and create their own unique interpretations of it.

The lion’s head pastry is not only visually appealing but also tastes delicious. Its crisp exterior and soft interior make for a perfect combination of textures. With Wu’s guidance, more people will have the opportunity to experience the traditional Chinese puff pastry and share it with others.

In a world where viral internet trends often come and go, it’s refreshing to see the lion’s head pastry capturing the attention of so many people. This pastry is not just a passing fad; it represents a deeper connection to traditional Chinese culture and a desire to share it with others.

For over a decade, Wu Yang, a pastry chef from Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, has been dedicating himself to the art of traditional Chinese puff pastry and dough sculptures. His creativity and skillful hands have allowed him to create a wide range of pastry items, many of which reflect the traditional culture of China. One of his latest creations, a palm-sized piece of puff pastry shaped like a lion’s head, has become an online sensation, attracting millions of likes on the Douyin short-video platform.

Wu’s inspiration for creating the lion’s head came from the traditional Chinese folk art of lion dancing. While watching the Wong Fei-hung film series, which began in 1991 and was centered on a martial artist who lived in Guangdong province, Wu was struck by the beauty and elegance of the lion dance. He decided to create a pastry item that would capture the essence of this art form and appeal to a modern audience.

“Traditional Chinese culture is my inspiration for making Chinese puff pastry,” Wu said. “In the future, I hope more young people will understand the culture behind this form of pastry.”

In recent years, Chinese pastry chefs of all ages have been experimenting with new combinations of traditional Chinese culture and the modern world to attract young people. While using traditional cooking methods and authentic flavors, they are becoming increasingly innovative and creative.

Creating the lion’s head was no small feat for Wu. He transformed the simple modeling dessert into a three-dimensional sculpture, making each small part of the head separately with water dough before sticking the parts together with egg white. For the mane, he made 160 cuts to the dough to produce the fluffy effect after deep frying.

“It took several attempts to finally create the lion’s head,” Wu said. “At first, the two layers of eyelashes were the same size, but I later made the second layer smaller and thinner to make it stand out.”

Wu’s creation of the lion’s head is the result of his accumulated pastry-making skills over the past decade. He used to be responsible for making congee at a restaurant, for which he was required to cut ginger and carrots precisely, an experience that helped him master a range of knife skills.

With Wu’s lion’s head creation, traditional Chinese puff pastry has entered a new era. It is no longer just a simple modeling dessert but a work of art that combines traditional culture and modern innovation. Wu’s hope is that more young people will appreciate the culture and artistry behind Chinese puff pastry and that this culinary tradition will continue to thrive for generations to come.

Chen Xiaodong, a 23-year-old pastry student from Shunde, Guangdong, wants to combine Chinese culture with pastry art. Inspired by his childhood exposure to lion dancing, Chen aims to make a pastry item that looks like a lion’s head, but he lacks the skill to master this intricate art. He reached out to Wu Yang, who had created puff pastry shaped like a lion’s head, to learn the secrets of making such a piece. Although they have never met, they have spent hours discussing the skills of making puff pastry.

Chen also visited a local lion dance inheritor to learn about this culture to perfect his lion’s head pastry. His version of the lion looks fierce, while Wu’s rendering is cute. They are now planning to make a lion that opens its mouth wider, and the angle at which the lion’s head is placed into the oil needs adjusting to give it the shape they desire after it is deep-fried.

Chen studied Chinese pastry at Shunde Polytechnic in Foshan, Guangdong, from 2018 to 2020, and continued to learn this traditional skill at the Shunde campus of Hanshan Normal University. To pay his tuition fees, he worked three part-time jobs each day selling steamed buns and porridge in the morning, egg puffs in the afternoon, and barbecue food at night. At university, Chen honed his cooking skills and took part in numerous cookery competitions.

Meanwhile, Wang Zhiqiang, 74, is known as the “king of pastry” and has been a pastry chef assigned to Chinese state banquets since his 20s. He is constantly creating new pastry products and is credited with designing a cake in the shape of a table tennis paddle, using a Chinese yam to make the ball, for a state banquet marking an international table tennis competition in 1971. A year later, during then-US President Richard Nixon’s visit to China, Wang designed a dish for a state banquet that resembled a panda playing with bamboo.

Over the next two decades, Wang created and perfected mianguo, or flour-based fruits, with his apprentices, spending 10 years finding the ideal solution to creating the natural colors he insists on using. He prefers to steam the pastries, a traditional Chinese cooking method and a healthier alternative to deep-frying or baking.

Wang and his apprentices recently created dried nuts by filling a red, wooden Sudoku board with nine different types of nuts, including peanuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios, all made with flour. For the outer casing, they used puff pastry and placed the nuts inside. Wang believes that pastry innovation should reflect the times, the development of society, seasonal changes, and diversity of ingredients. He emphasizes that pastry innovation should be handmade, unique, and performed with precision and care.

Wang thinks that aspiring Chinese pastry chefs should learn to make five wrappers for dumplings, steamed stuffed buns, shaomai dumplings, wontons, and spring rolls. They must also be able to make different types of dough, as well as sweet and savory fillings. Wang believes that craftsmanship should be inherited and innovation embraced to attract young customers. He is planning to make small, cute versions of traditional Beijing snacks and sesame deep-fried noodles in a small butterfly shape. He wants young people to try around 20 snacks without feeling full and to learn about the stories behind each snack.

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