Japanese Baked Goods

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Japanese baked goods merge Western influence with indigenous taste. The Portuguese introduced baking to Japan in the late 1500s, and the earliest Japanese baked goods are adaptations of Portuguese recipes, called in Japanese “Southern Barbarian Sweets.” See nanbangashi. The Japanese word for bread, pan, reflects baking’s Western origins. Recipes for baking bread and constructing ovens are found in a few early modern (1600–1868) culinary publications, but many Southern Barbarian Sweets, such as the golden Castilian Cake (kasutera), were adapted to be prepared without an oven by using a specially designed metal pan that could be set over a fire, with hot coals placed on top of the lid. Dutch merchants, who were the only Westerners allowed to live in Japan in the early modern period, maintained baking ovens in their enclave in Nagasaki. When the warrior government contemplated provisioning troops with bread, Egawa Tarōzaemon (1801–1855), a magistrate in charge of coastal defenses, summoned a Japanese cook who had served the Dutch to learn the craft of baking. In 1842 Egawa baked the first army-ration bread (hyōrōpan) and posthumously earned the title “Founding Father of Bread.” The day Egawa baked his first loaf, 12 April, is dubbed Bread Day—a holiday known mostly to professional bakers today.