September 3, 2015      The Daily Pilot          By Bryce Alderton

With more than 800 stores, owners of a Taiwanese bakery-cafe chain could have decided to cap the number of menu items and go with what works.

That's not the philosophy at 85°C Bakery, which opened the first U.S. location in Irvine seven years ago and has additional stores in California, China, Hong Kong and Australia.

The array of creative breads, pastries and cakes provide ample eye candy to shoppers who have free rein to choose what they want from the display cases. Trays and tongs are provided.

85°C Bakery, named for the temperature coffee drinkers say the brew harbors its peak flavor, has its consistent top-selling food and drinks, but company executives are constantly testing new recipes and searching for other cities to establish brick-and-mortar cafes, marketing manager Ariel Chen said.

"We try to adjust recipes to meet locals' needs," Chen said, noting that Irvine is a cultural melting pot with residents willing to try new items.

Wu Cheng-Hsueh founded the bakery in Taiwan in 2004 to offer customers "five-star quality" baked goods at affordable prices, and recruited skilled pastry chefs to develop the menu, according to the company's website.

Customers may have noticed a new bread that began appearing at the Irvine location — at 2700 Alton Parkway in the Diamond Jamboree Center — a few months ago.

Yudane combines techniques from European and Asian bakers. Chefs mix flour with 185-degree water, a warmer temperature than other recipes using yeast, and allow ingredients to ferment. The process yields a moist and elastic dough that creates a chewier bread.

Company officials hail Yudane bread as soft and rich with health benefits. Current flavors include chocolate, cranberry cream cheese and honey.

85°C Bakery has 15 California stores, so to make it easier cooks prepare batches of dough at a kitchen in Brea and then deliver the raw product to bakeries throughout Southern California, including those in Fullerton and Garden Grove. Bakers prepare pastries and breads throughout the day, which Chen said sets the company apart from its competitors.

Two of the most popular items are the brioche, which Chen described as a cross between bread and cake, and the marble taro. Taro, a root, is mashed into a purple paste and kneaded into dough to create a marbled look.

Mango bread has bits of the dried fruit swirled throughout a dough boosted with mango cream cheese.

Employees consistently bring out fresh items, and the scent of baked yeast fills the air. Versatility is an essential quality for working at 85°C Bakery.

"They need to know how to do everything, because they could be working different shifts," Chen said.

It takes new hires two to three months to learn the menu, she added.

Leslee Malpica started working at 85°C Bakery after graduating from Century High School in Santa Ana nearly five years ago. She arrives at 5 a.m., two hours before the bakery opens its doors. A shift leader, she oversees employee scheduling, prepares coffee drinks, assists bakers and handles customers' questions.

"It has been challenging, but you learn when are the busy hours," she said Malpica. "It's nice I'm learning a lot of stuff."

Malpica said her favorite item is the calamari stick. The bread, colored black from squid ink, is filled with Swiss cheese and topped with garlic spread.

Chen said the company will open a store in Berkeley in September and another in Alhambra in October.


Worker Hien Nguyen carries out fresh bake coffee bread at 85°C Bakery Cafe in Irvine on Tuesday

(Kevin Chang / Weekend / September 1, 2015)