On a busy Saturday afternoon at Tougo Coffee, you can find canelés lined up in neat little rows - some adorned with chocolate ganache and fresh cherries, other glazed with candied citrus - from the new bakery pop-up, Haru. Started just a few months ago at the end of April, Haru specializes in this traditional French pastry rarely seen outside of France, made modern in the hands of pastry chef and owner, Eun Hye Lee.
Once an avid home baker, Lee took up professional classes, studying French patisserie in San Francisco before relocating with her husband to Seattle. Having traveled extensively around Asia, she was inspired by coffee culture in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand initially, dreaming of opening a coffee concept in the city.
“I thought about it and I was like okay if we have this coffee business wouldn’t it be great to have Korean-style desserts to go with it on the side? I grew up in Korea and always wanted to bring my experience here. Korea has such a vibrant and unique dessert culture that I wanted to share,” she said.
Drawing from French influence on Korean pastries and her training, what started as an addition to the coffee business became a pop-up dedicated to canelés with flavors inspired by her home country, like matcha raspberry, yuza honey, and milk tea. With the help of Brian Wells and his shop Tougo Coffee, she had a kitchen to work out of and excellent coffee ready to enjoy with her baked goods. The name followed suit, with Haru meaning day, in reference to starting your day with a pastry for breakfast, but also ending your day with one for dessert.
With an eye toward seasonality, she also offers flavors inspired by local seasonal produce like strawberry cream and cherry chocolate. Not limiting herself to just the sweet, she even developed a savory gouda flavor with a deeply flavorful baked cheese crust. Of course for the purists, the classic rum and vanilla flavors are always available.
Ingredients are central to her baking. Lee takes advantage of her small-scale to thoughtfully source and consider each ingredient in her canelés, including making vanilla extract and vanilla sugar in-house from Tahitian beans. Anything not sourced in-house or locally comes directly from Korea.
“As often as possible I try to use Korean ingredients. For my green tea desserts, I bring in Jeju matcha - which I love because of its approachable flavor and bright color,” she said. Jeju matcha comes from green tea specifically grown on the South Korean island of Jeju, a UNESCO World National Heritage Site, also known as the ‘Island of the Gods.’
Her delicious yuza marmalade is also from Korea. The marmalade, called yuja-cheong in Korean, is made by sugaring peeled, de-pulped, and thinly sliced yuja, which is a citrus fruit commonly called in the U.S. by its Japanese name, yuzu, and tastes like a hybrid of lemon and lime. While the marmalade is typically used as a base for yuja tea or as a sugar substitute in Korean cooking, it perfectly complements the creamy and sweet canelés, adding a tart pop of flavor.
Equally as unique as the ingredients she uses is the canelé itself. Found in bakeries across France, the pastry originates from Bourdeaux, where they are known for a signature crunchy exterior and custardy center. Canelés are made from a buttery cake batter poured into fluted copper molds that traditionally were coated in beeswax in order to create that crunchy crust, but today is often achieved with a generous slather of butter. Canelés are two-bite labors of love, delicately removed from the molds, they are then decorated or filled, and enjoyed the same day. For now, Lee is a one-woman show decorating over 300 by herself for each pop-up.
She has also recently expanded her offerings with a new creation—a hybrid of two other traditional French pastries, the financier and the madeleine that she calls a fideleine. Flavors so far have included cinnamon caramel, made with a salted caramel base and then coated in cinnamon sugar, a fig, and cheese flavor, baked with rum-infused figs and cream cheese, as well as 'yuza' lime flavor, made with yuzu peel and filled with a citrus chocolate ganache.
To date, Lee has had about a dozen sold-out pop-ups, mostly at Tougo and Broadcast Coffee, but has also experimented with pairing her pastries with afternoon cocktails at Fast Penny Spirits. Where will you pop up next? —is the question on most customers’ lips after just one bite. Cryptically she tells everyone to watch her Instagram and website for what’s next. So keep your eyes peeled.