Back in the Day: Norman Asao maintains Bakery Kapiolani pumpkin tradition
By Lynette Lo Tom, Special to the Star-Advertiser
Nov. 19, 2019
Norman Asao was born into the food world. His mom ran La Ronde, the rotating restaurant above Ala Moana. His father, Norman Hideo Asao, invented the Lemon Crunch Chiffon Cake at Alexander Young Bakery. He also owned Swan Bakery in Kalihi and the original Bakery Kapiolani.
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When Norman Asao says he is familiar with pies, he’s not kidding.
Most people know him as the head of Oahu Junior Golf and know his three children, Norman-Ganin, Whitney-Reigh and Kellen-Floyd, all famous in golf circles.
Their father was actually born into the food world. His mom, Doris, ran La Ronde, the rotating restaurant above Ala Moana Center. His father, Norman Hideo Asao, invented the Lemon Crunch Chiffon Cake at Alexander Young Bakery. His father also owned Swan Bakery in Kalihi and the original Bakery Kapiolani.
As a boy, he would help by delivering wedding cakes and baking pies.
Now retired after 40-plus years in the food business, he still appreciates a good pie.
His father’s pumpkin pie recipe from Bakery Kapiolani is very satisfying, with strong cinnamon and nutmeg spices. Often, Asao reduces the nutmeg by a third and adds mace for a slightly different flavor.
The pie has a firm filling from the addition of cornstarch and lots of eggs and egg yolks. The egg combination is a replacement for the commercially available “fortified eggs” he used while working at Mid- Pacific Country Club.
The pies are attractive with a flaky crust and shiny filling. “My father would always add a bit of corn syrup to the filling mix as he said it would make the pie have a sheen,” Asao said.
Instead of butter, he sticks to Crisco shortening for the crust, mixing by hand because he has developed a feel for the texture of a good crust.
The homemade crust will keep up to one week in the fridge, Asao said, but with good frozen crusts available commercially, it’s fine to buy those if you’re strapped for time.
Since Asao is accustomed to baking in volume, he prefers weighing all his ingredients, insisting that accuracy is important in baking. However, realizing that many home cooks don’t own food scales, his recipe at right calls for measurements using cups and teaspoons.
When he was the chef at the country club, he would produce 150 pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. “What is most important is you want to put out a good product, and you need to love it when you are baking,” the expert said.
From Norman Asao:
>> Mix crust by hand to feel the texture; don’t use a mixer.
>> Do not over mix pie dough or the crust will be tough.
>> Salt brings out the flavors in the filling and pie crust.
>> Don’t freeze a custard or pumpkin pie, or any pie with eggs in the filling, as the texture won’t hold up.
>> Keep a bag of the spice mix in the freezer so you can make pumpkin pie often.
>> Learn to use a food scale; measuring by weight rather than “cups and spoons” is more precise.
By Norman Asao
2-1/2 heaping cups pastry flour, plus more for rolling out dough
3/4 teaspoon ginger (substitute 3-3/4 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 (29-ounce) can pure pumpkin (Libby’s brand preferred)
1-1/2 cups sugar
6 large egg yolks
3 whole large eggs
2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
4 teaspoons corn syrup
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
>> To make dough: In a large bowl, mix flour and shortening by hand until shortening is thoroughly combined.
In a separate bowl, combine sugar, salt, water and powdered milk. Add this mixture into the shortening and flour mixture. Mix by hand — do not over mix.
Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Roll out each portion with a rolling pin and place each in a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Form a crust around the edges. Set aside. (Crust does not need to be baked separately.)
>> To make filling: In large bowl, combine pumpkin and spice mix ingredients.
In separate bowl, combine sugar, eggs, milk and syrup. Combine with pumpkin mix. Pour filling into crusts. Bake pies uncovered for 60 to 65 minutes or until filling is set. (If using smaller, premade pie crusts, you will have leftover filling. Pour into heat-resistant bowls and bake 30 to 40 minutes.)
Cool 2 hours before cutting and serving. Makes two 9-inch pies.
Nutritional information unavailable.
Lynette Lo Tom, author of “Back in the Day,” is fascinated by old-fashioned foods. Contact her at 275-3004 or via Instagram at @brightlightcookery. Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.