Silver & Sunshine Bakery was only two blocks over from where Moonbeams Bakery was going to open in two weeks, and Bin hadn’t stopped hearing about it since he’d dared to poke his head out of the front of his still-anonymous shop for a breath of fresh air.
Word on the street was that Silver & Sunshine had the best pastries in a five-kilometer radius, and every person Bin passed, from housewife to school girl to university student, gushed about how wonderful a bakery it was.
So Bin had to go find out. He, Minhyuk, and Sanha were excellent bakers in their own right, had trained at the same culinary arts school together and worked in the restaurant of a very fancy hotel before Bin had won a baking contest and they’d had enough money to open a place of their own. They were taking a big risk, financially and personally, to finally open the bakery of their dreams (Minhyuk was still a little sulky that they hadn’t named their bakery Moonlight Dreams, but Sanha had sided with Bin, that a simpler, cozier name was needed for their homey little kitchen that they’d be sharing with the public).
If Bin and the others were going to risk themselves like this, they had to know about the competition.
Based on what Bin had been able to glean on his short walk from the future location of Moonbeams to Silver & Sunshine, the pastries were to die for, the macarons were works of art, and the chef was a genius.
“He trained in France, you know,” one woman remarked to another, the two of them pushing strollers with tots down the street going opposite Bin.
One of the tots was nibbling on a macaron that was shaped like a teddy bear. It was, Bin had to admit, pretty cute.
He wasn’t afraid of some fancy foreign-trained chef, though.
He paused at the threshold of Silver & Sunshine and looked up at the sign above the bright yellow-and-white striped awning. The name of the bakery was in fancy English script that Bin could barely read, as well as in hangeul. The sign had fancy silver swirls under the name, and this was definitely one of those high-end bakeries that probably catered celebrity and political events.
Although the little silver turtle in the corner of the sign, the one with a sun-ray halo, was a little cartoon-y and cute.
Bin took a deep breath and pushed open the door — and was immediately greeted by the wonderful scent of baking pastries and the faintest hint of caramelizing sugar.
He scanned the cases and saw they were full of fancy cakes, Napoleons, cannolis, delicate little tarts, a rainbow array of macarons decorated to look like bears and kittens and puppies and turtles and sunshines and flowers, cake pops on sticks, and homemade chocolate truffles and squares of fudge. For savory options, there were brioche rolls stuffed with feta and prosciutto and herbs, baguettes, and croissants.
Everything was arranged on gleaming silver trays with paper doilies, and Bin could feel how expensive it all was.
“Welcome to Silver & Sunshine. How may I help you?” a man asked.
Bin looked up — and promptly forgot how to think.
The man standing on the other side of the counter was, in a word, beautiful. He had pale skin and perfect features and soft-looking straight black hair, and his eyes were crinkled up into half-moons when he smiled, and his lips looked perfectly soft and pink and kissable, and —
“Ah, hello,” Bin said. “Um. Can I have one of — those?” He pointed to a Napoleon and, because his brain still wasn’t working while he gaped at the ethereal man in a pristine chef’s jacket, he utterly botched the pronunciation of the pastry.
“Ah, a Napoleon. A fine choice,” the man said. He pronounced it the French way. Was he the one who’d trained in France, or had he learned it from his coworker?
His nametag read Chef Lee Dongmin. Was he the head chef? His tag didn’t say he was the sous-chef.
“Anything else?” Dongmin picked up a pair of delicate silver tongs and selected a single, perfectly-formed Napoleon off the tray, put it into a glossy white cardboard box with the bakery’s name and logo printed on the top, and then carried it over to the counter.
“No,” Bin said, still feeling dazed.
Distantly, he knew that this man was the reason everyone in the neighborhood adored this bakery. The quality of the pastries was irrelevant if people could come in here every day and see the man’s face.
Dongmin rang Bin up. Bin handed over his debit card, and he realized he was staring at Dongmin past the point of politeness.
To avoid further eye contact, Bin accepted the box and tucked away his card, and then he popped open the box and found a little plastic fork, so he took a bite.
The puff pastry melted on his tongue. The whipped cream was perfectly light and faintly sweet, and Bin couldn’t help but close his eyes and moan.
Of course the pastries were also delicious. Lee Dongmin could have been the ugliest squid in the world and everyone would come to his bakery every day anyway just for a single bite of one of these.
Bin opened his eyes, and he noticed Dongmin eyeing him warily.
“How do you make these?” were the next words out of Bin’s mouth, because his brain was still obviously not functioning.
He was a trained patissier. He knew exactly how to make a Napoleon from scratch.
Dongmin’s expression softened, and he said, “We make everything fresh every day. Puff pastry is made by folding layers of pastry with layers of butter in between, so it has that flaky effect once it’s baked. We whip the cream and layer it between the puff pastry with fresh strawberries. It’s not as difficult as it seems.”
“This is amazing,” Bin said honestly.
Dongmin ducked his head, his cheeks fetchingly pink. “Thank you.”
“Tell me more about making puff pastry. How many times do you have to fold it to get it so light and flaky?” Bin kept on eating and stealing glances at Dongmin, because he was floored.
The pastry was stellar, and Dongmin was otherworldly handsome, and maybe Bin should have been worried about the fate of his own bakery, but he was floating on cloud nine and unable to care.
“Typically six times,” Dongmin said. “The trick is to make sure the butter doesn’t melt while you’re folding the pastry, though, so having the right tools is essential to getting the pastry just right. A French rolling pin and a pastry scraper are best, so you don’t overly warm up the butter and pastry with your hands while you’re working it. Some people like to soften the butter in a mixer first, but I still find that warms up the butter too much.”
Bin had learned every single one of those things in school, but he didn’t even care.
“The dough is very simple, though, just flour and water,” Dongmin said. “It’s considered a lean dough, because it has no fat — I’m sorry. I don’t mean to bore you.”
“You’re not boring me at all,” Bin said. He cleared his throat. “It sounds like you know your puff pastry really well. After all, the results speak for themselves.” He hefted the now-empty box.
“Thank you,” Dongmin said.
The bells over the door tinkled, light and airy and musical, and a gaggle of girls said, “Oppa! What can we have for breakfast today?”
“Please come again soon,” Dongmin said to Bin, then turned and greeted the girls.
Oh, I will, Bin thought, and then he ducked out of the bakery before he could be trapped by the gaggle of university students who’d just filled the place.
On the way back to Moonbeams, he realized.
He and his teammates were totally doomed.