The Unfrench Bakeries
Think all great bakeries are French? Think again. Or better yet, visit these bakeries for a taste of what other countries have to offer.
Photo by Cathy Pinsky
Photography by Cathy Pinsky
Chances are, when you think of a pastry shop, pictures of a French establishment come to mind—and maybe include a fat, toque-topped baker standing behind a case jammed with éclairs, croissants, pain au chocolat, and the like. Maybe the baker has a tiny mustache; maybe he’s holding a floury rolling pin. While we’re not knocking that Gallic archetype, we’d like to respectfully suggest that other nations have ovens, too.
We took a spin around the area to find our greatest non-French bakeries. The results were surprising: we found that it’s possible to live without French pastries for a week, but only if you’ve stocked up on the world treats listed here.
Quindim (pronounced kee-jeem) is Brazil’s answer to flan, available at Padaminas Brazilian Bakery. Densely yolky and melt-in-your-mouth buttery, this luscious golden confection is backed by a crumbly, coconut-flecked pastry base.
Padaminas BraZilian Bakery
66 W Lincoln Ave, Mount Vernon (914) 667-9101
It might be surprising to Giselle Bundchen’s rabid fans, but Brazil actually has a sweet tooth. It makes sense: after all, it takes a lot of carbs to samba all night after spending your day thonged-up on Rio’s beaches.
The corner of Mount Vernon formed by West Lincoln and Gramatan Avenues serves as a hub for the city’s large Brazilian community. There you’ll find three Brazilian hairdressers, several restaurants (including a Brazilian pizzeria), and Brazil 2000, a lunch counter-cum-churrascaria. BraDeli offers Brazilian groceries, while Padaminas serves as a sort of Brazilian Starbucks: it’s bright, cheerful, and packed with caffeine and goodies.
If you’re lucky, Padaminas will have brigadieros, the Brazilian version of chocolate truffles, on hand. While European truffles are composed of chocolate made buttery by the addition of heavy cream, in a brigadiero, the chocolate is lightened by doce de leite. This thick, caramelized condensed milk lends brigadieros their luscious bite, while chocolate sprinkles add crunchy texture. Super-creamy doce de leite also fills Padaminas’s chocolate-coated, profiterole-like bombam. Savory treats include the crunch of addictive, uncheesy (but Cheez Doodle-like) biscoitinho.
Don’t leave Padaminas without a dish of luscious quindim. This dense, pudding-like custard might look like flan, but there the similarity ends. Where flan is fragile and quivering, quindim is dense and buttery. Backed by a coconut-flecked pastry base, this rich, yolky, sunburst-yellow dessert simply melts in the mouth.
At La Flor de Jallisco Bakery, the pastel de tres leches (or cake of the three milks) is made by soaking sweet yellow cake in a mixture of sweetened condensed milk, cream, and milk.
La Flor De Jallisco Bakery
217 Westchester Ave, Port Chester (914) 937-5305
If you’re looking for all-butter icing, natural coloring, and not-so-bad-for-you sweets, La Flor de Jalisco probably is not for you. But, if you’re looking for a carnival-colored, traditional Mexican pastel de tres leches (cake of three milks), La Flor is just the spot.
At La Flor, the three milks in question—cream, milk, and condensed milk—are poured over firm yellow cake, which has been pierced to allow the cake to soak up liquids. The result is a unique dessert—part cake, part pudding—which is served in a paper cup along with a spoon. Eaten icy cold, pastel de tres leches has the childlike appeal of a wedge of yellow cake and a frosty glass of milk, all united in one sweet, wet bite. Cakes are available whole and by the slice.
Besides pastel de tres leche, you’ll find any number of sweet breads and pastries at La Flor, including puff pastry logs filled with guava paste or vanilla cream; eggy, cakey sweet rolls; and mollusk-shaped conchas, striated with cinnamon sugar.
The apple pastellito at Quimbaya’s is Colombia’s take on an apple turnover.
193 Main St, Ossining (914) 941-0810
Named for a small town in Colombia, this café-cum-bakery has taken off under the ownership of Alfredo Uscanga. In the roughly one-and-a-half years of his tenure, Quimbaya’s has received the notice of both the New York Times and this magazine, most notably for the café’s better-than-Starbucks specialty coffees (which feature only Colombia-grown coffee) and its excellent, creative hot chocolates. As if beverages weren’t enough to recommend this cafe, Quimbaya’s also is gaining fans for its Colombian-style baked goods, which are all made in-house by Uscanga himself.
When you visit the cute, brightly painted shop on Ossining’s Main Street, look for Uscanga’s pastelitos, or puff-pastry triangles, stuffed with guava paste; strawberries and cream cheese; or apple slices and cinnamon. Sweet arepas also are available, made from fresh corn and cheese, as well as flaky, delicious empanadas—available either with savory (like beef and potatoes) or sweet (cheese, available only on the weekends) fillings. As a testament to Quimbaya’s success, the café is expanding even further—it’s now offering panini and home-made ice cream with Colombia-inspired flavors.
The not-too-sweet pignoli cookies at Caffe Trento have the chewy texture and marzipan flavor of almond paste, highlighted by the subtle crunch of toasted pine nuts.
1777 Central Ave, Yonkers (914) 779-2003
Caffe Trento is one of Westchester’s oldest bakeries, starting 50 years ago on Ashburton Avenue in Yonkers. It moved to its current location 20 years later, and has been Westchester’s go-to Italian bakery ever since. When you visit, don’t expect granite counters and fancy oak cabinetry, because Caffe Trento is as old school as it gets. Instead, look for hanging, beehive string dispensers; strong black coffee; and best of all, a full pastry bag lying on the bottom shelf of the bakery’s fridge That’s the signal that Caffe Trento’s cannoli are filled to order, which keeps the tubular, deep-fried shells super-crisp before they yield to a lusciously sweet, dense, ricotta-cheese filling.
While lines are long during the holidays, Caffe Trento’s fans don’t mind. They know there’s no better spot for traditional Italian pastries like sfogliatelle (often pronounced “jvool-ya-dell”). This crisp, clam-shaped pastry is named for its many layers (it translates as “so many leaves”) and is filled with a dense, mildly sweet, orange-scented ricotta. Also worth the wait: Caffe Trento’s chewy, marzipan-flavored pignoli cookies and baba au rhum, or sponge cake soaked in light rum syrup.
Warm pretzels at Black Forest Pastry Shop.
Black Forest Pastry Shop
52 Lewis St, Greenwich, CT
(203) 629-9330; blackforestpastryshop.com
Sadly, even though pretzel carts dot Manhattan’s every corner, the last great New York pretzel was consumed during Mayor Abe Beam’s reign. What’s on offer nowadays are pale, soggy, cardboard-y impostors—suitable only for the undiscriminating palates of tourists.
But while great New York pretzels are history, they live on in Greenwich at the Black Forest Pastry Shop. Available only on Saturday mornings (unless you pre-order), and usually only after you’ve waited on line, these freshly baked, chewy, salty, nut-brown pretzels will satisfy your pretzel nostalgia. And best of all, they’re available by the dozen, so some of the warm twists can be sacrificed on the car ride home.
While you’re visiting this cute, 26-year-old Greenwich shop, don’t miss Black Forest’s cinnamony, crisp apple strudel and the bakery’s pretty namesake dish: a rich, Kirsch-soaked chocolate cake, studded with cherries and iced with Kirsch-laced whipped cream. Holidays are the bakeshop’s busiest time, when the cases are packed with the stuff of Grimm’s Brothers’ fantasies. Look for springerle, pfeffernuss, leckerli, zimterne, and glorious gingerbread houses, which are offered both decorated and undecorated, for customers eager to wield their own pastry bags.
Linzer tarts, named for the Austrian city of Linz, are on hand at Patisserie Salzberg. These crumbly, shortbread discs are punctuated by raspberry preserve centers.
77 Purchase St, Rye (914) 921-4458
This stately stone building in the heart of Rye’s downtown is home to one of Westchester’s most elegant bakeries, Patisserie Salzburg. There, fortified by cups of rich Viennese coffee, one can tuck into the gamut of pastries that made Austria a foodie pilgrimage destination. (And just like its counterparts in Austria, Patisserie Salzburg offers coffee and seating for customers too eager to wait until they get home.)
If you’re lucky, you’ll find a tray of fresh, golden-brown krapfen on hand. These fist-sized jelly doughnuts are dense, yet yield to a floral, sweet, golden apricot center. More obligatory (for an Austrian bakery) is the velvety Sacher-torte, the cake invented in 1832 at the Hotel Sacher in Salzburg. This elegant dessert is composed of chocolate cake sandwiching smooth apricot preserves, which are then coated with chocolate glaze and chocolate shavings. Served with the yin-yang counterpoint of fluffy whipped cream, it’s chocolate decadence at its finest.
Meanwhile, those with lighter palates might tuck into Patisserie Salzburg’s beautiful pflaumenkuchen, a tart whose origins are German, and which is served widely in German-speaking Europe. This lightly sweet, sophisticated bite is both delicious and packed with luscious quartered plums, which are given a sexy hue by a drizzle of preserves. Linzer tarts, more specific to Austria (they’re named for the city of Linz), are also on hand in both large and miniature sizes. These tender, powdered-sugar-coated shortbreads are characterized by their center hole filled with ruby-colored raspberry preserves.
Cinnamon-sugar churros at Uruguay Bakery in Port Chester.
204 Westchester Ave, Port Chester (914) 937-4322
As thousands of Port Chester natives can attest, the ultimate pre-commute stop is for pastry and a cup of coffee at Uruguay Bakery. After all, who needs a dull old Dunkin’ donut when there are delicious, freshly fried churros on hand? These extruded batons of deep-fried dough are star-shaped in section, and are denser and chewier than the insubstantial Dunkin’ donut. Also unlike a Dunkin’ donut, the churros’s browned, crisp-fried ridges create a satisfying exterior crunch. Rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with hot chocolate, churros have long been a breakfast staple in Spain.
While Uruguay Bakery sells the usual, long, thin version of churros, those in the know visit the bakery/café/candy store in the morning. Then they can tuck into churros con dulce de leche. These shorter, fatter, deep-fried treats come with oozing centers of caramelized condensed milk.
Gallic in name only, La Parisienne Bakery in Hartsdale specializes in Japanese treats featuring sweet red bean paste and matcha (powdered green tea).
La Parisienne Bakery
8 N Central Ave, Hartsdale (914) 761-9600
What is a bakery named La Parisienne doing in this roundup? The answer is that La Parisienne is French in name only. Flanked by a sake–specific liquor store (Shugo Sake and Liquors, 12 N Central Ave), Sakayama Sushi, and Nijiya Market (where one can buy “Pocari Sweat,” the mythic Japanese sports beverage), La Parisienne serves as this bustling Japanese neighborhood’s sweet shop.
La Parisienne’s wares might look exotic to Western eyes, but its flavors will be instantly familiar. Look for doughnuts, in which deep-fried sweet bread is filled with thick, sweet, red bean paste which serves as the perfect mimic for raspberry jelly. Red bean paste also fills the black sesame seeded, hamburger-bun-like, koshi an pan. Meanwhile, those looking for their morning muffin might tuck into La Parisienne’s steamed tea bread, which is a light, moist, individual- sized cake flavored with the grassy notes of matcha (powdered green tea), and studded with crunchy, nut-like dried red beans.
This different—yet strangely similar—trend at La Parisienne continues onto its savory menu. Look for the bakery’s remarkably knish-like potato donut, and the closest thing that Westchester comes to a British sausage roll, La Parisienne’s hot dog-stuffed, red-bean-paste-drizzled frank roll.
Forest Pastry Shop; the hot, highly-spiced Jamaican meat pies from Royal Caribbean Bakery are addictive.
Royal Caribbean Bakery
620 S Fulton Ave, Mount Vernon (914) 664-4446 caribbeanfooddelights.com
This local chain was founded in 1980 by a Jamaican couple, Vincent and Jeanette HoSang, who started selling Jamaican beef patties and other Caribbean specialties out of a modest bakery on Dyre Avenue in the Bronx. Currently, the company has five outlets offering homey treats to Caribbean expats: two in Mount Vernon, one in the Bronx, one in Spring Valley, and one in Georgia. At each, you’ll find the golden, exceptionally flaky, piping-hot beef patties that made Royal Caribbean Bakery famous. These hand-held savory pies make the perfect grab-and-go snack; we stop in whenever we need a spicy, filling pick-me-up.
While all of Royal Caribbean’s local outlets carry Jamaican sweet breads and pastries, the chain is supplied by a central bakery on South Fulton Avenue in Mount Vernon. If you want the freshest, straight-from-the oven experience, stop in at that location and look for the fruit-cake-like spiced bun, coconut scone-like rock cake, gingerbread spiced bulla cakes, and gizzadas, a coconut-flecked brown-sugar tart that’s spiked with the hot notes of fresh ginger.