The season of overindulgence is fast descending upon us with the subtlety of a Zeppelin, bearing glad tidings of weight gain and dental despair. To celebrate the occasion, we’ve decided to round up our favorite bakery desserts, the ones that make us cross rivers, boroughs, and even Northern Boulevard to get a fix.
By “bakery,” we mean just that — not a coffeehouse with nice pastries or a sandwich shop with a few croissants. And by “dessert” we don’t mean muffins, scones, croissants, or any other member of the breakfast pastry family. We mean dessert, the kind that you were taught to eat only after dinner, the kind that makes Top Chef: Just Desserts producers see dollar signs, the kind that your dentist and Michelle Obama warned you about. Our list will undoubtedly differ from your own, so feel free to, ahem, weigh in in the comments.
10. Gülluoglü’s Baklava: The Turkish bakery, which has outposts in Midtown and on Coney Island Avenue, boasts a dizzying variety of the traditional pastry. No matter which you order, expect crackly phyllo layers that weep honey without being weighed down by it, and luscious, vibrant fillings. The double pistachio is our favorite. gulluoglucafe.com
9. BabyCakes’ Double Chocolate Crumb Cake: Though the gluten-free bakery’s cupcakes leave us a bit underwhelmed, its double chocolate crumb cake more than compensates, thanks to its rich, brownie-like texture and impressive depth of flavor. Although it contains cocoa but no actual chocolate, its virtues easily rival those of any of its non-vegan, non-gluten-free counterparts. 248 Broome Street, 212-677-5047
8. Levain’s Chocolate Chunk-Walnut Cookie: Yes, this thing always shows up on our 10 best lists, and for good reason. Simply put, it’s our Platonic ideal of the chocolate-chip cookie. At almost a quarter-pound, it’s less an indulgence than entrée, but we’ve never been ones to complain about an abundance of good butter, chocolate, and walnuts, particularly when they’re served warm. 167 West 74th Street, 212-874-6080
7. Baked NYC’s Grasshopper Bar: Walking into Baked always feels like walking into a bake sale of the gods, thanks to its array of desserts that combine a homeyness with superb technique. Case in point is the bakery’s grasshopper bar, which sandwiches a silky layer of crème de menthe-spiked filling between a brownie base and minty chocolate ganache. An excellent choice for those who like their chocolate to double as a breath mint. 359 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, 718-222-0345
6. Birdbath Bakery’s Seasonal Fruit Tart: Though the city abounds with fruit tarts, what helps to distinguish Birdbath’s is its use of its signature croissant dough in place of a traditional sable or sucrée. This creates a buttery, alluringly savory crust that supports rather than distracts from the fruit, which is baked to its tender, melting ideal and anointed with the slightest bit of pastry cream. Altogether, it’s one transcendent tart. Multiple locations; birdbathbakery.com
Next: Nos. 5 through 2 …
5. Two Little Red Hens’ Brooklyn Blackout: When Two Little Red Hens moved from Park Slope to the Upper East Side, it wisely took its Brooklyn Blackout along for the ride. While we’re hardly cupcake fiends, we’ll gladly make an exception for this one, which may be the most diabolical cupcake to be found within the tristate area. Chocolate frosting squats menacingly atop a softball-sized quantity of chocolate crumb, which in turn harbors a whipped chocolate center. Overkill? Certainly. But if you’re going to eat something called a “Blackout,” why would you want anything less? 1652 Second Avenue, 212-452-0476
4. Bouchon Bakery’s Nutter Butter: Like Levain’s leviathan, the Bouchon Nutter Butter is legendary around these parts. Simply put, the combined effect of its outsized, oaty, slightly salty peanut butter cookies and luscious peanut butter filling is one of babbling, grateful submission. If ever a cookie could make you forget you’re in a mall — and your name — it’s this one. Time Warner Center, third floor, 10 Columbus Circle, 212-823-9364
3. Cannelle Patisserie’s Pear Tart: Take a crust that’s tender, crumbly, and so buttery it borders on savory, partner it with half a creamy poached pear, dust it with a bit of powdered sugar, and you have what is without question the best pear tart in Queens. Never has a 20-minute walk from the nearest subway station felt so rewarding. 7559 31st Avenue, Queens, 718-565-6200
2. Amy’s Bread’s Monkey Cake: Sometimes you just want a straight-up, respectably over-the-top slice of cake, and it’s for this reason that Amy’s monkey cake is our perennial go-to. Layers of fluffy banana cake, riddled with chunks of pineapple and toasted pecans, are obscured under a judicious shellacking of cream-cheese frosting. A few bites lead to the reasonable conclusion that the cake was created not so much with primates in mind as primal urges. Multiple locations; amysbread.com
Next: No. 1 …
1. Colson Patisserie’s Lemon Meringue Tart: All of the usual platitudes apply here: ethereal, sublime, blissful, etc. For us, the tart’s virtues lie in its perfectly balanced proportions of tangy lemon curd and cloud-like meringue — it’s like eating sunshine and optimism. As a bonus, it’s contained in a delicate, snappy crust that’s small enough to hold in your hand, making it easy to eat on the way to the gym. 374 9th Street, Brooklyn, 718-965-6400
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