Baklava is one of the most recognizable desserts to hail from the intersection of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, but the region is home to a unique array of lesser-known baked goods. You can find them all in the Middle Eastern section of Bay Ridge, and you should head first to Cedars Pastry (7204 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-238-8311), which serves a selection of sweet treats from Lebanon.
Brothers Mohammed and Ahmad Kabbout come from a family of bakers. Before immigrating to the United States, their parents owned a pastry shop in their native Lebanon for more than two decades. After eight years of adjusting to life in the States, the family started again, from scratch, with a new bakery in Dearborn, Michigan.
They then decided to pack it up once more, to head to New York.
That was three years ago, and their new pastry shop has been expanding steadily ever since.
Everything inside Cedars is made on the premises. The shop makes desserts ranging from ice cream to cakes and individual pastries. There’s awaame ($8 per pound), a flour-based dough, that’s fried and dipped in sugar syrup; it’s kinda like an Italian struffoli. Macaron ($8 per pound) is a similar option; semolina wheat is mixed with anise and sunflower, which is then fried and coated in the same house-made syrup. Meshabaak hallabe ($8 per pound) incorporates coconut into the semolina batter, for a lighter and airier fried pastry.
Everything you’ll find here is good, but the esmilayah is the specialty. The traditional dessert is made of katifya dough (thin strips of phyllo that resembles shredded wheat) filled with cooked Lebanese cream, which is then baked all together. It’s creamy and crisp, kind of like Greek kataifi mixed with panna cotta, or something along those lines. If you eat in (and you should), it’s served warm with the option of crushed pistachios sprinkled on top.
Walnut and cheese (somewhat similar to ricotta) fillings are also available.