Regional Ingredients: cajeta (caramel sauce) and piloncillo (brown sugar).
Must Try: churros and cinnamon sticks
Wafting into the street from El Trigal is the unmistakable smell of fresh pastries. Inside, between the register and the seating area, are rows of high shelves with tray upon tray of freshly baked pastries filled with guava, chocolate, arroz con leche, and more. Customers use tongs to pluck out their favorites. “I grew up in a bakery,” laughs owner Veronica Rojas, whose grandparents had a bakery in Mexico and taught her the trade. Rojas opened El Trigal in 1999 with her husband, Marco Balbuena. Some recipes have been passed down, like the chocolate square pound cake and the three-colored sugar cookie. “It’s what I have done my whole life,” Rojas says. “It’s what I love to do.”
Regional Ingredients: manjar, or Chilean dulce de leche, and vanilla cream
Must Try: hojarasca (layered pastry, topped with meringue) and cachito manjar (horn-shaped pastry, filled with Chilean dulce de leche)
This quiet and unassuming bakery is packed with classic Chilean desserts like pineapple cake, alfajores, and sopapillas (fried pastry bread, topped with honey and cinnamon-sugar). Since 1991, Jessica Mejias and her husband, Francisco, who own Los Andes, have been continuing the family tradition; Francisco’s father and grandfather were bakers in Chile. Absolute musts are the pastries like the decadent hojarasca, known as the thousand-layer cake. Piled high in a mountain of gooey-puffed pastry, prepare to get sticky and have crumbs on your face. Limited seating is available inside and out of the café.
Photo by John Bruno Turiano
Regional Ingredients: green tea and sweet-potato butter
Must Try: white cake and green-tea macarons
Minyoung Cho Yamaguchi is an artist. The Korean-born Yamaguchi was strongly influenced by her training as a French pastry chef and her 20 years at a Japanese bakery. In 2011, she opened Jiki with her husband, Masaaki, who is the sushi chef. “Baking is my happiness,” Yamaguchi smiles. There is a soft elegance in her creations. Her pastries, displayed in a case near the front of the tiny 12-seat restaurant, are exquisite — airy bites, like the seasonal apple-pumpkin macaron, that impart the essence of the central ingredient. The space is thoughtful and serene. Desserts are available for takeout. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Look for the cherry-blossom inspired macaron in the spring.
Regional Ingredients: red and yellow bean
Must Try: mooncakes and sesame balls
There is simplicity to these lovely desserts, in shapes (primarily round), hue (neutral), and taste that is a balance of modestly sweet and savory. Some are decorated with lotus flower designs, others filled with bright-yellow custard, walnuts, or lotus seed. The desserts are traditional recipes from various regions in China, with subtle influences from other countries in Asia, such as the Philippines. First-timers should not be intimidated by the sesame ball, which transforms from a near-baseball-sized puff into a more manageable mini-bean sandwich after one bite. This dessert, like all of Bubble Shop’s sweets, is irresistibly good. A takeout-only shop.
Countries: Brazil and Paraguay
Regional Ingredients: dulce de leche and pineapple
Must Try: alfajores (sandwich cookies with dulce de leche filling) and brigadeiros (chocolate fudge balls)
Opened in 2014, this warm and friendly bakery with limited seating at bistro-style tables inside and out has a constant stream of devotees. The beautiful, petite-sized pastries are pleasingly sweet and full of rich flavors like coconut, pistachio, lime, and pineapple. Menu standards, such as the soft Brazilian truffles and the delicate Paraguayan cookies, are accompanied by daily additions made by co-owners Celina Bredemann and Liz Marina Cardozo. Bredemann describes their pastries as “simple and intense, with a lot of flavor.”