Marble countertops and slate floors eschew the typical homey bakery design aesthetic at sherry b dessert studio, where artisan ingredients such as hand-chopped Belgian chocolate, European-style butter, and Battenkill Valley cream and milk go into French technique-boosted versions of familiar American sweets. Stuffed brownies, a magnificent peanut butter–chocolate cookie, and a cooler devoted to house-made ice creams and ice cream sandwiches (we like the Birthday Cake and Fluffernutter) are treats to sample.
There are no extensive “I grew up baking with Grandma stories” for Sherry Blockinger, the chef/owner, just the occasional rainy-day activity of making chocolate chip cookies with her mother. Baking was not in her DNA.
“My interest in the culinary arts took hold at Purdue University after I took a nutrition class,” says the Katonah resident, who opened her eponymous dessert shop in September 2012. “It opened my eyes to how different food affects the body.” This newfound curiosity eventually led to diplomas in pastry arts at the French Culinary Institute (now ICC) and restaurant management at the Institute of Culinary Education.
Blockinger regularly invites artists and artisans in the worlds of music, writing, fine art, and food as part of her SB Studio Sessions series. “I’m fascinated by the creative process for other artists,” she says.
One thing that doesn’t fascinate her: raisins. “I hate them. They’re not even in my oatmeal cookies.”
Don’t Miss: Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Ice Cream Sandwiches, Blondie-Ate-A-Brownie
Scarsdale’s narrow side streets feel just European enough to be home to La Renaissance Patisserie Française. Customers here love the viennoiserie (croissants, pastries, and pain au chocolat) that deliver the perfect mix of crisp outer layers giving way to buttery ones inside.
A beautiful custom cake by La Renaissance
“Just like the croissants in France,” says bakery manager Vivienne Copeland. Be warned, though, as these treats don’t often last the morning.
Delicious options to enjoy with your afternoon café abound, such as chocolatey Sarah Bernhardt cookies, buttery sablé (shortbread), and gorgeous fruit tarts. But it’s the cakes that truly set the bakery apart. The most popular include the gluten-free La Renaissance, which was a Best Of Westchester Editor’s Pick in 2008 — a variation of the classic French dacquoise, with layers of almond meringue, whipped cream, chocolate cream, mocha buttercream, and toasted almonds — and the indulgent chocolate ganache, which is one of those signature desserts that becomes memorable after just a few bites.
Don’t Miss: La Renaissance Cake (almond layer cake), Chocolate Ganache Cake, Fruit Tarts
Growing up, Susan O’Keefe (above) never had a Twinkie — or a Ring Ding or any other uber-processed snack cake.
“To this day, I still haven’t,” says the owner of the from-scratch bakery Baked By Susan, which she opened in 2010. “I come from a generational baking family, and we always had a homemade dessert.”
Baking since she was 8, O’Keefe recalls her mother’s lemon-nut bread and brownies and her Grandma Susie’s yeast donuts. “I bake the way your grandparents and great grandparents would have,” she says, “no processed ingredients or cheap shortenings. My pies sell for $24.99, and at ShopRite you can get a pie for $1.99. But what do you think goes into a $1.99 pie?”
Her distributor, after dropping off a delivery, will often remark, “Now I’m off to the ‘fakeries,’” referring to those clients who purchase canned and premade fillings and big buckets of premade icing.
O’Keefe’s forte are her crusts — whether cradling sugared, heat-scorched local fruits or creamy custards, they are glorious masterworks.
Besides the shop, her products are sold at nine Whole Foods, six Gourmet Garages, Mrs. Green’s, both Black Cow locations, Hilltop Hanover Farm, and a few DeCicco’s.
Don’t Miss:Double-Crust Apple Pie, Apple Turnovers, Cinnamon Rolls
Petit fours, fruit tarts, chocolate cups, and other diminutive desserts by Pastry Chef Maarten Steenman
Ever heard of a Kouign-amann? If not, you must discover the buttery wonders of this sweet, crusty, croissant-like cake from northern France, available at La Tulipe Desserts, a tiny gem of a bakery.
Co-owner and baking mastermind Maarten Steenman, who trained extensively throughout Europe, channels his experience into an evolving menu of traditional favorites and unique creations. Imagine a dessert parfait with bacon and a syringe of Drambuie to squeeze on top. He did! And his new Purple Cake features translucent glaze, orange mousse, and pistachios from Sicily. Steenman adds that the bakery’s hazelnuts are from northern Italy and almonds from Spain.
All ingredients in La Tulipe’s tarts, beignets, brioches, and artistic cakes are “the highest quality,” he says. “That’s number one.” But it must be his mad skills that turn the Vermont Creamery butter into the truly transcendent Kouign-amann, or the crunchy-shelled canelé, with a flan-like interior into caramelized perfection.
Don’t Miss: Kouign-amann, Canelé, Chocolate Extreme Cake
Former art major and handbag designer Randell Dodge turned an old auto-repair shop into the funky, 100 percent organic Red Barn Bakery in Irvington, creating the perfect home for her rustic, non-fussy fare.
Customers rave about her apple pie roll-ups, gluten-free berry scones, flourless chocolate cakes, and hearty breakfast cookies. All ingredients are carefully sourced (locally when possible), and the entire menu is made from scratch, using Dodge’s own recipes. She started baking at age 12, making pies after picking fruit with her mother on Long Island.
Her Italian grandmother’s recipe is responsible for the bestselling Mediterranean Olive Oil muffin with citrus glaze. Also in high-demand are her many gluten-free and vegan options (brownies, muffins, tarts) that please even wheat eaters.
“I don’t even make a regular [gluten] brownie anymore,” Dodge says. And her oversized macarons are pure heaven. “People have said they are better than Ladurée’s in Paris,” she notes.
Don’t Miss: Mediterranean Olive Oil Muffin, Flourless Chocolate Cake (shown above), Oversized Macarons
Burnt out from her job as an intellectualproperty lawyer at Bloomberg and wanting to do something community driven, Hastings resident Helene Godin opened kosher, gluten-free, and dairy-free By the Way Bakery in 2011.
She doesn’t adhere personally to any of the aforementioned dietary restrictions but explains: “I love the idea of inclusion and wanted to cast as wide a net as possible and bring people to Hastings.”
The counter is overflowing with baskets of crunchy-outside, moist-inside almond cookies, towering stacks of chocolate chip cookies (her top seller), lemony teacakes, and muffins replete with plump fruit.
In five years, the business has grown from one bakery with three employees to three bakeries (two in Manhattan) and a 7,200 sq ft Pleasantville commissary kitchen with 45 employees; her treats are also sold in 12 Whole Foods Markets.
All the recipes are Godin’s; a five-day baking boot camp at the Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan is the extent of her formal culinary training. “I really learned to bake by using my research skills as a lawyer — how often does a person go to the 30th Google search screen? — and making things over and over until I got them right,” she says.
Don’t Miss: Brownies , Sour Cherry Coffee Cake , Almond Cookies
“Hurry, there’s only one black-and-white cookie left!” shouts Beascakes owner Julie Dickens to a longtime customer in the parking lot who rushed right into the charming bakery.
Yes, locals know that the fresh-baked goods here sell fast. But, happily, it’s impossible to miss out on Beascakes number-one item: a gooey, warm-from-the-oven, “three-napkin” chocolate-chunk cookie.
A graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York (now the International Culinary Center), Dickens claims her Midwest roots have more of an influence on Beascakes’ fare. Homey, satisfying, and prepared on-site from simple, quality ingredients, offerings include blueberry coffee cakes, almond croissants, donuts, a host of cream pies, and cupcakes.
Gorgeous specialty cakes that taste as good as they look, are sought after, too. But the top three bestsellers? Chocolate-chunk cookies, chocolate-chunk cookies, and chocolate-chunk cookies, Dickens says with a smile.
Don’t Miss: Chocolate-Chunk Cookies, Donuts (Iced and Jelly), Blueberry Coffee Cake
|Patti Galloway holding a lemon meringue pie.|
“People who haven’t been in for a while will come in and say, ‘So happy you haven’t changed anything,’” explains Patti Galloway, who, along with her husband of 47 years, Bob, daughter Shannon, and one baker, run the cash-only “throwback” founded in 1956 (and originally located on Central Avenue in Hartsdale) by Bob’s parents, Fred and Marge Galloway. Their day begins at 1:30 a.m. prepping, weighing, and measuring. Retail hours are Friday through Sunday only.
Don’t expect any lavender-and-thyme-scented macarons or cakes with mango curd and fancy-colored fondant but instead American-style baked goods, plain and simple. Think plush, powdery jelly donuts, luscious cream pies, fruit-bursting cherry and apple pies, and myriad Danish rings, melt-a-ways, and crumb cakes.
Don’t ask for gluten-free-this or nut-free-that. “That’s not us,” says Patti. “That’s a whole other business.”
There are lots of regulars, many of whom the Galloway’s know by name. “Most of our customers are consistent with what they like and tend to buy the same items over and over,” says Patti. “I’m the same way — I hadn’t tried our coconut cream pie until last year. I didn’t think I would like it — but I did.”
Don’t Miss: Jelly Donuts, Cinnamon Raisin Buns, Apple Pie
|One of Lulu’s most popular cakes is the Crumbella Deville, a vanila cake featuring almond cheesecake filling, Michigan tart cherries, and (the best part) streusel crumbs. Pictured is a special order version with 14K edible gold on it!|
“Cake is the perfect expression of food and art,” says co-owner Jay Muse, who opened Lulu Cake Boutique in 2001 and previously worked at Lespinasse and The French Laundry and trained with renowned cake-maker Colette Peters. Husband/co-owner Victor Gonzalez worked under cake-designer-to-the-stars Sylvia Weinstock. It should come as no surprise, then, that their cakes are high-style works of art and creatively flavored, e.g., the Graham Central Station with vanilla cake, graham-cracker frosting, caramel swirl, and a honeycomb sponge. There are also stellar brownies, takes on Hostess and Drake’s snack cakes, and a smattering of cookies — but cakes are the focus.
Lulu’s has even amassed a celebrity following, including Katy Perry, Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Fallon (their goodies are in the show’s green room), and Madonna. “She respects our food-forward sensibility regarding quality of ingredients,” says Muse of the Material Girl.
Those ingredients, the majority of which are organic, include Valrhona fair-trade chocolate, Meadow Butter from Hamilton, NY, honey from a rooftop in the Bronx, pistachios from Italy, and homegrown fresh mint and basil.
They’ve been approached by TV producers including those from The Food Network about reality shows revolving around the bakery, but they declined. “We just want to concentrate on the cakes.”
Don’t Miss: Coconut Cake, French Toast Crème Brûlée Twinkie, Salted Maple and Toasted Walnut Brittle Bar
|Chantilly’s Parisian aesthetic is evident in the pastry, as well as the plateware.|
The main ingredient in Chantilly Patisserie’s world-class croissants isn’t the slow-churned Plugrá butter or fine-milled flour, it’s the pride baker Mariana Delgado Gambini takes in making them. Her Bronxville bakery (owned with sister, Maria, and mother, Mirta) offers truly spectacular croissants, making the shop “a destination for people around here.”
An up-before-dawn, three-day process, Mariana’s technique (perfected after years at culinary school) is admirably old school. A machine does help roll out the finished dough, though, “or else I’d have muscles like the Hulk,” she laughs. Each bite into one of the plain or almond croissants is a momentary trip to Paris, which makes sense considering the family opened the comely shop after visiting Europe.
The éclairs are wonders, too, and come two ways: chocolate (chocolate mousse filling and chocolate ganache on top) or with fresh whipped cream (unfrosted, filled with pastry cream, Chantilly cream, and chef’s choice of fresh fruit).
The offerings here — from tarts and cupcakes to hand-piped, gluten-free macarons — taste as good as they look. If you want a magnificent Chantilly Patisserie cake for a big occasion, order early, but chief cake decorator Maria must first approve your design.
Don’t Miss: Plain and Almond Croissants, Macarons, Custom Cakes (and Cupcakes)