Looking for the best in Los Angeles cookies? We’ve got you covered

Various cookies photographed for the LA Times' "24 of the best cookies in L.A. to crush your sweet tooth."
Various cookies included in the L.A. Times’ “24 of the best cookies in L.A. to crush your sweet tooth,” photographed on May 14 in Altadena.
(Jessica Miller / For The Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Sunday, May 26. I’m your host, Andrew J. Campa. I hope you’re enjoying the holiday weekend. Here’s what you need to know to start your weekend:

    Cookies are enjoying a renaissance in Los Angeles. Nowadays, the city is flush with standout bakeries ready to satisfy every type of craving from these joyful delights.

    Even famed East Coast bakeries want to jump into the action, with New York titan Levain landing on Larchmont Boulevard with their signature 6-ounce cookies.


    Bustling lines are expected at James Beard-nominated Gusto Bread in Long Beach, with customers stocking up on sweet and savory pastries that draw from the owners’ Mexican and Argentine heritages.

    West Adams’ news spot — Fleurs et Sel — pulls inspiration from France with fat, chewy cookies that weave floral ingredients with nostalgic flavors.

    History repeats itself

    This recent cookie explosion mirrors one nearly 50 years ago.

    In 1975, former music industry business manager Wally Amos opened what some consider the first gourmet or upscale cookie bakery on Sunset Boulevard. He named the shop “Famous Amos” (yeah, that Famous Amos).

    Within 10 years, Famous Amos boasted 70 retail outlets, while selling about 80% of its cookies in supermarkets.

    The idea came after Amos received rave reviews from fellow industry executives after baking and bringing cookies to meetings.

    In 1977, Mrs. Field’s of Palo Alto, David’s Cookies of New York, founded by a classically trained French chef, and Great American Cookies, home of the cookie cake, were all born due in part to Amos’ success.


    What this new wave of cookie bakery growth will produce should be a fun and delicious story to follow.

    Meanwhile, check out our list of 24 of the best cookies in L.A. to crush your sweet tooth. Here are some of our favorites.

    Alfajor de nuez at Gusto Bread

    A gusto alfajor de nuez.
    (Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times)

    A child waiting in line on a recent Sunday at Gusto wailed to his dad, “Why does this place have to be so popular?!”

    Such is the demand for breads and pastries from the Long Beach bakery that once operated inside Arturo Enciso and Ana Belén Salatino’s living room.


    On many days, there will be a long line (sorry, kid!) for Enciso’s rustic loaves and baked goods such as springy, cheesy jalapeño bolillos and cocoa-sprinkled chocolate conchas.

    As with his polvorones, Enciso uses walnuts for the alfajores, the South American sandwich cookies that are typically extra-soft, melt-in-your-mouth and pale (as in no browned edges). Gusto’s alfajores are nutty, soft but toothsome and slightly browned.

    Almond cookie from Largwa

    Almond cookie from Largwa
    (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

    The signature sweets found via the baker’s Largwa pop-ups are almost always cookies. The self-described “cookie girlie” riffs on a number of classics — including thumbprint cookies, Oreos, madeleines and a s’mores-and-chocolate chip mashup.

    However, one of the least flashy is also one of the best: the brown-butter almond cookie, a nod to the crumbly, crunchy almond cookie, and especially the version made by the L.A.-based Amay’s Bakery & Noodle Co., which sells wholesale almond cookies far and wide.


    Amaretti ai pignoli at Eagle Rock Italian Bakery & Deli

    Amaretti ai pignoli at Eagle Rock Italian Bakery & Deli
    (Jessica Miller / For The Times)

    In the hall of great Italian cookies, it’s hard to beat the amaretti ai pignoli. The chewy, gluten-free treats rely on almond paste for their nutty, soft center and egg whites for an almost meringue-like outer shell, while an onslaught of pine nuts forms a just-toasted crunchy layer atop it all.

    So few bakeries and restaurants make these fresh year-round in Los Angeles, but Eagle Rock Italian Bakery & Deli has been at it for more than 70 years. “Nobody does this,” co-owner Anthony Cafarchia laughed. “It’s too much work.”

    The week’s biggest stories

    L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Freddy Flores's casket is carried into St. Didicus for his funeral mass on May 9 in Sylmar.
    (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

    Policing, courts and politics

    Environment, nature and healthcare

    Housing and labor

    Entertainment and culture

    Caitlin Clark’s Los Angeles debut

    Sports news

    More big stories


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    Column One

    Column One is The Times’ home for narrative and longform journalism. Here’s a great piece from this week:

    Blaire Van Valkenburgh places lanterns around the area where her late husband of 40 years Robert "Bob" Wayne's "soil" rests.
    (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

    It was nearly dark outside when Blaire Van Valkenburgh strode through the woods, lanterns dangling from both hands, to visit the soil that was once her husband. She walked easily through a tangle of roots and rocks to a small bowl-shaped glade just visible from her kitchen window on Orcas Island, Wash. She and her husband of 40 years, Robert Wayne, had planned to retire here. Then he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

    More great reads

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    For your weekend

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    Todd Selby - Sunday Funday

    Going out

    Staying in

    L.A. Affairs

    Get wrapped up in tantalizing stories about dating, relationships and marriage.

    I was a recent widow. Could my daughter’s guitar teacher change my tune? Illustration by Mia Liu / For the Times
    (Mia Liu)

    Luis and I met when we were in our 40s. He was my daughter’s guitar teacher, although taking her to her lessons fell under the jurisdiction of my late husband, Joel. Luis and I had met only a handful of times. Although I found him attractive, we were not on each other’s radars until I was nearly a year into my widowhood.

    Editor’s note: There will be no Essential California tomorrow. Enjoy your Memorial Day! We’ll be back in your inbox Tuesday.


    Have a great weekend, from the Essential California team

    Andrew J. Campa, reporter
    Carlos Lozano, news editor

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