Maybe it was the rise of kouign amann -- the uber-buttery, caramelized “it” pastry from Brittany -- and better access to fresh-baked baguettes that lately has helped reinvigorate an Angeleno culture of neighborhood bakeries, all butter and sugar and love.
There’s a bakery out there to suit any craving: crisp-on-the-outside, pillowy-on-the-inside croissants; strata of choux pastry and custard; retro-deluxe snack cakes; or even a dense, dark sourdough rye bread, for smearing with salty butter.
Here’s a list of some favorites, a mix of all-purpose bakeries, patisseries, bakery-cafes and a specialty shop or two....
Are there crumbs on my face?
Best baklava: The varieties of phyllo- and kataifi-based pastries at Armenian bakery Ara’s will wow baklava buffs: There is of course baklava, but also kanafeh and osmalieh (shredded phyllo filled with sweet cheese or cream) and birds nests of shredded phyllo topped with nuts. The phyllo pastry is house-made, and the baklava is perfectly sticky, sweet, flaky, crispy and nutty at once.
2227 W. Ball Road, Anaheim, (714) 776-5554; 4945 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 661-1116; and 17607 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills, (818) 368-3388; www.arapastry.com.
Bittersweet TreatsA Pasadena bakery that’s a one-stop shop for cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream and chocolates. The aesthetic of the pastries might be described as homey with modern clean lines, such as the fig-filled cookies, chocolate sandwich cookies, blueberry Meyer lemon linzer tart, banana cream pie and cinnamon rolls.
1731 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 796-8655, www.bittersweettreats.com.
It’s the fabulous display and packaging that makes Bottega Louie’s wide selection of pastries worth checking out even if, say, the macarons don’t happen to be your favorite. Tiny tartlets, individual layer cakes and napoleons, eclairs, beignets.... Everyone stops to stare, or drool.
700 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 802-1470, www.bottegalouie.com.
A tiny storefront tucked into the entrance of Bouchon Bistro, it’s where the Beverly Hills set picks up macarons, pain au chocolat, Thomas Keller’s intrepretations of Oreos and Nutter Butters and signature chocolate bouchons (small, dense, chocolatey brownies shaped like corks). It’s bougie-good.
235 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 271-9910 ext. 621, www.bouchonbakery.com.
Best baguette: The French term bien cuit describes the burnished baguettes at downtown bakery Bread Lounge. It literally translates to “well cooked” and often refers to baked goods just this side of too dark. The extra baking renders breads with excellent crust and flavor, and it means the baker has the courage to push it to the edge.
700 S. Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 327-0782, www.breadlounge.com.
Chaumont Bakery & Cafe
Best eclair: An excellent eclair is harder to come by than one might think. At Chaumont, Frederic Laski’s Paris-inspired Beverly Hills patisserie, the eclairs are bountiful, along with other pâte à choux-based pastries: the Saint Honore, Paris-Brest, cream puff and religieuse. The eclairs are filled with lush chocolate, pistachio, vanilla, coffee or raspberry custards.
143 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 550-5510, www.chaumontbakery.com.
A shiny, bright Danish bakery sprang up in Culver City, with cinnamon rolls, custard-filled kringle (made with a buttery, layered yeast-raised dough), nougat crowns with hazelnut cream, coconut macaroons and poppyseed twists. And there are always plenty of samples at the counter.
11113 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 839-8900, www.copenhagenpastry.com.
Best lemon bar: The perfectly balanced lemon bar – not too tart, not too sweet, with the just-right ratio of filling to crust -- can be elusive. But at Pasadena bakery Euro Pane, Sumi Chang’s has all the right proportions, with tangy, silky lemon curd and crumbly shortbread crust. Of course, regulars are also here for the egg salad sandwich.
345 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 844-8804, and 950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 577-1828.
Huckleberry/Milo & Olive
Best fruit tarts: Zoe Nathan’s duo of bakeries each has its own specialties. Don’t skip the fruit tarts at Milo & Olive, with their flaky, flaky crusts. Seasonal fruit – at the end of summer it was apricots, and now that it’s fall, pears – and pastry cream are layered on top of yeasted laminated kouign amann dough. Which is genius.
Jamaica Crist makes great cakes: wedding cakes, birthday cakes, custom cakes, even, um, erotic cakes. The signature buttercream, made with white chocolate, is a winner. But it’s not just about cakes: There are fruit and cream pies; cookies such as chocolate crackle, oatmeal lace and chocolate- and caramel-dipped shortbread; scones and muffins; eclairs; and streusel.
11511 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-1971, www.jamaicascakes.com.
Joan’s on Third
Joan McNamara’s bustling 3rd Street market and cafe is an L.A. institution, with an immaculate pastry section filled with stacks of cookies in glass jars, coconut macarons on cake stands, marshmallow cloud cupcakes dipped in chocolate, chocolate roulade and mini lemon Bundt cakes. Also, a gelato bar.
8350 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 655-2285, www.joansonthird.com.
You’ll be dazzled by the banana mille feuille, apple tart, fluffy cheesecakes, fruit tarts, chocolate-coffee mousse cake and more.... But what everyone is here for is the mille crepes: 20 layers of thin crepes alternately layered with custard, the whole thing topped with powdered sugar.
8718 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (424) 279-9495, www.ladym.com.
Lark Cake Shop A go-to bakery for Silver Lakers seeking out birthday cakes (lemon-curd-filled with lemon buttercream, ice box cake with chocolate wafers or vegan chocolate orange, for example) or craving cupcakes. There are cheesecakes, scones and cookies, too. On some weekends and by special order, chocolate-glazed cream puffs.3337 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 667-2968, www.larkcakeshop.com.
Best pan dulce: The selection of pan dulce (“sweet bread”) at Boyle Heights panaderia La Mascota is consistently fresh and you can’t go wrong with its hand-shaped concha (“seashell”). Its sugary crust is crispy and crumble-in-your-mouth, and the interior is fluffy, soft and sweet. A mini is 25 cents and a regular, 75 cents.
2715 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 263-5513, www.lamascotabakery.com.
McCall’s Meat & Fish
Best uber-buttery pastry: The Breton pastry kouign amann at Karen Yoo’s bakery-inside-a-butcher-shop is as good as or better than any you’ve had in France – extra caramelized, over-the-top buttery and super flaky. That you can buy it while also picking up a couple of dry-aged ribeyes might make it all the better.
2117 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 667-0674, www.mccallsmeatandfish.com.
Oh My Pan
Best Asian sweet bun: At this bustling San Gabriel bakery often described as a cross between Half & Half Tea House (the popular SGV boba shop) and 85C (the pioneering Taiwanese purveyor of Eurasian breads), the brick toast piled high with sticky fruit may cause heads to turn, but its simple taro buttercream bun is a don’t-miss.
801 E. Valley Blvd., No. 105-106, San Gabriel, (626) 307-7719.
This South Bay bakery specializes in France-meets-Japan desserts such as light and airy cheesecake, creamy sesame blanc manger, black sesame cream puffs and grean tea mousse cake. Fall is for chestnuts: chestnut-studded pound cake and mont blancs of chestnut puree and chantilly cream.
2383 Lomita Blvd., No. 104, Lomita, (310) 257-9454, www.patisseriechantilly.com.
The demand is overwhelming at L.A.'s favorite Cuban bakery, but the lines move fast. Its most popular pastry must be the refugiado, flaky puff pastry filled with guava marmalade and cream cheese, created by Raul Porto and named “the refugee” in honor of Cuban exiles.
3614 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, (818) 846-9100; 315 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 956-5996; 8233 Firestone Blvd., Downey, (562) 862-8888; www.portosbakery.com.
Best croissant: The croissants go quickly at this Atwater Village favorite, so get there early when they’re most likely still barely warm, the outer layers golden and crunchy and the inner layers supple and airy. It smells and tastes of creamy butter. Overall, dreamy.
3156 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 664-8633, www.proofbakeryla.com.
Best rye bread: Like most of her breads and pastries, Rose Lawrence’s loaves of rye are leavened with her sourdough mother, which makes them tangy and robust and layered with flavor. This is a dark, dense rye, delicious on its own or slathered with butter. Bonus: Just ask and the bakery will give you a little of its sourdough starter for your own bread making.
13322 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, (424) 272-5752, www.thebreadisred.com.
German chef Hans Rockenwagner’s bakery runs around the clock and has grown from eight bakers in 2009 to about 80 bakers now, turning out all manner of Deutsche-deliciousness: pastries, pretzel rolls and pretzel croissants, multigrain scones, Linzer cookie bars, and most recently his croissant-doughnut, the Crö-dough (emphasis on the umlaut).
12835 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-577-0747; 311 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 394-4267; 1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 399-6504; www.rockenwagner.com.
Semi Sweet Bakery
Best retro snack cake: The foil-wrapped, chocolate-covered, cream-filled Ding Dong of childhood memories might have neared extinction recently when Hostess almost shuttered for good. But snack cake simulacra will likely persevere even after the Ding Dong is dead. And they’re better. Like the Ding A Lings at Semi Sweet Bakery, which come in flavors such as hazelnut crunch or raspberry.
105 E. 6th St., Los Angeles, (213) 228-9975, www.semisweetbakery.com.
Brioche doughnut, brunette bar with pine nuts and thyme, sesame date scone, twice-baked almond croissant, Belgian sugar pie, chocolate cinnamon babka ... the list of buttery-sugary-ness goes on and on at this Original Farmers Market bakery, founded by the late Amy Pressman in collaboration with Nancy Silverton. And the coffee is excellent.
6333 W. 3rd St., No. 316, Los Angeles, (323) 761-7976, www.shortcakela.com.
Sweet Butter Kitchen
Leslie Danelian, food stylist and cake designer, turned her Sweet Somethings catering company into Sweet Butter bakery-café, trafficking in big cinnamon sugar muffins, salted caramel brownies and ginger lavender scones, along with croissants, cookies and cupcakes. Some might be here for the kale salad, but why?
13824 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 788-2832, www.sweetbutterkitchen.com.
Sweet & Saucy Shop
Like the name says, a sweet shop -- specializing in cakes and mini desserts of tarts, pies and cookie bars: tiny chocolate tarts, cake pops, hand pies, cheesecakes, fruit tartlets and more. With cakes, you can go frilly or clean-lined, in flavors including s’mores cake with toasted marshmallow frosting, coconut passion fruit and lemon raspberry.
3722 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, (562) 598-8340; 7922 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Coast, (949) 715-0920; www.sweetandsaucyshop.com.
Best sticky bun: The salted caramel pecan babka roll – it just sounds like it’s going to be good, right? And it doesn’t disappoint – a swirled dome of sweet yeast dough rolled up with toasted pecans and creme fraiche and brown sugar that becomes a sticky caramel. Perfect with a cup of strong coffee.
143 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 939-0151, www.thesycamorekitchen.com.
Best gluten-free cake: Maybe best known for its toffees and chocolates, Valerie Confections also does pristine layer cakes. Recently owner Valerie Gordon has added gluten-free chocolate layer cake. It’s moist and luscious, made with buckwheat flour (buckwheat’s not wheat but a “pseudocereal”), layered with milk chocolate ganache and covered with bittersweet chocolate glaze.
3360 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, (213) 739-8149; 1665 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 250-9365; www.valerieconfections.com.
The Village Bakery & Cafe
A homespun bakery-cafe in Atwater Village, the Village Bakery & Cafe has it all, even house-made cannoli (that includes the shells). Its brimming pastry case (which might include lemon rosemary almond olive oil cake, brioche cinnamon rolls, tart cherry scones, chocolate chip cookies, blondies and carrot coconut muffins) draws all the locals.
3119 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 662-8600, www.thevillagebakeryandcafe.com.