In the 16th and 17th centuries, the skills of the pastry chef were added to those of the bread maker so that in modern Britain (as opposed to France), domestic and commercial bakers used the talents of both. Though the lines have been blurred, the benefit of combining these two trades mean extra goodness at several establishments throughout the Valley. Here are 15 of our favorites.
15.) Essence Bakery Cafe This sunny spot of upscale comfort food and delectable sweet treats in Tempe comes courtesy of chef Eugenia Theodosopoulos, who honed her pastry skills in Paris, and her husband Gilles Combes. Delights like homemade cookies, mini desserts, and crave-able raisin, almond, and chocolate croissants line the pastry case, but it is the French macarons, in rotating flavors like mint, caramel cream, pumpkin spice, and pink grapefruit, that Essence is most famous for.
14.) Treehouse Bakery Billing itself as offering "scrumptious vegan delights," Corianne Sizemore launched her vegan-friendly bakery business in 2010. And while customers will have to wait until Sizemore opens a retail bakery shop, they can can pick up her organic, non-egg, and dairy-free vegan cupcakes (try the mocha latte with espresso buttercream frosting or the red velvet), cookies, muffins, pies, and "uncheesecakes" every second and fourth Saturday at the Downtown Public Market.
13.) Karsh's Bakery This unpretentious kosher bakery on the northeast corner of Seventh Street and Missouri has been around since the 1960s. Using Old World ingredients and offering both pareve (non dairy) and dairy products, breads -- including "the best rye bread in town," -- share the spotlight with a variety of cakes topped with hand mixed icings, piles of cookies, napoleons, and rugalach, kichel, and mondel bread (biscotti). There's no seating here, so grab your goodies fresh and ready to go.
12.) Honey Moon Sweets This Tempe establishment started in 1996 by husband and wife team Tim and Joan O'Connor bakes treats for more than 100 of Arizona's top restaurants, resorts, catering companies, and specialty food stores. A dessert bar offers guests a sweet eyeful of custom cakes (including beautiful wedding creations), cookies, breakfast pastries, pies -- even the trend-i-licious cake pops -- and behind-the-scenes bakery tours and free treats for the kiddies make for additional sweetness.
11.) Scratch Pastries & Bistro Owners and Parisian transplants Duc and Noelle Liao have their own little piece of Paris at this bright and airy French patisserie and café in a Scottsdale strip mall. Along with a menu of croque madames and savory crèpes, there's a glass pastry counter filled with croissants, butter cookies, raspberry, chocolate, and lemon tarts, French meringues, and éclairs in chocolate, caramel, and rose essence. Ooh-la-la!
10.) Karl's Quality Bakery and The Baker's Daughter These Sunnyslope shops are next door to each other for good reason: It's a family thing. Karl Boerner, who hails from Switzerland, runs his bakery -- known for its alligator coffee cake, hand-dipped or -iced cookies, and blueberry and cream cheese muffins -- alongside his daughter Christine's chocolate and pastry café. Opened in 2010 and aptly named The Baker's Daughter, it features bars, gateaux, and swoon-worthy truffles.
9.) Barb's Bakery This unassuming, family-owned bakery in Central Phoenix has been in business for over 30 years. In addition to delicious doughnuts, cookies, and muffins, the shop is most known for its beautiful wedding creations and custom cakes in flavors from devil's food and pink champagne; seasonal goodies like cupcakes and signature frosted cookies in playful shapes and colors; and Barb's signature carrot cake. Spicy and moist and loaded with nuts, it's a fan favorite.
8.) Arai Pastry This Japanese and French bakery in Tempe opened in 2005, courtesy of Kenzo Arai, who makes desserts and breads for James Beard Award-winning chef Nobuo Fukada. A small shop with a selection that runs out in a hurry, the bakery is mainly for takeout or pre-orders of loaves of Japanese bread, cream puffs, cakes, and favorites like Japanese pans (light pastry buns filled with cream or meat), a green tea mousse sprinkled with sweet red bean, and strawberry cake.
7.) Europa Pastry Cafe Polish pastries? Comin' right up. This no-nonsense restaurant and market, nestled in a strip mall on 16th Street just north of Maryland, is beloved by European visitors and transplants to the state. A case of baked goods displays classic Polish favorites like Polish foldovers (kolaczki), Polish doughnuts (paczki), the Polish version of American apple pie (szarlotka), and a cheese and cherry Polish coffee cake. One thing's for sure, going home hungry isn't going to happen.
6.) New York West Pastry & Bake Shop It doesn't get more old school in Arizona than Sun City. Maybe that's why Hugh and Pat McGurgan, who owned a bakery in Chester, New York, for over 10 years, opened their shop on the border of Glendale and Sun City in 2000. Since then, folks from all over the state have made the journey for an amazing assortment of breads, cakes and pies, seasonal specialties, giant cream puffs, cookies, and the Devil Dog cake -- chocolate cake with a cream filling and covered in chocolate ganache.
5.) Balkan Bakery This small, family-owned European bakery in North Phoenix opened in 2008 and, hence the name, focuses on fare from Southeastern Europe (namely, the Balkan Peninsula), including Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Greece. Serving up fresh-baked breads and sweets in addition to specialties like baklava and the the popular cheese, meat, and spinach filled pastries called bureks, the goods disappear fast so get there early to grab your favorite.
4.) Gluten-Free Creations No wheat? No problem. Since founder LynnRae Ries was diagnosed gluten-intolerant in 2000, this bakery, with locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale, has made tasty, gluten-free, scratch-made treats its mission. Featuring doughnuts, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, brownies -- even Whoopie Pies and "Winkies" (the GF version of Twinkies), customers say the goods hold up better than anyone out there. And with dairy-free choices as well, there's something for almost any diet.
3.) La Promesa Bakery Family-owned since 2007 and formerly La Purisima Bakery until the owners changed its name, this shop in Central Phoenix on Indian School Road features an inexpensive selection of Mexican pastries as well as daily-made tortillas and tamales. Popular picks include the light and sweet pan de huevo (egg bread with a sugar crust), pulvarones cookies, fresh empanadas in a variety of flavors like mango, cream cheese, and strawberry, and the classic tres leches cake.
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2.) Nami Soy? What soy? Nami owner Damon Brasch opened this cool little vegan ice cream, coffee, and pastry shop in downtown Phoenix right next door to the second location of his vegan bistro, Green. With a solid offering fresh baked treats that change daily, vegans and meat-eaters alike can enjoy any number of outstanding sugary selections like oatmeal cream pies, peanut butter and chocolate candy bars, cupcakes, cookies, and Nami Cakes, the vegan version of a Ding Dong.
1.) Bertha's Cafe Beth Goldwater's cute little eatery of muchables and mahjong lessons serves up stellar sandwiches with equally delicious baked goods. From rich chocolate chip, peanut butter, and "Sinfully Good" cookies; brownies; mini and regular-sized cupcakes; mouthwatering muffins; Goldwater's popular daily-made varieties of cheesecakes; and pies brought in courtesy of Traci Wilbur (a.k.a. Pie Snob), the toughest choice might be not what to have but how many.
All our favorites lists are also available on our Best Of app -- see it in action here.