Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
21: Kronuts from Karl's Bakery
Where can you find fresh croissants, strudel, and fruity Bavarian tarts? How about colorful sugar cookies shaped like Saguaro cacti, butterflies, or palm trees?
There are more than 400 items (not counting custom orders) on the menu at Karl's Quality Bakery, a well-stocked, north-central Phoenix bakery with a large catalog of European-style pastries.
Baker Karl Boerner, a native of Germany who trained in Switzerland, founded the bakery in the early 1990s near Seventh Avenue and Dunlap Road. In 2014, the bakery moved to its current location at The Marketplace on Central in Sunnyslope.
Today, Karl's Quality Bakery is under the leadership of Christine Boerner, Karl’s daughter, a Swiss-trained chocolatier and baker. Baking happens six days a week starting at 1 a.m., and long-time regulars pop in throughout the day to pick up fresh-baked staples like Farmer's nine-grain bread, brioche, challah, and Kaiser rolls.
The selection of pies and tarts is particularly impressive. Come for specialties like French apple tarts or an Austrian-style Linzer tart made with hazelnut and gingerbread biscuit crust with raspberry jam. Fancy Euro-style cookies are another highlight, including Florentine biscuits and French macaroons.
Since the bakery's early days, the Boerner family has been canny about adjusting the pastry selection for American palates. That means the bakery cases are swelling with American-style treats like cake doughnuts, yeast doughnuts, and apple fritters.
In recent years, Karl's has become well-known for its gourmet, extra-buttery take on New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel's famous Cronut. The Cronut craze may have died down a few years ago, but Karl's kronuts have become a mainstay of the bakery's menu, and they are the reigning Cronut impersonator in town.
The kronuts at Karl's substitute buttered-up doughnut dough in place of croissant dough, resulting in a breathtakingly indulgent pastry. The most popular kronut in the house is the bakery's signature Lemon Basil, a thick, sugar-encrusted kronut that looks, at first glance, nearly as dense as a bagel sandwich. The flaky layers melt easily in your mouth though, and the distinct flavor of lemon cream contrasts beautifully with the sugary, almost-crisp exterior.
There is usually a seasonal special behind the counter. Recently, it was a citrus-lavender kronut, whose lightly floral, spicy notes dovetailed nicely with the rich, buttery density of the pastry dough.
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There are few places in the city with the range and selection of Karl's Quality Bakery. Where else can you pick up kronuts, petit fours, cupcakes, and a ham and cheese croissant to go? Certainly not at your local big-box bakery. Karl's Quality Bakery is an indispensable Phoenix bakery, and well worth the trek from any part of the city.
Karl's Quality Bakery. 111 East Dunlap Ave #13; 602-997-7849.
Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Sundays.
The Essentials so far:
50: Soul food platter at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
49: The Bear at Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts
48: Grilled squid and other specialties at Andreoli Italian Grocer
47: I-10 Nachos at Cocina 10
46: Coffee made from ROC2 beans
45: The Haturo Sub Sandwich at Cheese 'n Stuff
44: Zookz at Zookz
43: Jade Red Chicken at Chino Bandido
42: Tasting menu at Quiessence at The Farm
41: Single-origin Papua New Guinea Bar at Zak's Chocolate
40: Green chile at Casa Reynoso
39: Brûlée burger from Paradise Valley Burger Company
38: Hand-pulled noodles from China Magic Noodle House
37: Carne adovada sliders at Dick's Hideaway
36: Crispy Pig Ear and Amaro cocktails from Crudo
35: Chile-laced specialties from Cafe Ga Hyang
34: Martinis at AZ88
33: Nooner at Duck & Decanter
32: Eggs Maximilian at Harlow's Cafe
31: Beef Tacos from Asadero Norte De Sonora
30: Orange Blossom from Huss Brewing Company
29: Rye bread from Yasha From Russia
28: Scotch Beef and Mashed Potatoes from Tarbell's
27: Griddled Corn Cakes and Ramona Farms Super Food Salad at Phoenix City Grille
26: Soup from Reathrey Sekong
25: Lamb tongue sandwich at Haji Baba
24: The Special at Grand Avenue Pizza Company
23: Red chile at Elmer's Tacos
22: Marranitos at La Purisima Bakery
21: Kronuts from Karl's Bakery