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The 10 Best Bakeries in America

The 10 Best Bakeries in America

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Visiting an actual bakery to buy bread is like going to a butcher to buy meat or a fishmonger to buy fish — a dying habit. Luckily, a few thousand small bakeries still exist in the United States — enough for us to come up with our list of America’s 75 Best Bakeries. Here are the bakeries that made it to the top 10.

The 10 Best Bakeries in America (Slideshow)

According to a 2013 report by Sundale Research, the United States has nearly 6,700 independent bakeries that serve Americans daily. To compile our list of America’s 75 Best Bakeries, we narrowed those 6,700 bakeries down to 200, based on a combination of factors — considering bakeries that have made it to the top of our previous lists as well as those recognized by other publications — and pitted them against each other in a survey that we sent out to our expert panel. Participants were asked to rank what they thought were the top bakeries by region and indicate which items they felt each bakery was best known for (pies, cakes, breads, etc.). We took the list and put it under The Daily Meal editorial team’s scrutiny. Were they only specialists in a particular category of pastry? If so, were they so good in that category that they were still worth putting on the list? For the most part, these bakeries, especially the top 10, represent well-rounded talent, but there were a few specialists too talented to ignore.

A large portion of the bakeries on the total list — especially ones in the top 10 — are located in New York City, as many of our panelists knew the city well and were able to confidently rank those establishments. This certainly does not mean that New York is the only city with fabulous bakeries, though. Take a look at the rest of the list, which features bakeries in Delaware, Ohio, and Oklahoma, among other states, and tell us why a few non-New York bakeries need to be up-voted by tweeting @thedailymeal or leaving a comment below. Better yet, tell us about a bakery we need to have on our radar.

If you find yourself near any of these bakeries, don’t hesitate to stop in, even if just to look at the beautiful displays and smell that most comforting scent of bread baking. After all, they are some of the very best in the country.

Additional reporting by Nikkitha Bakshani

#10 Levain Bakery, New York City and Wainscott, N.Y.

Levain Bakery’s moist and decadent cookies, which come in tried-and-true flavors like oatmeal raisin and dark peanut butter chip, are one of those foods you cannot leave New York (or the Hamptons!) without tasting. Other baked-in-house goods include chocolate chip brioche and rustic fruit tarts, and a selection of French-style breads, such as baguettes and country boules.

#9 Maison Kayser, New York City

French chef Eric Kayser opened Maison Kayser in Paris in 1996, and he now has more than 100 bakeries around the world in 13 countries, with all the U.S. locations currently located in New York City. Try their pain au chocolat, or even better, their plié au chocolat, which has a filling of pastry cream and many tiny chocolate chips that make the strip of chocolate in pains au chocolat seem stingy. And then there are the pistachio financiers, cake-like cookies, nutty multigrain baguettes, olive bread with shiny chunks of real green and Kalamata olives, and other delicacies that will transport you to Paris in a single bite.

20 Great American Bread Bakeries

When researching our special feature on American Bread for our May 2012 issue, twenty bakeries across the country stood out above the rest as pioneers and role models in the American artisan bread movement.

Acme Bread Company

Bay Area, California

This nearly 30-year-old Berkeley institution, helmed by co-founder and Chez Panisse alum Steve Sullivan, is not content to rest on its yeasted laurels. Committed since 1999 to using only organic flour, these days Acme, with its original bakery in Berkeley and an outpost in San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace, is working closely with flour supplier Keith Giusto and his cadre of California farmers to find hearth bread-friendly wheat varieties suited to the local climate. A loaf to look out for: Acme’s new hand-formed “Edible Schoolyard Loaf,” a tasty homage to Alice Waters’ groundbreaking program, a toasty bread made from California-grown, stone-milled Yecora Rojo wheat. A point of pride for Sullivan: five current or former employees now have an ownership stake in this much-loved pioneering bakery.


Englewood, New Jersey

Like watching the Yankees, riding the Cyclone and shopping in SoHo, eating Balthazar bread is a quintessential New York experience. Okay, so it’s technically baked at a 14,000-square foot warehouse in Englewood, New Jersey, but Balthazar’s dozens of products fill the breadbaskets of hundreds of eateries in the five boroughs, including the bakery’s sister brasserie of the same name. And despite the large-scale operation, each bread tastes like the work of a single boulangerie. The French Baguette, Rye Boule, a beer-infused Olive Bread and Chocolate Bread loaded with morsels of bittersweet chocolate are just a few of Balthazar’s greatest hits.

Berkshire Mountain Bakery

Housatonic, Massachusetts

Baker Richard Bourdon’s shop may be tucked away in a Western Massachusetts village with a population just over 1,000, but it has garnered nation-wide attention. The calls for road trips to Berkshire Mountain Bakery are certainly warranted, as Bourdon, who hails from Quebec, has been committed to the art of natural sourdough baking for more than 35 years – long before this wild yeast process became en vogue in America. Some of the his most legendary products are Bread and Chocolate, a white boule studded with Callebaut chocolate chunks, the Multi Grain covered with rolled oats and the Cherry Pecan, which makes for incredible French toast.

Bien Cuit

Bien Cuit

Brooklyn, New York

Zachary Golper’s stories of his first baking experiences as a 19-year-old in rural Oregon sound like generations-old folklore — but they happened a mere 15 years ago! He worked by candlelight under the guidance of a man known to him only as Carlos, hand-mixing dough and raking the embers of the wood-burning oven. These days, Golper uses electric mixers in the one-year-old Boerum Hill bakery and cafe he owns with his wife, Kate Wheatcroft, but his techniques are as meticulous as ever. For instance, he blends six different flours and then ferments the dough for 68 hours to craft the miche, a round French-style loaf with a dark, chewy crust and a slightly sour flavor.

Blue Duck

Blue Duck Bakery and Cafe

Blue Duck Bakery Cafe

Eastern Long Island, New York

Keith Kouris has been raising the bread bar since the mid-1990s, when, as a visionary young baker in a suburban King Kullen, he introduced artisan breads to one of Long Island’s largest supermarkets. In 1999 he and his wife Nancy opened Blue Duck in Southampton, in a building that had housed a bakery since the 1930s, turning to Europe for inspiration for their traditional, hand-made baguettes, batards, and focaccias. We love their chewy, hearty Pain Rustique gorgeous, cake-like Pain Chocolat super aromatic fennel-scented Swedish Limpa with raisins and spices and a stunning seed-studded sunflower loaf. What makes Blue Duck breads so delicious? Proximity to the water — the Atlantic Ocean on the South Fork and the Long Island Sound on the North — may be part of the secret, fortifying Kouris’s cultures with moisture and a lick of salt air. But it’s the baker’s passion that elevates Blue Duck above the flock.

Bread Alone

Boiceville, New York

This pioneering bakery nestled in New York’s Hudson Valley churns out more than 55,000 pounds of organic bread each week, sending freshly baked loaves to supermarkets, specialty shops and farmers’ markets throughout the Northeast, not to mention its three Upstate New York cafes. But Bread Alone wasn’t always such a major operation. Artisan Dan Leader moved to the Catskills in 1983 to escape the New York City rat race and sold bread out of his Mazda Hatchback. But he was back in Manhattan soon enough, hawking Bread Alone loaves at city greenmarkets. And despite Bread Alone’s expansion, Leader and his team still use locally sourced ingredients for everything from their golden Challah to their rustic Ciabatta.

Della Fattoria

Della Fattoria

Petaluma, CA

Started in 1995 by Edmund and Kathleen Weber at their family ranch, an old chicken farm that today supplies eggs and produce to their cafe in downtown Petaluma, Della Fattoria began quite by accident back in 1994 after Kathleen installed a wood oven outside the kitchen (“a lifelong dream!”) and began baking breads for friends, neighbors, and soon, the chef at Sonoma Mission Inn where her son Aaron was working. These days Della Fattoria turns out 400-1,200 hand-shaped loaves a night, crusty beauties crafted from 100% organic flour, Brittany sea salt, and a natural starter that began life years ago with yeast from Weber Ranch grapes (they still grow Pinot Noir at their small vineyard). Their breads — campagne, levain, ciabatta, polenta, pumpkin seed, and more — are all naturally leavened and baked on the bottom of their two wood-burning ovens using retained heat. Find them at restaurants like Napa Valley’s Auberge du Soleil and the Marin and San Francisco Ferry Plaza weekly farmers markets. Della Fattoria’s Rosemary-Meyer Lemon bread is a knockout: salty, lemony, herbal, with a beautiful sheen to the well-structured crumb and a crust that bears beauty marks from the floor of the hearth it baked upon.

Gerard’s Breads of Tradition

Westford, Vermont
Available at Onion River Co-Op, Burlington, Vermont

It’s a good thing Gerard Rubaud set up his bakery next to his Vermont home, as he often works 15 straight hours to hand-form and wood-fire hundreds of his signature item, the wild yeast-based 3 Grain Country Loaf. “I like baking through the night, under the stars – that’s my life,” said Rubaud, a Savoie-native who took his first apprenticeship at age 13. Vermont’s beloved artisan (he has a street named after him!) still employs many of the same techniques that he learned as a teen in the 1950s, including using a manual grinder to mill flour and feeding his organic levain three times a day. It’s methods like these that make Gerard’s sourdough arguably the most deeply flavored bread in the state.

Grand Central Bakery

Leslie Cole (courtesy of Grand Central Bakery)

Grand Central Bakery

Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington
This Pacific Northwest pioneer, founded by Gwenyth Bassetti in 1989, grew out of her little Seattle sandwich shop The Bakery, which when it opened in 1972 served a custom “Bakery Blend” coffee made for them by a new local company called Starbucks. Today Grand Central Bakery has three locations in Seattle and another six (soon to be seven) in Portland, and is run by Gwen’s son Ben, a onetime geologist and fisherman in Alaska daughter Piper, the “soul” of the company and an assortment of friends who share their passion. Grand Central’s rustic European-style hearth baked breads are made from sustainably grown white flour from Shepherd’s Grain in Palouse, Washington and whole wheat flour from Camas Country Mill in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which is bringing back heirloom wheat varieties like Red Fife well suited to the local climate. In addition to their classic baguettes, levains, ciabattas, sour ryes, and their famous white Italian-style Como Loaf, with its crisp crust and glossy crumb, Grand Central Bakery has just started a seasonal loaf program, kicking off this past winter with a rye-based Swedish Limpa, scented with anise, coriander, caraway seeds, and orange zest.

Hungry Ghost Bread

Northampton, Massachusetts

The Hungry Ghost feeds more than spirits with its spectacular breads, among them French, organic raisin, and a dense rye topped with toasted black kalonji seeds. Baked in a wood-fired masonry oven baker/owners Jonathan Stevens and Cheryl Maffei helped build themselves, many of Hungry Ghost’s breads are made from locally grown, freshly milled wheat and spelt, cultivated as part of the bakery’s “Little Red Hen” project to restore grain-growing in the Pioneer Valley. Like the Johnny Appleseeds of wheat, Stevens and Maffei started several years ago doling out handfuls of wheat berries to eager customers to plant in their yards and gardens. By now, one local farmer delivers 400 pounds of flour to Hungry Ghost each week. Try the Hungry Ghost’s Trinity bread, made from local spelt, wheat, and triticale (a wheat-rye cross). Another curious specialty is annadama, a corn flour-and-molasses New England bread born, the legend goes, when a hungry fisherman, tired of the cornmeal and molasses porridge his unimaginative wife served him day after day, added yeast and flour, muttering “Anna, damn her” as he baked the concoction.

Iggy’s Bread of the World Bakery

Iggy’s Bread of the World

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Husband-and-wife team Igor and Ludmilla Ivanovic changed the Boston bread scene when they opened their groundbreaking Watertown bakery on a nondescript industrial block in 1994. Their creations, from moist focaccia made from naturally leavened dough to hearty 7-Grain roll laced with wildflower honey, were revelations to locals raised on overly processed supermarket bread. Iggy’s, whose breads are available at the bakery’s storefront, New England farmers markets and grocery stores, prides itself on using organic ingredients sourced from sustainable farms.

Ken’s Artisan Bakery

Portland, Oregon

Inspired by the late famed French baker Lionel Poilane, Ken Forkish ditched his career in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley in search of something more craft-driven. The result: this warm, welcoming bakery, started in 2001 and now a neighborhood institution, serving up traditional European-style hearth-baked boules and baguettes that fans say rival the best in Paris. Clearly, the career move has paid off, with Forkish recently garnering his third nomination for a prestigious James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. Look out this fall for his first book, Flour Water Yeast Salt: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza (Ten Speed Press, September 2012). In the meantime, if you’re in the area, treat yourself to Ken’s soulful walnut levain, with its gorgeously irregular honeycombed crumb and notes of lavender, or a nice Country Blonde, its thin crisp exterior cloaking a light, subtly tangy sourdough crumb.

Milo and Olive

Milo & Olive

Santa Monica, California

Fans are already flocking to this tiny Santa Monica bakery and pizzeria that turned out its first breads just last November. Run by husband-and-wife team Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, whose nearby much-loved restaurants Rustic Canyon and Huckleberry Bakery ensured an instant following, Milo & Olive brims with playful energy: the place was named for the couple’s young son and the daughter they may one day have, and Tartine-trained Zoe cheerfully confesses that the inspiration for her out-of-sight Cheese Bread, packed with parmesan, Grana Padano, Gruyere, and cheddar, was childhood favorite Cheez-It crackers. But don’t be fooled: her multigrain baguette, swoon-worthy Cinnamon Sugar Brioche, and jewel-studded Fruit & Nut Bread are as sophisticated as they come.



New York City

Even the newest offerings at this 86-year-old bakery are firmly rooted in the past. Orwasher’s line of artisan wine breads, launched in 2008 by new owner Keith Cohen, are based on centuries-old French recipes that feature the yeast of fermented grapes. Of course, the Upper East Side shop still serves brick oven-baked favorites that were perfected by the Orwasher family (the original owners) like the Jewish Rye and Pumpernickel — edible histories for the Eastern European immigrant experience.

Pain D’Avignon

Long Island City, New York
(not open to the public)

No matter how many restaurants and markets clamor for their bread, the Pain D’Avignon crew refuses to cut corners. Bakers at the 12-year-old Long Island City operation work side by side, cutting and shaping dough by hand before allowing it to slowly ferment en couche – in a cloth that supports the dough as it rises and keeps it from drying out. But while the dough is the tour de force of Pain D’Avignon’s product line, intoxicating ingredients like fresh Rosemary, caraway seeds, cranberries and pecans are wonderful supporting players.

Seven Stars Bakery

Providence, Rhode Island

Baker/owners Jim and Lynn Williams started tending their whole wheat and rye sourdough starters months before they opened their bakery in early 2001, and they continue to lavish the care of a parent on their starters to keep them young and healthy for breads with great flavor and rise and only the mildest tang. The couple have since expanded operations to include three locations around Providence, one on the site of the old Rumford baking powder plant, now a National Chemical Historic Landmark. We especially like the French Rye, the Toasted Walnut and Raisin, and the chewy Olive Batard, strewn with tiny oil-cured Moroccan olives and plump, briny Kalamatas, the essence of the Mediterranean in bread form.

Sullivan street

Sullivan Street Bakery

New York City

The innovator whose no-knead bread recipe became a New York Times sensation in 2006 and who invents bread names — truccione , cruccolo, doni — that quickly take on the patina of authenticity, Jim Lahey also embodies a back-to-basics classicism that prizes skill, repetition, and craftsmanship, even as his breads and business continue to evolve. He lauds the local flour movement and quests for exotic yeasts, but at the end of the day, he says, “it’s the primacy of the bread, feeding someone, that really matters.” Bite into his succulent, slightly salty Truccione Sare, a rustic sourdough with deep, appealing slash marks and a heavily charred, crackly crust, and savor that primal feeling.

La Farm

Cary, North Carolina

You know what they say, you can take the baker out of France but you can’t take the French out of the baker. That’s certainly the case for Paris-native Lionel Vatinet. He left his French bread-baking guild to travel the world and eventually settled in a Raleigh, NC suburb, where he opened La Farm with his future wife, Missy. La Farm reflects the baking traditions Vatinet learned during his seven-year tenure with the prestigious guild, Les Compagnons du Devoir: The dough is made with a natural sourdough starter and unbleached flours before it is baked in a European-style hearth oven. “I wanted to introduce people in the neighborhood to crusty, hand-made bread,” Vatinet said. But he does enjoy experimenting with internationally influenced breads, such as the addictive Asiago Parmesan Cheese Bread. “We’re a French bakery with the creativity of the American spirit,” Vatinet said.

Standard Baking Company

Portland, Maine

There’s often a long line at this 17-year-old bakery located inside a brick warehouse, but that may not be such a bad thing the wait gives customers the time to inhale the scent of fresh-baked bread and behold the wicker baskets filled to the rim with gorgeous loaves. Husband-and-wife co-owners Matt James and Alison Pray modeled the Standard Baking Company after the neighborhood bakeries of France and Italy, and breads like the flour-dusted Rustic Loaf and Rosemary Focaccia are the edible incarnations of their influences.

Tartine Bakery & Cafe

San Francisco, California

Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson’s Mission District phenomenon is its city’s gold standard for impeccable organic bread. The stone hearth-baked loaves have spawned a cafe menu of artfully prepared sandwiches, but bread bought unadorned is still the best way to experience Robertson’s way with flour, salt, water and wild yeast. His masterpiece is the Country Loaf, which he developed and perfected over the course of two decades. The process takes 24 hours and Tartine loyalists line up to buy this fundamental bread when it’s served fresh from the oven after 5 pm Wednesday through Sunday. The Country Loaf is available with walnuts, olives or sesame seeds, but purists prefer it plain and simple.

10 Of The Most Popular Wedding Cake Bakeries In America

Can a single girl plan a cake tasting? Asking for a friend.

A good cake can make guests forget any other potential meal mishaps &mdash stingy appetizer trays, dry chicken, a cash bar &mdash so a top-notch bakery is important. WeddingWire looked into its network of local wedding vendors to find some of the top ones in the country. Brides and husbands-to-be: Here are ten to keep on your radar.

Don't forget to pin it for later!

The baker here has a background in chemistry, and she's used it to come up with the most delicious cakes in town. You can choose from one of 34 flavors to hide behind the mesmerizing designs.

Kristen Repa, Dessert Works' head pastry chef, trained in the cake-loving city of Vienna, Austria, before returning to Massachusetts. There she's made cakes for former president Bill Clinton, Aerosmith's Joe Perry, and the Kennedy family . Every couple's guaranteed to find a cake that fits the bill: The bakery will make vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free versions.

If you think Bittersweet Pastry Shop's wedding cakes are impressive, you should see their sweet tables. Couples can deck them out with tarts, tortes, mousse, and mini cakes.

SHOP IT: Love Cake Topper, $20

This bakery has been a Dallas fixture for more than 70 years, and customers love it for its creativity. Every cake is made from scratch, so bakers can whip up any custom flavor you desire.

Every season ushers in a different cake flavor menu, which you can check out here. Summer brides can enjoy vanilla cake with lemon curd and strawberry buttercream, while winter couples can cozy up to a slice of pumpkin cake with candied cranberries and cinnamon buttercream.

Owner Nadine Moon could fill your computer screen with her list of achievements: Her cakes have been featured on Food Network and TLC, and she's made custom ones for Matthew McConaughey, Elton John, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan . Her specialty is extra-tall cakes that tower above the happy couple.

Geode cakes, naked cakes, tree bark cakes &mdash there's not a trend this bakery hasn't tackled. Its name is a nod to the most universally loved cake flavor and also to the fact that bakers use Madagascar vanilla beans in all of their desserts.

The chef at Butterfly Bakeshop hails from Bogota, Colombia, and his cake designs are just as colorful as his home country. You can let him dream up something custom for you or choose a base, trim, and design extras from his a la carte menu.

The second generation of cake makers just took over this family-run bakeshop, but that hasn't slowed down business. The Master's Baker churns out 1,500 custom wedding cakes every year, plus cupcake tables and mini desserts.

Kelly O'Brien has done it all: She's been a line cook, a pastry chef, a sorority house chef, and now the chef and cake designer of Glass Slipper Gourmet. She's all about the details, with a Pinterest page for clients to get inspired by and made-to-order cake stands to finish the look on their big day.

The 50 Best Bakeries in America

Do the words &ldquofreshly baked&rdquo give you goose bumps? Is dinner just not dinner without a cookie at the end? Do you take the long way home to pick up a secret doughnut after work? Yep, we thought so. We asked our friends at Yelp to help us find the 50 best bakeries across the country. Because no matter which state you&rsquore in, you should know where you can get some top-notch focaccia.

America's best bakeries

8. Amy's Bread, New York City: Amy's delivers bread to more than 200 wholesale customers per day, but three locations remain retail bakeries as well, giving New Yorkers a taste of handcrafted breads that are made through slow fermentation and traditional baking methods. Try the semolina with golden raisins and fennel (their signature bread), black olive twists, baguettes and organic miche. The bakery also bakes old-fashioned layer cakes like coconut cream cake, cupcakes, cookies, biscotti, butterscotch cashew bars, oat scones, banana bran and walnut muffins, croissants and more, satisfying both bread enthusiasts and cake lovers. (Photo: Amy's Bread)

When it comes to bread and pastries, Americans are blessed with near-limitless options. With more than 6,000 retail bakeries in the U.S., there's a wide variety to choose from. Some specialize in bread, others sell pastries, and some sell both, and even those bakeries vary by cuisine. To determine the best of the best, The Daily Meal took a look at more than 1,400 bakeries in our quest to find America's best bakeries.

From local mom-and-pop shops to high-end chains, from American favorites to French patisseries, and from artisanal bread bakeries to pastry shops, we took into account all the different kinds of bakeries as we searched for America's best. Although some bakeries bake only bread or only pastries (in France, for example, you'd go to a patisserie for your pastry fix and a boulangerie for your daily baguette), we decided to incorporate both kinds of bakeries into our search. While it was not necessary for bakeries to serve both, the ones who do received extra points. We also took into account bakeries' originality, how long they've been around for, if they have notable and award-winning chefs, if they make all their baked goods from scratch and their buzz factor.

So what, exactly, makes a bakery great? We reached out to some of America's leading bakers and pastry chefs to see what they had to say. "If you call yourself a baker and half of the items you sell are outsourced or from premade mixes, you're probably not doing it in the spirit I would classify as being a great bakery," Roy Shvartzapel, one of Dessert Professional's 2013 top 10 pastry chefs in America, told The Daily Meal. "Stay true to the craft." Shvartzapel, who recently opened Common Bond, a bakery-café in Houston, adds that bakeries are meant to be a "place where guests are coming to engage all the senses."

Famed pastry chef François Payard agrees that "atmosphere and feeling" are both important to a bakery's success. "You should smell breads and other baked goods being made," he told us. "The bread is really what makes a great bakery for me, as well as a good variety of both sweet and savory items."

Exceptional bakeries are also consistent. "An excellent bakery consistently serves great products," Andy Chlebana, a 2012 Pastry Team USA member and another one of Dessert Professional's top 10 pastry chefs of the year, told us. "You know what you will get and no matter what it is, you are never disappointed."

As a metric by which to judge a bakery, pastry chef and food writer Ed Morita tries the croissant whenever he visits one for the first time. "If the croissant is flaky, then it is usually a good indicator that that attention to detail transfers into the other areas of the bakery," he said. In addition to overall product quality, "standout specialties" and "good service" are important, too, Serious Eats columnist Kathy YL Chan told us.

Whether you're craving old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies, freshly baked bread, flaky pain au chocolat, mouthwatering cakes or fruit-studded tarts, our best bakeries in America have something for everyone.

1. Tartine Bakery, San Francisco

Tartine emerged as this year's top bakery, and there are good reasons why. The bakery, opened by James Beard Award-winning chefs Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson in 2002, excels at both breads and pastries. Their bread, available in plain country or with walnuts, sesame seeds or olives, is made from locally milled organic flours and sea salt and baked on a stone hearth. Tartine embraces its sense of place, using local produce to create delicious pastries like morning buns and banana cream tarts. The bakery remains a local gem, and those who can't visit right away may want to try recipes from the two cookbooks, Tartine and Tartine Bread.

2. Dominique Ansel, New York City

We are glad that Dominique Ansel, the former executive pastry chef at Daniel, left the restaurant to open his eponymous bakery in New York City's SoHo two years ago. The award-winning chef is the creator of the highly coveted Cronut, which has inspired plenty of Cronut copycats across the world, but he is no one-hit wonder. His other pastries are top-notch and baked in small batches throughout the day, and Ansel's creativity skyrocketed his bakery to the top of our list. You can't go wrong with any item, but we recommend the DKA (Dominique's Kouign Amann), made-to-order madeleines, New York-inspired Paris Brest, Nutella milk bread and torched-to-order frozen s'mores. "You have to cater to your customers and help them dream a little with desserts," Ansel told us.

3. Flour Bakery + Café, Boston

Flour Bakery's "eat dessert first" motto is hard to disagree with when it comes to their freshly baked, breads, pastries, cookies, tarts and more. Owner and pastry chef Joanne Chang has been bringing America's comfort food to the next level since 2000, with sticky buns so good they beat Bobby Flay's on an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, lemon curd cakes with raspberry preserve, granola bars, Milky Way tarts and chocolate cupcakes with Crispy Magic Frosting. The bakery's banana bread or brioche with raisins make great morning treats, especially when served with a cup of steaming coffee during cold New England winters.

4. The Standard Baking Company, Portland, Maine

The Standard Baking Company in downtown Portland is a bread lover's paradise. Owners Allison Bray and Matt James bake a wide variety of breads, including rosemary focaccia, pain de mie, brioche, boules and epi breads. Many order morning buns, but croissants, which come in almond, chocolate, plain and ham and cheese, are popular as well.

5. Macrina Bakery, Seattle

Chef Leslie Mackie opened Macrina in 1993, and her bakery became Seattle's go-to place for artisan rustic breads. Macrina Casera bread complements every meal, and their popular rustic potato bread comes in loaves, rolls and baguette forms. As for non-bread items, Macrina's Whisper Cake, a white chocolate cake with lemon curd, whipped cream, raspberry layers and white chocolate cream cheese frosting, is worth a visit, as is their red velvet cake. Their pastry selection features dozens of baked goods, including apple turnovers made with roasted Washington apples, buttermilk biscuits topped with strawberry or marionberry jam, and lemon sour cherry coffeecake.

6. Levain Bakery, New York City

In New York City's Upper West Side, Levain Bakery attracts locals and tourists alike with their famous 6-ounce chocolate chip walnut cookie, which has a crispy exterior and a gooey and chewy interior and is one of the most decadent things you'll ever eat. Other baked-in-house cookies include dark chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and dark chocolate peanut butter chip, but Levain also has a fair selection of bread, from Valrhona chocolate rolls to baguettes to whole-wheat walnut raisin rolls.

7. Salty Tart, Minneapolis

Located in the Twin Cities' Midtown Global Market, Salty Tart has been serving sweets and savories for the past five years. Chef Michelle Gayer is known for her "crack-a-roons," or coconut macaroons, which Andrew Zimmern deemed better than his mom's. The bakery also sells brioche rolls, which are filled with vanilla bean pastry cream, twice-baked ham and cheese croissants, rosemary corn cakes and their famous cheddar jalapeño bread. You'll find a good selection of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, seasonal pastries and tarts — there's not much more you could ask for.

8. Amy's Bread, New York City

Amy's Bread, which first opened in 1992 in New York City's Hell's Kitchen, has two other locations, in Chelsea Market and the Village. The bakery delivers bread to more than 200 wholesale customers per day, but the three locations remain retail bakeries as well, giving New Yorkers a taste of handcrafted breads that are made through slow fermentation and traditional baking methods. Try the semolina with golden raisins and fennel (their signature bread), black olive twists, baguettes and organic miche. The bakery also bakes old-fashioned layer cakes like coconut cream cake, cupcakes, cookies, biscotti, butterscotch cashew bars, oat scones, banana bran and walnut muffins, croissants and more, satisfying both bread enthusiasts and cake lovers.

9. Porto's Bakery, Los Angeles

Porto's Bakery offers quality Cuban cakes as well as their popular cream cheese pastry rolls, guava and cream cheese puff pastries and potato balls, which are fried mashed potatoes filled with seasoned ground beef. The bakery, with its wide selection of cakes, pastries, sandwiches and breads, has been a family-owned business since 1975. In the 1990s, Porto's expanded their production selection with European-style goods, building upon the original selection of Cuban pastries. The quality and variety of their baked goods make Porto's a thriving establishment in Southern California and one of America's best bakeries.

10. Pearl Bakery, Portland, Ore.

Portland's Pearl Bakery started small in 1997, but soon gained national acclaim for their breads and pastries. The bakery continues to make their baked goods by hand, using organic, local ingredients whenever possible. Pugliese, their signature bread, is holey with a chewy crust. The bakery uses several leavening methods, which is why you'll find a wide range of breads, including wheat levain, paesanao, fig anise panini, multigrain boule, batard and Pullman loaf. Their pastry selection features breakfast items like brioche, cornmeal pound cake, Irish soda bread and chocolate croissants, small treats ranging from snickerdoodles to Parisian macarons, and larger treats like traditional layer cakes and tarts. Pearl Bakery also sells handmade bonbons and chocolate bars made from single-origin chocolate. Quite an impressive array!

11. Three Brothers Bakery, Houston

Three Brothers Bakery serves savory Eastern European-style breads, like rye bread, Danishes, cheese pockets, Kaiser rolls, bialys, onion boards and more. Their challah is so popular that it quickly sells out during Jewish holidays. The bakery, created by the three Jucker brothers, who all survived the Holocaust, opened in Houston in 1949. Today, the bakery is run by a fifth-generation Jucker baker, who sells other treats like chocolate fudge pecan pie, almond sticks, bobka chocolate coffee cake and their famous gingerbread cookies, which have been baked with the same recipe since 1960.

12. Kiedrowski's Bakery, Amherst, Ohio

Kiedrowski's Bakery is meant to evoke memories of eating grandma's baked goods, and at the shop you'll find comfort foods like chocolate turtles, rockslide brownies, apple turnovers, Bavarian cream-filled donuts and maple bacon cream sticks. Kiedrowski's is known for its trademarked Snoogle, which is a lady locks cookie and cheese Danish hybrid that's shaped into a stick and filled with cream. What started as a happy accident of having leftover lady locks and Danish ingredients turned into their best-selling item. And be sure to pick up some cinnamon apple raisin bread on the way home.

13. Ken's Artisan Bakery, Portland, Ore.

At Ken's Artisan Bakery, expect top-quality breads like country brown, baguette, pain rustique and raisin pecan. Portland's James Beard-nominated chef Ken Forkish also makes buttery croissants with local berries and hazelnut cream, brioche cinnamon rolls, canneles, seasonal fruit tarts and hazelnut butter cookies, bringing us a blend of French and American baked goods.

14. Maison Kayser, New York City

French chef Eric Kayser opened Maison Kayser in Paris back in 1996, and he now has more than 100 bakeries around the world in 13 countries, with all the U.S. locations currently located in New York City. The breads are baked on-site at each bakery using liquid leaven, a mixture of water and flour fermented at a certain temperature. Their pastries alone are worth a visit, especially their moist madeleines, pistachio financiers, brioche and croissants. An excellent bakery needs "excellent products . produced by selecting the best ingredients which are transformed by bakers and pastry chefs who have a strong know-how," chef Kayser tells us, and we think Maison Kayser certainly meets the standards.

15. Liliha Bakery, Honolulu

Liliha Bakery opened in 1950, selling butter rolls, glazed donuts, dobash (chocolate) and haupia (coconut) cake and more to Hawaii's community. Liliha is known for its coco puff, which debuted in 1970 with not much success, but made a comeback in 1990 when now-retired baker Kame Ikemura tweaked the recipe. The coco puff, one of the bakery's most popular items, is filled with chocolate pudding and topped with Hawaiian chantilly cream. The bakers crank up the oven and bake everything from scratch from 2 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, making Liliha not only a local favorite but also a must-visit destination when you're in Hawaii.

16. Floriole Bakery, Chicago

At Floriole, you'll find critically acclaimed bread and pastries. The bakery sells baguettes, sourdough and miche, though you definitely want to try their yeasted cornbread when it's baked on Tuesdays and Fridays. The cornbread is as light as sandwich bread and is made with local cornmeal and honey. Floriole's fudgy brownies are made with Valrhona triple chocolate, and their almond crème croissant and fruit galette are also worth a try.

17. Clear Flour Bread, Brookline, Mass.

Clear Flour Bread, a bakery just outside of Boston, does Italian and French bread the old-fashioned way: made from scratch and shaped by hand, and baked in a stone hearth, without dough conditioners and preservatives. The bakery has been around for more than 30 years, and their baguettes, boules and batards speak for themselves. Their award-winning morning buns taste of cinnamon and come with or without walnuts, and their croissants, cranberry currant scones and molasses cookies have customers lining up all the way out the door on the weekends.

18. Bien Cuit, New York City

With locations in Brooklyn and the West Village, Bien Cuit offers breads that are made with local flours and a small-batch mixing method, making it easier for bakers to control the fermentation process and bring customers great quality products. Their breads show the nuanced flavors that emerge due to the bakery's use of the slow fermentation process, which takes 16 to 68 hours. Their miche, for example, has a blend of rye and wheat flours and is fermented for 68 hours, while the milk and honey bread undergoes a 24-hour milk-based fermentation. And their pastry selection has a blend of French and American choices, from the chocolate almond croissant (baked twice with brandy) to salted chocolate buckwheat cookies to a blueberry and lemon meringue tart with a basil infusion.

19. Balthazar Bakery, New York City

Balthazar Bakery, located on SoHo's Spring Street, is small but packed with breads and pastries. The shelves are stocked with baguettes, pain au levain, ciabatta, brioche, Valrhona chocolate roundels, potato onion slabs, dinner rolls and more. On the sweeter side, the bakery also has croissants, pain au chocolat, shortbread cookies and cinnamon sugar donuts, to name a few of their tasty selections.

20. El Brazo Fuerte Bakery, Miami

Miami's El Brazo Fuerte Bakery has been serving Cuban bread, Cuban pastelitos (flavors include cheese, guava, beef, and guava and cheese) and cakes for more than three decades. Fresh pastries like key lime tarts and napoleons come fresh out of the oven during the day, and for those who want a filling savory snack, their popular ham or chicken croquettes may do the trick.

21. François Payard Bakery, New York City

Award-winning pastry chef François Payard has three François Payard Bakery locations throughout the city, making it easier for New Yorkers to grab chocolate almond croissants in the morning or a loaf of pain de campagne, a country white organic bread, to take home. Payard's signature roulé (rolled) cakes include flavors like Gâteau de Voyage, a vanilla bean and rum pastry cream with Basque and semolina dough, L'Ecureuil, a chocolate and hazelnut mousse with hazelnut cake and biscuit, as well as seasonally changing Gâteau Roulé offerings like orange blossom. Payard's éclairs, which are filled with chocolate custard, make a satisfying afternoon snack, as do his raspberry lychee macarons.

10 Most Popular Desserts in America

Humans have always craved sweet things. Early on, it was all berries and honey, but with the introduction of refined sugar, the dessert was born. The name dessert comes from the French word "desservir" which means "to clear away" -- in this case, the dinner table. Depending on where you are in the world, you'll get a wide variety of the post-meal sweet treats. In China, it might contain red beans or dates. In Mexico, the custard like flan could be on the menu.

In the United States, the sweeter the dessert is, the better. We may not have invented all (or even most) of the desserts we're known for, but we've certainly put our own spin on a wide variety of foreign classics -- so much so that some of the most popular desserts have become synonymous with the United States. Just the words "apple pie" conjure up visions of white picket fences and baseball. So join us for a lip-smacking tour of the most popular desserts the United States has to offer.

Read the next page to learn about America's cheesiest dessert.

Recipes vary, but the key ingredient to this dessert is, not surprisingly, cheese. The most common cheeses in the modern version of cheesecake are cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta and Neufchatel. The New York version that's become so famous uses cream cheese along with eggs, cream, sugar and usually a graham cracker crust. While there are a seemingly unlimited number of variations on this classic, New York style cheesecake is served plain with no other ingredients or toppings. Other types of cheesecake are topped with or otherwise contain fruits, cookies, peanut butter and pretty much any other decadent ingredient you can think of.

People looking for a dessert fix but who wish to avoid the temptation of an entire cake need look no further than their local cupcake shop. Such an establishment shouldn't be terribly difficult to find since they've exploded in popularity in recent years, thanks to America's love affair with the individually-sized dessert.

Generally, these locales feature a smorgasbord of cupcake flavors. You can expect to find everything from traditional vanilla or chocolate to the more exotic coffee, lemon or peanut butter varieties. Jelly or cream fillings are an excellent way to add some extra oomph to your dessert -- as well as a few extra calories -- although making specialty cupcakes at home requires a bit of practice. Fortunately, many cupcake recipes can be easily prepared in your own kitchen using a simple muffin pan complete with decorative paper liners.

The current cupcake craze began when Sarah Jessica Parker ate one baked by New York's Magnolia Bakery on "Sex and the City."

There's always room for Jell-O. At least that's what the dessert's famous ad slogan says. Jell-O is actually a brand name, but it's has become synonymous with any kind of gelatin dessert. It's called "America's Most Famous Dessert" and there's an undeniably fun appeal to the jiggling. It's easy to make and there's virtually no cleanup required. All you have to do is add boiling water to the powdered mix and chill for a few hours. It's no wonder it's so popular with moms around the country.

Here's something mom probably never told you -- gelatin is a processed version of collagen, a natural protein found in the tendons, ligaments and tissues of mammals. It's made by boiling the connective tissues, bones and skins of animals. For Jell-O, it usually comes from cows and pig bones and hooves. Take that powdered gelatin, add some artificial sweetener and food coloring, and you have a very popular dessert. Chalk one up for the advertising business.

Ah, carrot cake. Not only is it equal parts creamy and delicious, it's also quite possibly the best dessert to choose when you want to fool yourself into thinking you're being healthy. Carrots are good for you, so carrot cake can't be too bad, right? Well, not so much.

Made popular in the U.S. in the mid-20th century, carrot cake is a delightful blend of sweet and spicy cake rounded out with cream cheese frosting (made from cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract). Like many other desserts, carrot cake can be made using a traditional recipe or dressed up with extras like macadamia nuts, pineapple and coconut.

Of course, if fat and calories are a concern, carrot cake can be easily lightened up by making a few simple adjustments, such as reducing the amount of sugar and oil, while adding crushed pineapple to preserve moistness. Still, no matter what you do, calling carrot cake a healthy dessert will be a stretch, but it'll always be tasty.

Orange is the color most of us think of when we consider carrots, but they also come in yellow, purple, white and red varieties.

Nothing says America like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. But apple pie wasn't born in the United States.

Apple pies or tarts date all the way back to Europe in the 14th century. The first apple pie recipes are from 1390, and they used honey in place of the seldom-used sugar. In the 1700s, the pie became pretty popular in the United Kingdom and was brought over to the new American colonies. Apple pie was regularly found in American cookbooks in the 18th century, but the famous ala mode version, topped with vanilla ice cream, didn't come into fashion until the 19th century in New York.

Because of the "red, white and blue" connotations, you can find apple pie on picnic tables all over the country every 4th of July when Americans celebrate their independence from England. The two most popular versions of the dessert are the traditional flakey crust variety and the Dutch, or crumb, apple pie. Most folks prefer it fresh and warm from the oven, but frozen apple pies are big sellers as well -- just ask Sara Lee.

The birthplace of ice cream isn't certain, but food historians generally credit it to the Chinese and the flavored ices they enjoyed as far back as 3000 B.C. Marco Polo is believed to be the man responsible for bringing the idea to Italy, where the modern ice cream we enjoy today was born in the 17th century. The first ice cream recipe in the United States is thought to be from the 1792 cookbook "The New Art of Cookery, According to the Present Practice."

The invention of the hand-crank ice cream maker in 1843 allowed people to make it themselves, and homemade ice cream remains a popular dessert for American families today.

Many flavors have come and gone over the years, but none rocked the ice cream world like Cookies N' Cream in 1983 and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough in 1991. Both of those flavors quickly found their way into the top 10 favorites and have been there ever since. Of course, there's plenty of other, more unique flavors for those with adventures pallets!

Served piping hot or at room temperature, made from scratch or from a mix, brownies are quite possibly one of the most versatile desserts out there, provided you enjoy a significant dose of chocolate. Some brownie connoisseurs prefer their creations to be more cake like, whereas others enjoy a fudgier, moister consistency. In general, how your brownies turnout is influenced by the amount of eggs and fat (found in butter or cooking oil) used in the recipe, as well as how long you bake them for.

Brownies can also be tailor-made to suit your taste buds. The traditional chocolate variety is a classic, enjoyable option, but some aspiring chefs prefer to include other ingredients to add some extra zing to the mix. For example, cream cheese, peanut butter or chocolate chips, coffee, white chocolate and icing are all popular add-ins. Those with truly exotic tastes might even elect to experiment with spices, salt, pepper or even dried herbs.

For cookie lovers, rarely is there a recipe more beloved than the classic chocolate chip variety. The mixture of cookie and those delicious semi-sweet chocolate morsels is indescribably good. Served fresh out of the oven or completely cooled, chocolate chip cookies are a treat that's just sweet enough without overdoing it in terms of richness. If you enjoy a little extra texture and contrast, simply serve your cookies with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream, or try topping your creations with chocolate icing.

Many bakers indulge in raw cookie dough during the cooking process. Unfortunately, it's a prime breeding ground for food borne illness such as salmonella and E. coli, so it's best to stick to baked cookies and forgo the dough.

It's believed that the first chocolate cake was baked in 1674 as a vehicle to enjoy chocolate, a new delicacy at the time. While it's extremely popular in the United States thanks to its inclusion at birthday parties, it's also considered the most liked cake in the entire world.

When most people hear the words German chocolate cake, two things happen -- their mouths water and they thank Germany for its contribution to the dessert cart. What many people may not know is that German chocolate cake has nothing to do with the European country. Its named comes from the inventor of the recipe, a Texan named Sam German. He concocted the famous dessert in the late 1800s, but it didn't explode in popularity until the 1950s.

The only problem with fudge is that it's nearly impossible to eat just a square or two. In the world of fudge, there's a flavor for everyone. Traditionalists can stick with the white, milk or dark chocolate versions, while nut enthusiasts might opt to choose a recipe that incorporates walnuts or macadamia nuts for a little extra crunch.

The best part about this treat is that it's shockingly easy to whip up, even for children. Plus, fudge makes an excellent gift for any occasion. If you've never had the pleasure of sampling homemade fudge, give it a try so that you'll forever understand why this rich sweet has captivated American dessert-lovers for more than 100 years.

According to legend, fudge candy is the welcome by-product of a batch of caramel gone wrong. Apparently, said caramel was not stirred adequately, causing the batter to thicken up into a more fudge like consistency.

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100 years ago, American cities were teeming with bakeries, many of them Jewish-owned. You can still find some of these classic bakery counters in certain corners of the US, and they’re truly worth a visit. What’s more, with renewed interest in made from-scratch baked goods, some of the best Jewish bakeries today aren’t more than 10 years old.

We knew we couldn’t make this list alone, so we asked our fellow foodie friends and fellow bakery-lovers to share their favorites with us. We sifted through their thoughtful recommendations to find the best 11. Let us know if you’d like to see your favorite on the list — we’re always looking for recommendations!

Zak The Baker, Miami

This rainbow-painted bakery and deli makes fresh breads and pastries daily, and offers a kosher and locally-sourced deli menu. It smokes local fish, make trays full of challahs for Shabbat (sold Friday at noon) and is always trying something new!

Breads Bakery, NYC

Israeli baker Uri Scheft and his talented NYC-based team opened Breads Bakery in 2013, becoming famous for what many call the best babka in NYC — which is made with croissant-like dough and swirled with Nutella. The bakery also makes intricately braided challahs (watch the how-to video we made together!) and sweet and savory hamantaschen for Purim. Buy a loaf of bread and then head across the street to the farmer’s market for the perfect cheeses and fruits to pair with it.

Mansoura Bakery, Brooklyn

Mansoura Bakery is the best place for Sephardic Jewish favorites like baklava, kataifi, ma’amoul and basbousa. The family business began hundreds of years ago in Syria, where it was known as the best bakery in Aleppo. In 1961, it opened its doors in Brooklyn after living in Egypt and Paris (read the whole story on Mansoura’s website!). Today, Mansoura bakers still roll out phyllo by hand, and rumor has it that their baklava has 70 layers. Try it — it’s truly life-changing.

Ostrovitsky’s Bakery, Brooklyn

This old-school, kosher bakery counter is one that Brooklynites have been visiting for generations. At Ostrovitsky’s, you can find babkas, challahs, rugelach, hamantaschen for Purim, and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) for Hanukkah.

Chocolate #babka (I already want more)

A post shared by Peggy Gertner (@pegertner) on May 8, 2016 at 2:29pm PDT

Oneg Heimische Bakery, Brooklyn

Head off the beaten Williamsburg trail and wander south down Lee Avenue to take in the sights and sounds of the mom-and-pop shops that line this busy corridor of Hasidic Williamsburg. Oneg Heimische Bakery is known by many for making the best babka in Brooklyn. It’s intricately swirled and filled with dark chocolate in every bite.


Butterflake Bakery, Teaneck, NJ

This old-school bakery has been a kosher standard for decades. Its lemon chiffon cake, meltaways and challah (braided and twisted into intricate shapes) are not to miss.

Tatte Bakery, Boston

Tatte Bakery is one of the “new school” bakeries on the list, which pushes the bakery menu into more innovative, multicultural directions. There’s hand-rolled Jerusalem bagels (with an egg baked into the middle!), glazed pistachio-filled tartlets, pistachio-filled croissants, challah and shakshuka. Take your time noshing in one of their beautifully designed cafes, or take a loaf to go!

Image from Star Bakery’s profile

Star Bakery, Southfield, MI

Star Bakery has been a Detroit-area favorite since 1915. This might be one of the only places where you can find kichel, a pastry made of egg, flour and sugar that’s baked until puffed. They’re crunchy and sweet and can be eaten as a cookie, or served savory-style with pickled herring.

Three Brothers Bakery, Houston, TX

This old-school bakery might be based in Houston but its roots are in 19th-century Chrzanow, Poland, where the original family bakery was founded. The three Jucker brothers grew up in the 1930s helping out with the family business until the family was sent to a concentration camp in 1941. The three brothers were miraculously liberated in 1945, and they opened their Houston bakery exactly four years later. Today, the bakery still makes traditional Polish Jewish cookies, breads and pastries, which are generally less sweet than American baked goods. Its rye bread is a must-try.

Canter’s Bakery, LA

Since 1931, Canter’s has been perhaps one of the busiest Jewish bakery counters (and deli!) in the US. Twice a day, it bakes babka, apple strudel, sour cream coffeecakes, rugelach, mandelbrot, black-and-white cookies, bagels, rye bread, pumpernickel, challah and more. Its chocolate chip rugelach is award-winning.

Family jewels

A post shared by evan (@schwatz_evan) on Oct 29, 2016 at 3:25pm PDT

Schwartz Bakery, Los Angeles

In 1954, Schwartz Bakery became the first kosher bakery in LA. It’s still rolling out poppy seed strudels, challahs, borekas and danishes every day. This old-school institution is not one to miss if you’re in LA. Like Canter’s (above), it balances the sweet things with classic deli sandwiches on (of course) house-made bread.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Perfect use of those overripe bananas on the counter, these muffins are moist and delicious. Oatmeal is not only in the batter but also made into a crumble with butter and cinnamon, making for a nice crunchy topping. Enjoy these muffins for breakfast or as an afternoon snack with a cup of coffee.

1. Victoria Sponge Cake (top image)

This beloved British layer cake is a steadfast favourite in homes and tea shops around the country. Apparantly Queen Victoria was particularly partial and some of the earliest recorded recipes date back to 1861. What this simple cake lacks in glamour it makes up for in deliciousness, with a buttery sponge sandwiched together with a decadent layer of jam and lashings of whipped cream. A generous slice is perfect served with a cup of tea, naturally.

Try this fun variation on a theme: Victoria Sandwich Whoopie pie.

N.J.'s 20 best bakeries: The only list you'll ever need

I cannot live without baked goods, and if you're reading this story, I'm guessing you can't either, especially this time of year, when they are must pick-ups for that big family get-together.

Bread, doughnuts, pastries, cakes, cupcakes, cookies -- if they disappeared from the face of the earth, Iɽ move to another planet.

Which is why our latest food showdown -- a search for the state's best bakeries -- had me both excited and fearful.

Excited, because Iɽ spend nearly a solid week eating my favorite food ever.

Fearful, because how would I possibly survive a glaze-galore, sugar-saturated week?

When the going gets tough, the tough reach for another doughnut. Or pastry. Or cookie.

Here are New Jersey's top 20 bakeries and top 25 baked goods, based on last week's field trip -- 40 bakeries in five days -- plus visits to 75+ other bakeries, pastry shops, donut stands, cupcake shops and more in the past few years.

We received thousands of tips for hundreds of places via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and on, and it wasn't easy coming up with this list, believe me. As you can see, it's a mix of bakeries, cafes, pastry shops, cupcake stores and farm stands, spanning traditional, French, Italian, Viennese, Portuguese, South American and Middle Eastern influences.

You probably won't agree with many of my picks, so make sure to let me know which of your favorites I left out. The top 20 are listed alphabetically.

When you're finished checking out the story -- and that scrumptious gallery -- take a look at our other recent food showdowns: The New Jersey Pizza Power Rankings a search for the state's best tacos and New Jersey's best mall food.

1. Antoinette Boulangerie, 32 Monmouth St., Red Bank (732) 224-1118. Beautiful hardwood-floored shop with open kitchen and a display case packed with exquisite pastries, tarts and macarons in perfect rows. The executive pastry chef is Gina Roselle Broschart, a former Rutgers gymnast and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. The coconut macaroons here are pure, simple bite-size coconut bliss.

2. Argentina Bakery, 1611 Bergenline Ave., Union City (201) 601-5801. Ever walk into a bakery and realize just by looking at the cakes and pastries they're going to be good? That was my experience at this tiny shop, where the beautifully-constructed pastries glisten in the display case. Whipped cream, made here, is the key to many of the items. Try the pasta flora, a shredded coconut-topped quince pastry, or the alfajor, white chocolate-topped caramel cookies. Or just about anything else.

Aversa's in Brigantine makes the state's best sticky buns - and great rolls (Peter Genovese I NJ Advance Media for

3. Aversa's Bakery, 3101 Atlantic Ave., Brigantine (609) 264-8880. I have a particular weakness for sticky buns, and this spare bakery just over the bridge from Atlantic City makes the state's best: caramel-gooey, raisin-packed, with great cake. They may make the state's best sandwich bread, too, in the form of the torpedo rolls. Other locations are in Margate, Turnersville and Washington Township.

4. Baker's Treat, 42 Route 12, Flemington (908) 782-3458. I received a ton of recommendations for Factory Fuel Co., a new coffeehouse in the old Stangl Factory in Flemington. Baker's Treat, within walking distance, is better. It is operated by Ability2Work, a nonprofit that trains and employs the developmentally disabled. This may have been the only stop on my field trip last week where everything was excellent: the mocha decadence bar, chocolate ganache brownie macaroons and more. A great stop the next time you're at Liberty Village Premium Outlet, right across the street.

5. Beiler's Bakery, Amish Market at Mullica Hill, 108 Swedesboro Road, Mullica Hill (856) 223-9998. Jersey's Amish markets are irresistible to me: nothing like the sight and smell of fresh-baked pies, breads and cakes, and don't forget the rotisserie chickens. Beiler's is just inside the entrance to this market, and whenever I'm there I head straight for the cinnamon and raisin/cinnamon breads. Inside tip: if you're like me and like to slice your own bread, unsliced loaves are available. Pretty good sticky buns, doughnuts and pies, too.

6. Cafe Pierrot, 212 Main St., Andover (973) 786-6069. Has Cafe Pierrot really been around for 25 years? That surprised even me. Excellent pies, muffins, scones and more in the Andover bakery, a sweet stop on your Andover antique store expedition. Cafe Pierrot's Sparta restaurant serves sandwiches, wraps and salads.

7. Cafe Vienna, 200 Nassau St., Princeton (609) 924-5100. Small, cozy cafe that opened on Princeton's main drag in April. Cakes are made with old family recipes the owner, Anita Waldenberger, grew up in Austria. Recommended: the flourless chocolate cake cheesecake and the strudel, with oodles of apples. Oh, and great coffee, too.

8. Deluxe Italian Bakery, 680 East Clements Bridge Road, Runnemede (856) 939-5000. New Jersey is filled with long-time bakeries cranking out the same tired product this bakery is not one of them. I give you the awesome -- and awesome-sized -- cream-filled doughnuts the filling looks ready to burst out of the pastry and attack you. Elephant ears don't get much respect as a bakery item (with that name, it's no surprise). The ones here -- impossibly light, supremely flaky -- are the best I've had anywhere.