One of my favorite Simpsonsscreened the other night, the one in which Bart becomes famous after saying, "I didn't do it" on Krusty's show. It was the show at its most bizarrely insightful and hilarious—box factory, Hammer, lactose intolerance, you know the drill. But the best moment was when Bart stole Kent Brockman's Danish and gave it to Krusty, who quickly gobbled it up and declared, "Now that'sDanish" in gluttonous satisfaction. I say it in jest whenever I find a dish particularly wonderful, and I do declare the following pastry shops Danish—even if only two actually hawk products from Denmark.
Abel Salgado has been keeping the challah coming for 40 years, the past five of them in Orange County's only Jewish bakery. Trays buckle with rugala, small cookies moist with chocolate chips, and the holy hamantashen, a fruity triangle-shaped turnover sold by the thousands during the festival of Purim and by the hundreds the rest of the year. 24601RaymondWay,Ste.7,LakeForest,(949)699-0930.
A domino effect of ordering everything in sight possesses anyone who enters Ara's. Quadruple-layer columns of trays extend across the bakery, heavy with cookies, Bavarian-cake slices, cream tarts and other European confections. And, of course, there's baklava, the Middle Eastern dessert standard baked here in eight distinct styles: shaped into diamonds, hexagons, flaky cylinders . . . nearly every shape in the Game of Perfection. 2227W.BallRd.,Anaheim,(714)776-5554.
Sholeh zard—a rice pudding brilliantly yellow and so peppery you'll find yourself gasping after eating it—is but one of the side dishes at Assal Pastry, a chic bakery in Irvine's Little Tehran enclave. The primary attraction here is cookies: dozens of just-baked trays that rely on different types of flour and infinite pistachio presentations rather than sugar for their sweetness. Purchase a pound of any cookie (cheap at $6), and Assal packages your order inside an emerald-green box that gives Tiffany's jewelry container a run for its color. 14130CulverDr.,Ste.H-1,Irvine,(949)733-3262.$
Babette's Feast is a boulangerie/patisseriepar excellence, laying out a spread of delectable, mouth-watering delights that makes you thank heaven above for the gift of taste buds and these ungodly desserts. 4621E.SecondSt.,LongBeach,(562)987-4536.$
In an era in which restaurant chains focus group everything to manufacture a sense of Grandma, Beverly's Best is hominess with a brownie. The macaroons are chocolate-dipped coconut dreams: rich, light and fluffy, a guaranteed late-night craving. The holiday-themed sugar cookies—haunted houses, Christmas trees, Guy Fawkes (kidding)—are beautifully, deliciously, detailed pieces of art. And chocolate-chip cookies fresh out of the oven will make you discard Mrs. Field's as if they were a mere carton of Chips Ahoy! 3020BreaBlvd.,Fullerton,(714)529-3989.$
DAD'S DONUT SHOP & BAKERY
This is where Balboa Island locals hang in the wee morning hours before work, munching on their apple fritters while talking about market swings and the goddamn liberals. The doughnuts are good, but the peppermint ice cream and Balboa Bars are outstanding. Stay away from the frozen bananas unless you enjoy gnawing on a rock-hard piece of fruit. 318MarineAve.,BalboaIsland,(949)673-8686.
The Japanese are the creators of nikuman, the world's cutest sandwich, which consists of a candied, spongy flour wrapped around gingered meats and vegetables. At Diho Bakery, nikuman-type sandwiches are elevated to an art form on par with calligraphy. The taro, in particular, is a pleasant surprise—not your tiki party's dull, watery poi paste, but instead a jam waiting to be copyrighted by See's. 14130CulverDr.,Ste.J,Irvine,(949)857-6415.$
When was the last time you had a decent baguette as you met that special someone in Paris and professed your undying love? What happened? Did you lose touch? Did they cheat on you with dirty Spaniards or slutty Canadians? Go to Gala Bakery, order a few fresh loaves of bread and some iced caf au lait, and try to remember a time when love was not so cruel. 14570BrookhurstSt.,Westminster,(714)775-7327.$
THE GREAT DANE BAKING CO.
Owned by Dane Jodi Pedersen, the bakery specializes in Scandinavian pastries, bread and cakes. Besides items coated with marzipan, try their superb soft cardamom rolls. 6855WarnerAve.,HuntingtonBeach,(714)842-1130;11196LosAlamitosBlvd.,LosAlamitos,(562)493-6899.$
Nearly every Irvine Chinatown visitor eventually waddles into this clean, well-lit bakery/boba shop, seeking a sugar capper to their day: bite-sized red-bean cookies, taro pastries, tart egg pudding and a bizarre bread slice that contains half a mango covered with cream cheese. But the main reason you should haunt J.J. Bakery is for their prepackaged sandwiches, a sort of regal Hot Pockets that, at 90 cents, are the best lunch options since the three-tacos-for-a-buck special at Jack in the Box. 15333CulverDr.,Ste.660,Irvine,(949)653-1566.$
MAN MI BAKERY
Home to some of the most luscious whipped-cream cakes imaginable, their most famous is a confection of two layers of yellow cake filled with a rich custard, kiwi fruit, pineapple, peaches, cherries and grapes, all topped with a whipped-cream frosting. 8942GardenGroveBlvd.,GardenGrove,(714)537-4955.
POUL'S DANISH-AMERICAN BAKERY
Smells of sugar and cinnamon greet you at this bakery, which has been a tradition in Orange since 1960. The glass cases are filled with sweet rolls, twists, cookies and Danishes with countless flavors. 770N.TustinAve.,Orange,(714)532-5101.$
So much joy erupts from the several trays of Sarkis Pastry that it would take many root canals to try all of its Middle Eastern confections. All that needs to be said about the kol-wa-shkor is that it translates from Arabic as "taste and give thanks to heaven." 2424 Ball Rd., Anaheim, (714) 995-6663; www.sarkispastry.com.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
It's two in the morning, and you're stumbling out of some bar on the Newport Pier. Nothing soaks up the booze like a nice warm croissant stuffed with ham and Cheddar cheese. A few bites of this, and you can kiss your fears of alcohol poisoning goodbye. 2108W.Oceanfront,NewportBeach,(949)675-2533.
Bakery standards at Sweet Jill's—peanut-butter brownies, cookies, lemon bars and a cornucopia of fruit-flavored muffins—taste like a church fund-raiser held outside the Pearly Gates. The cinnamon rolls are among the biggest sellers, as is the great peach coffee cake, a snowdrift of cream smartly balanced by unsweetened peaches in the cake's center. But beware of the German chocolate cake coated with a tan coconut frosting that Pharis could successfully export to the Fatherland; the stuff's denser than uranium. 5224E.SecondSt.,LongBeach,(562)438-4945;1231/2MainSt.,SealBeach,(562)598-3445.$
View our complete dining guide at www.ocweekly.com/food.