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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Mother’s Day Gift Guide: Sweet Treats From The Country’s Most Iconic Bakeries

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Chocolate babka or bagels & lox from some of New York City’s most historic bakeries. Key West’s famous sweet-tart key lime pie that practically tastes like sunshine. A handmade pie showcasing Michigan’s famous Montmorency cherries. And English muffins that are so craveable, Oprah gets them flown in from Napa Valley on the regular. Travel may still be limited, but that doesn’t mean Mom can’t enjoy these iconic baked goods from around the country. That’s because all these indulgent treats can be shipped nationwide, just in time to sweeten Mom’s day on Sunday, May 9th.

Ferrara Little Italy Dessert Pack, $68

Ferrara has been making its signature Italian cookies and cakes in the heart of New York City’s Little Italy since 1892. Today, the bakery is run by the fifth generation of the family from the same location where it all started nearly 130 years ago. 

And while Mom (and all the rest of us) would probably rather be strolling the charming streets of Little Italy in cherry blossom season to visit Ferrara in person, the next best thing is having a generous box of the bakery’s favorites bestsellers delivered right to her door.

Ferrara’s handmade Little Italy pack includes a trio of the bakery’s timeless treats: first, a half-pound of Ferrara’s hypercolor rainbow cookies (three layers of almond cake sandwiched with apricot jam and coated in thin layers of chocolate), which are made using the same secret recipe that was introduced in 1892. Mom will also get a half-pound of pignoli cookies (made with egg whites and almond flour for a soft, chewy meringue-like texture), and a dozen mini cannolis (crisp cannoli shells hand-filled with chocolate chip-studded sweet ricotta cream). 

All three keep well: the cookies are good for about a week, and the cannoli are good from the fridge for about 4 days. All three can also be frozen for up to six months.

Russ & Daughters “Russ & Mothers” Package, $195 (including shipping)

When it comes to baked goods, it doesn’t get more iconic than a bagel with “lox and schmear” from Russ & Daughters. The legendary 4th-generation establishment has been feeding picky New Yorkers the quintessential brunch dish on East Houston Street for a hundred years…and there’s still a line out the door every day of the week. 

This year, the NYC institution is offering a chance to skip the line by ordering its “Russ & Mothers” package online. The complete brunch-in-a-box comes packed with both sweet and savory goodness. A dozen assorted house-made bagels, a pound of whipped cream cheese, a pound of buttery, cold-smoked Gaspe Nova smoked salmon R&D sliced by hand, and a 125g tin of wild Alaskan salmon roe will set Mom up with everything she needs to have the ultimate luxe bagel & lox at home. 

A dozen of Russ & Daughters’ freshly baked rugelach ​(which are still made by hand daily) filled with chocolate or raspberry/apricot jam will end her dreamy brunch on a sweet note.

Bouchon Bakery Traditional Macarons, from $49

Maybe you can’t take Mom out for a fine dining experience for Mother’s Day this year. But you can send her some Michelin-starred sweets from one of the most revered chefs in the world. 

Thomas Keller’s Yountville, California-based Bouchon Bakery ships their colorful macarons in boxes of six or twenty-four. The samplers of these timeless sweets may include vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, raspberry, salted caramel, or special seasonal chef-selected flavors.

The delicate French treats sandwich luscious buttercream or ganache between two almond flour meringue shells for that divine crisp-soft-chewy texture in each and every divine bite. Best yet, the meringue cookies come elegantly packaged and tied with a bow that Mom will love opening to reveal the rainbow-colored gems. 

The Model Bakery Best Sellers Pack, $44

Of course you want only the best for your Mama. So if you’re wondering if goodies from The Model Bakery will meet her exacting standards, rest assured: these English Muffins are the ones Oprah Winfrey has famously raved about, calling flying them in from Napa Valley her “greatest extravagance.” 

Treat Mom to the bakery’s Best Seller Pack, which includes six of the light and buttery English Muffins as well as a one-pound bag of freshly-made granola. She’ll also get four Chocolate Rads, double chocolate chip cookies with walnuts and a hint of espresso — divinely fudgey treats with perfectly cracked, brownie-like tops.

Lady M Passion Fruit Mille Crêpes, $95

File Lady M’s globally famous crepe cakes under delicacies that even the most accomplished home baker shouldn’t try at home. Twenty-some layers of paper-thin, handmade crepes get precisely layered with pastry cream for an incredibly light and elegant cake with a sublime texture that’s unlike anything else. 

Opt for the luscious Signature cake, the bright green matcha, or (my favorite) the slightly tangy, not-too-sweet passionfruit — which is strikingly topped with a layer of the bright orange fruit and crunchy black pips. No matter which flavor you choose, the cake will arrive at Mom’s door frozen, precisely composed, and ready to thaw and eat. A cake slicer and a smart insulated carrying bag in navy that bears the mark of Lady M make it feel even more like a thoughtful and pampering gift she’s sure to adore.

Breads Bakery Babka + Rugelach Combo Pack, $80

Ah, chocolate babka and rugelach. Breads Bakery has perfected New York’s most quintessential sweets, and sending this combo pack Mom’s way means she won’t have to choose between these two favorites.

She’ll get three full loaves of the babka, which are made with laminated dough enriched with cultured French butter that gets spread with a mixture of Belgian dark chocolate chips and Nutella, then expertly braided. As soon as the chocolate-swirled loaves come out of the oven, they’re brushed with a sugar syrup to achieve that burnished crust that makes the loaves incredibly crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside.

The chocolate rugelach are made with similar ingredients and care: each of the two dozen cookies/pastries are formed and proofed, then rolled individually by hand to give them their delicate texture for a more bite-sized version of the babka loaf.

Fabrique Bakery Cardamom Buns, $39 for 6 

Ever since my first taste of Swedish cardamom buns years ago, I’ve been waiting for these singular pastries to catch on in the U.S. But kardemummabulle (as the classic pastry is known in its native Sweden, where it’s a central part of the country’s fika/coffee break tradition) are still fairly hard to find in the States — even in major cities. 

So when Fabrique, a Stockholm-based bakery run by husband-and-wife team David and Charlotta Zetterström opened their first American outpost in NYC’s Meatpacking district in 2019, pastry-lovers started lining up in droves. 

The sweet, tender, deliciously fragrant buns are made with a yeast dough, which gets swiped with a sweetened cardamom-and-butter filling. Then the dough is cut into strips and artfully knotted or braided and topped with white pearl sugar, which adds a pop of crunch and sweetness that plays nicely off the delicate dough and peppery punch of cardamom. 

Because the time-intensive buns require overnight proofing, they’re a 2-day project. Since they’re both a labor of love to bake and are tricky to find if you’re not in Sweden, they make a perfect gift for Mom.

Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies, from $27

This is not your ordinary chocolate chip cookie. For years, Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Walnut has topped the most discerning lists as the best cookie in New York City — if not the world.

Given how many differing opinions there are about what makes a perfect chocolate chip cookie, how has Levain managed to consistently win awards and accolades as the best? One reason is their notable size: each ball of dough is weighed to precisely six ounces. Sure, this means these behemoth beauties will cure even the most serious sweets craving. But more importantly than the generous portioning, Levain believes that this size creates the perfect balance of crisp exterior and gooey, molten, cake-like interior. (As for the rest of the recipe and technique, that’s a closely guarded secret.)

Score Mom a box of Levain’s top-selling Chocolate Chip Walnut, or send her a sampler of all four of the bakery’s flavors (Chocolate Chip Walnut, Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip and Oatmeal Raisin) with the Signature Cookie Assortment. Each cheerful blue box comes with stacks of the supersized cookies tied with grosgrain ribbon and cute illustrated postcards to make it feel like a true special delivery.

Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe Key Lime Pie, from $39here are desserts that are worth buying online because they’re so involved and time-consuming, they’re hard for even an ambitious baker to pull off at home (hello, macarons and Swedish Cardamom Buns). And then there are less complicated recipes that are worth it because the bakery just does better than anyone else. Kermit’s key lime pies fall into the latter simple-but-perfect category. 

The star ingredient, of course, is the pleasantly-puckery fresh key lime juice for which this southernmost tip of the U.S. is known. The singular, tart flavor of the juice takes center stage in the creamy custard. Tempered by sweetened whipped cream and a crisp graham cracker crust, each sweet-tart bite will transport Mom to sun-drenched Key West, no matter where she lives.

Tartine Bakery Passionfruit Lime Bavarian Cake, $69

Food trends come and go fleetingly in the age of Instagram, but one there’s been one constant for nearly twenty years: locals and visitors alike queuing up on Guerrero Street in San Francisco for Tartine’s perpetually popular croissants and country loaves.  

Named the “Best Pastry Chefs in America” by the James Beard Foundation, Elisabeth Prueitt 

and Chad Robertson turn out dozens of breads, buns, bars, and more daily. But their beautiful Passionfruit Lime Bavarian Cake makes an ideal special treat for Mom to enjoy on Mother’s Day.

One of the bakery’s earliest and most popular cakes, this layered beauty alternates delicate lime-soaked biscuit cake and sweet-and-tangy passionfruit bavarian cream, and is generously showered with thick shavings of snow-white coconut flakes.

Grand Traverse Pie Company Cherry Crumb Pie, from $36 

Send the sweet-tart flavor of Montmorency cherries anywhere in the country with Grand Traverse Pie Company’s Cherry Crumb Pie. If Michigan is known as the Cherry Capital of the World, then Traverse City is its heart: the annual National Cherry Festival has been held there for about a hundred years, and this pie is the festival’s signature dish.

The cherry pies from GTPC shows that when you start with fruit that good, you don’t need to add much else to craft a perfect pie. Their top seller, the Cherry Crumb Pie, is made with lightly sweetened tart and tangy local cherries that get folded into a from-scratch crust and topped with a crunchy toasted crumb topping.

For just $5 extra, personalize yours with a sweet edible message to your Ma spelled out in pie dough.

Milk Bar Strawberry Shortcake Collection, from $24

When Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar busted into the bakery scene in 2008, it caused quite a stir. The NYC bakery’s “naked” birthday cake (a layered white cake with unfrosted sides and colorful sprinkles), everything but the kitchen sink Compost Cookies, and Cereal Milk Soft Serve created a new style of modern American baked goods that all quickly became national obsessions.

This year, as a nod to the nostalgic strawberries-and-cream Good Humor ice cream bars of Mom’s childhood, Milk Bar is serving up a trio of berry-flavored goodies that can be delivered nationwide. The Strawberry Shortcake Cake ($54 for a 6-inch cake) is another one of the bakery’s signature “naked” creations: classic vanilla cake layered with strawberry jam, sweet cream frosting, and shortcake crumbs. 

The Strawberry Shortcake Cake Truffles ($24 for a dozen) are made with strawberry-studded vanilla cake that gets soaked in strawberry milk, then rolled in strawberry shortcake crumbs. And the brand-new Strawberry Shortcake Snaps ($30 for six) are crispy wafer cookies that are coated in caramel and buttery shortcake bits, dipped in silky white chocolate and topped with crunchy strawberry pieces. All will surely sate the cravings of the most serious sweet tooth.


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