(Bloomberg) -- The frenzy of baking that saw flour and butter flying around home kitchens during the pandemic is now a memory for most New Yorkers. But for some intrepid locals, a pastry-making hobby and short-term Instagram business has turned into something more long-lasting: a batch of new brick-and-mortar bake shops around the city. They’re easily identifiable by the lines of sweets-obsessed fans that spill down the block.
Take for instance, computer engineer Gautier Coiffard and his wife, Ashley. They turned their Instagram baking outfit into the cult croissant storefront L’Appartement 4F in Brooklyn Heights; the display case is invariably empty by 11 a.m. Nearby, Otway owner Samantha Safer and head baker Nathan Uren sold baklava croissants and savory mushroom cheese buns out of the Cobble Hill restaurant’s dining room window to stay afloat; this past spring they opened Otway Bakery a few doors down.
And in the East Village, the Singapore-born team Mogan Anthony and Seleste Tan have launched Lady Wong Pastry & Kuih, featuring Southeast Asian confections laced with coconut and the tropical fruit pandan; the treats were originally conceived solely for a social media audience.
They are a few of the inspired baking businesses that have opened in the city over the last year. Not all are spawned by pandemic baking obsessions. Some were conceived to highlight sweets that aren’t easy to find in New York, such as the Middle Eastern offerings at Librae Bakery. For owner Dona Murad, it was a perfect time to start this kind of small enterprise: “Landlords are willing to take risks on young entrepreneurs and businesses that previously were only held for anchor tenants from chains.”
Here then are the most incredible new bakeries around New York.
This sliver of a French bakery founded by the Coiffards, first-time food industry operators, opened in May and saw lines down Brooklyn Heights’ sleepy Montague Street. Besides the laminated croissants, made with luxurious Isigny Sainte-Mère butter, there are chewy sourdough boules and delicate tahini chocolate chip cookies still warm from the oven.
The most in-demand product: the $50, 8 oz. packages of petit hand-rolled croissant cereal, which takes four days to prepare and went viral on TikTok. After quickly selling out earlier this summer, the owners are ramping up production to start stocking it again.
The pastries are global at the bakery outpost of Otway, the seven-year-old New American restaurant. Safer and her head baker, Uren, who cooked at Estela, source many of their grains, including rye and spelt, from a New Jersey farmers collective, milling the grains in-house to begin baking daily at 5 a.m.
Popular pastries include a kouign-amann and croissant variations, fragrant and chewy kardemummabullar (Swedish cardamom buns), and one of Otway’s most sought-after items, pastel de nata, the flaky Portuguese egg tart. They sit alongside staple American sweets such as vanilla sugar-glazed crullers.
Lady Wong Pastry & Kuih
When Anthony and Tan were unable to return to their native Singapore during the pandemic, they began to bake. Both are cooks—Anthony is a vet of Jean-Georges, and Tan cooked at the acclaimed wd~50 before it closed. And both badly missed the coconut and pandan-rich desserts they grew up with. In 2021, they launched Lady Wong on Instagram.
“We couldn’t meet the demand,” says Anthony of the virtual bakery which specialized in Southeast Asian desserts like pandan and sticky rice custard. So in February, they opened their 500-square-foot space on East 9th Street in Manhattan, using ingredients sourced from the region. Of an array of modern cakes, their top seller is the Pandan Royaltine, a coconut mousse cake layered with pandan chiffon, coconut jam, and pistachio crunch.
Since Lysée debuted in late June, customers have lined up hours before the store’s noon opening. Former Jungsik pastry chef Eunji Lee’s exquisite corn cakes, crafted to look like an ear straight from the farmers market, are filled with multiple corn-based components—including mousse, sable butter cookie, caramel, and two kinds of cream.
She and partner Matthieu Lobry met in Paris while working under pastry superstar Cédric Grolet at the acclaimed Le Meurice and together created their stunning, minimalist-designed bi-level atelier. Top-of-the line ingredients, sourced from France and South Korea, make specialties, such as the signature brown rice mousse- and pecan-filled Lysée cake and a seasonal pluot tart with oolong tea cream, so good.
Librae may have opened this spring, but to ensure that her New York bakery would have a taste of the Middle East, Dona Murad imported her sourdough starter from Bahrain, where it was originally made from dates in five years ago. (The baker also operates a cafe in the island state named Hopscotch.)
Murad adds a Big Apple twist to Arabian Gulf pastries with selections like a babka laced with black lime and lemon curd, a za’atar-dusted mascarpone and ricotta tart crowned with cherry tomatoes from the nearby Union Square Green Market, and a strawberry-sumac linzer cookie.
A bakery offshoot of the Scandi sandwich shop Smør had been in the works since 2019, but the pandemic pushed back its debut to July. Within the terra cotta-hued, minimalist space, head baker Rowan Gill, formerly of Bien Cuit, offers artisanal products from hot dogs to tinned fish, along with a wide range of Nordic-inspired baked goods.
Specialities include loaves of rugbrød (Danish rye bread) and sourdough, salted chocolate rye cookies, kanelbullar (cinnamon bun) and their signature kardemummabullar. The chewy, doughy knots with butter-cinnamon filling are baked by Gill throughout the day.
Hanoi Dessert Shop
During the pandemic, Sara Leveen and Ben Lowell of the popular Vietnamese spot Hanoi House turned part of their delivery store into a dessert space, served from a takeout window. At Hanoi Dessert Shop, which will be open through mid-October, the team focuses on Southeast Asian and tropical flavors, mostly served in sundae form.
It “seemed like a fun way to capitalize on the summer weather and the demand for desserts at the restaurant,” says Leveen. The Original is a riff on Hanoi House’s popular Che Sundae, made with a vanilla and mango soft serve twist and a mashup of traditional Vietnamese sweets including coconut tapioca, both pandan and lychee jellies, black sesame sauce, and crushed peanuts.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.