Creme de la Creme
Our 20 favorite bakery destinations for decadent, shameless indulgence.
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Jean Marc Chatelier’s French Bakery
Simply put, Jean Marc Chatelier knows his way around a croissant. Just as in Paris, his version is airy and densely filled with buttery layers—meltingly rich inside and crisp on the exterior. This magic act is hard to pull off, so don’t stop yourself from indulging—the only question is whether you prefer plain, chocolate, almond cream or any of the other delicious varieties. The bakery’s Millvale location places it squarely outside the city’s predictable “foodie zones,” but rest assured that this small, unassuming shop is worth the trip. Don’t leave without considering the other French classics, like crumbly yet silky macarons or rich brioche — just the thing with a cup of strong coffee.
213 North Ave.; 412/821-8533, jeanmarcchatellier.com
A slice of this bakery’s rich yellow cake with decadent chocolate buttercream frosting is a birthday wish come true for a whole lot of folks in the ’Burgh. Place your order a day in advance for some of the bakery’s famous specialty items, including a decadent German chocolate cake made with butterscotch, coconut and toasted pecans. There are also doughnuts (made fresh daily), cupcakes and cookies that take every form imaginable—from chocolate drops to pecan tassies.
5200 Brightwood Road, 412/835-6658, bethelbakery.com
Paddy Cake Bakery
In a city with lots of great old-fashioned city bakeries, this Bloomfield destination might take the cake—sorry, we mean, the doughnut. Take your number and name your favorite. Light and airy raised doughnuts glazed with sugar or cinnamon sugar twists; delicious cake doughnuts with crispy exteriors coated with frosting and sprinkles or rolled in cinnamon sugar. There’s nothing new-fangled about the what-you-expect classic bakery offerings here—from cake to cookies and everything in between—but that’s the charm.
4763 Liberty Ave.; 412/621-4477, paddycakebakery.org
A delicious raspberry-filled bear claw and a hot cup of coffee is a great way to start the weekend. Unless you’d rather dive into a maple sweet roll, flecked with plump raisins and fragrant with cinnamon. Or slices of sweet-dough coffee cake with gooey yet crunchy nut filling. What about skipping these well-played favorites and going straight for the sugar with a “long john” frosted doughnut? Whatever your choice, anyone who lives for sweet morning treats will find this old-fashioned bakery to be a dreamy destination on a Saturday morning. It’s tough to leave this homey Beaver spot without a pastry box stuffed with treats. As you’d expect, it’s the best destination in this neck of the woods for cakes, including a memorable version of a toasted-almond torte.
664 Third St., 724/774-2324, kbakery.com
SHELBY ORTZ » eleven
Shelby Ortz, the pastry chef who creates the beautiful and downright delicious plated treats at Eleven, sounds a little like a yoga instructor when she talks about creating a great dessert. “There’s a lot you have to balance,” she says.
Ortz ticks off a list that includes things like achieving the perfect contrast between the crunchy and silky-smooth elements, and staying aware of how temperature affects flavor—for example, knowing how chilling will cut back on a dish's richness. Given all this, is it any wonder that creating a home-run dessert could take days?
Ortz’s own tastes run toward unique and sophisticated, rather than tooth-achingly sweet. The proof of her expertise is in the pudding—rather, the Meyer lemon pudding cake. One taste of this recent creation shows off the way she builds layers of flavor and texture: The dish pairs a smooth, lemon-y cake with fresh, tart pomegranate seeds; crunchy candied macadamia nuts; icy-cold coconut granita; and sweetly subtle hibiscus syrup. It’s not the kind of dish most of us whip up on a weeknight at home, but then again, not all of us have Ortz’s chops.
A native of Beavercreek, Ohio, she came to western Pennsylvania to attend the Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s culinary program and was immediately drawn to pastry. After graduating, she landed a job at Soba in 2008, where desserts like her frozen milk-chocolate bar served with caramel popcorn, caramelized banana and three-milk chocolate sauce earned accolades. Last summer, she took the head pastry chef position at Eleven—and she seems to be having fun.
“Experimentation is required in this job,” she says, pointing to a renewed interest she has in caramel sauce, to which she might add hazelnuts, Marsala (the Marsala caramel is paired with cannoli at Eleven) or even a ginger infusion.
“But as much as I like to be adventurous," she says, "I’m also old-fashioned and go for simple ingredients like butter, sugar, eggs, fresh fruit and good chocolate.” Sounds like the perfect balance.
Sweet Tip: To sample Shelby Ortz’s decadent morning pastries, check out the Sunday brunch at Eleven. Chocolate lovers will want to visit around Valentine’s Day to sample a special chocolate dessert she creates for the holiday.