One day in August, I woke up and opened my fridge to find it looking not unlike a bakery cooler, filled with boxes on boxes of shiny eclairs, hand pies, cheesecakes, fat wedges of crunch cake and cookies. And I didnt get any of it from a store. Rather, I fell prey to the insistent call of FOMO and couldnt bear to let another beautiful pastry dash by my Instagram timeline without ordering one to try.
I dont eat that much dessert in my normal life; I maybe down a slice of cake once every few months. But as my refrigerator filled with saccharine gold, I realized what generations of home bakers before me already knew: baked goods are perfect for sharing with loved ones and neighbors. The act of slipping a friend an eclair out of the blue makes everybody feel good, and we all need a little extra dopamine these days. So I kept ordering and kept distributing the wealth, accompanied by grateful, socially distanced waves.
During the pandemic, when many culinary professionals have found themselves laid off or with extra time on their hands, cottage industry businesses selling home-cooked food have flourished. Weve already covered a few at The Chronicle, too our new restaurant/food project roundup includes cult hit Basuku Cheesecakes, which continually sells out online at a supersonic pace, and pastry chef Angela Pinkertons Pie Society pop-up.
Ive tried about a dozen of the current class of home-cooked baked goods, which are largely found online. Like many of their non-pastry compatriots, these bakers are operating on the margins of the industry, unable to get completely aboveboard due to a stalled permitting process that has only become more urgent with the pandemic.
But some of the goods showed that legality isnt a prerequisite for restaurant-level quality, and for me, their professional food world backgrounds instilled a level of trust on their cleanliness standards. The following three enterprises stood out to me as ones you shouldnt miss delivering on American-style pies featuring seasonal fruits, fine dining-quality French patisserie and vegan-friendly Jamaican patties. Heres what to try and how to order.
The best and worst part of the pies from Ediths is carrying them home. Despite being contained in a box, the rich aroma of Mike Raskins butter crusts floods the nostrils, commanding ones attention with almost violent insistence. No movie trailer has been as tantalizing, as hype as this.
Raskin is a butcher and baker (though not yet a candlestick maker). The Bay Area native learned the ropes of professional cooking in kitchens in Santa Cruz, eventually spending a period in Chicago at the Publican to learn more. In 2019, he returned to the Bay Area, and with partner Savannah ONeill, started Ediths Pie, named after his mother, Edie. Initially, it was a special Thanksgiving pop-up, and this year they upped output to weekly offerings. Though hes currently working as a butcher at Barons Quality Meats in Alameda, he has an eye on eventually opening his own pie shop.
In the process, Raskin has produced some truly beautiful pies, including a strawberry rhubarb, blackberry and apricot with a crisp-like oat crumble on top, and mango and passionfruit topped with toasted meringue. On rare occasions, hell also do a savory dish, like the asparagus, goat cheese and bacon quiche he ran back in May. Dotted with rounds of juicy asparagus and encased in a wobbly, creamy egg base, the quiche didnt last long in my fridge.
Recently, I got a chocolate chess pie. For the uninitiated, the baked custard pie is a dessert that proliferates in the American South. No one really knows why its called that, though the apocryphal origin, morphed through oral history, lies with a formerly enslaved cook who called her rendition just pie. The top of Raskins version is delicate and cracked like shale, covering a thick, almost languorously fudgy filling.
While every week the pop-up offers just one kind of pie, Raskin is available for special orders with a menu of seasonal (stone fruit, berry, mango) and always (apple, coffee cream, chocolate chess) pies.
Pies are $30 to $35, and sales go live weekly on the website on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. Once pre-ordered, the pies are available for pickup in East Oakland.
Tarts de Feybesse
Monique and Paul Feybesse, the couple behind Tarts de Feybesse, are chefs: the former at Robert Sinskey Vineyards, the latter a member of the United States Bocuse dOr team essentially, the fine dining Olympics. Neither are pastry specialists, but during the pandemic, the duo started making bread for their Vallejo neighbors and quickly expanded to include pastries, too. They then developed their tart-making process as a way to have fun at home, applying their training in Michelin-starred kitchens to create hypnotic fruit tarts, dazzling eclairs and perfectly sculpted crusts.
The Feybesses eclairs ($20 for 5) could be art pieces in themselves. If you want a quick sense of the couples finesse, order a box of these. Airy and oblong, they look more like Christmas ornaments or extremely dramatic pendants than pastries. The eclairs are decorated with a smooth, pill-shape glaze that makes them shimmer, gem-like, in the light. Their fillings are more eclectic than the standard eclair, with mango, matcha and coconut versions in rotation. I had the mango and matcha versions, which captured their respective flavors well. The matcha in particular was refreshingly grassy and smooth, with none of the dustiness that can ruin matcha-flavored sweets.
Another must-order is the gateau basque ($35), a hybrid of cake, pie and tart that goes great with tea or a glass of muscat. Basque bakeries are a rarity in the Bay Area, which makes its availability on the Tarts de Feybesse menu even more special. The Feybesses take on the traditional Basque dessert features a pastry cream filling and a top thats crosshatched at a curve, like an etching of a fishing net. Each bite is tender, crumbly and dense, with the cream adding just enough moisture to keep ones mouth from drying out.
Tarts de Feybesses menu is seasonal; ask Monique Feybesse for the current months menu.
Order by contacting Monique Feybesse, either through Instagram, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone 415-350-8918.
I have a weakness for savory, hand-size pies of all kinds, whether were talking about empanadas, American hand pies, bnh pat s or Cornish pasties, so I jumped at the chance to try Tasty Tings, an Oakland pop-up that specializes in flaky, curry powder-tinted Jamaican patties. Within a few weeks of losing her job as a server, Alyssa Magdaluyo started the business as a way to get back on her feet.
While the most common Jamaican patties contain curried beef, her menu has a distinctly vegan slant. Magdaluyo isnt vegan herself, and offers a more typical beef patty. She dug into vegan cooking to challenge herself (and to impress her partner, who prefers plant-based dishes). Even without animal fat, her doughs are flaky and rich, with just enough body to contain their juicy fillings. Their crimped edges get extra crisp and crackerlike in the oven; I like to tear off chunks to dip into the filling.
A dessert patty is filled with caramelized bananas and a coconut-based dulce de leche; the slight bitterness of the bananas keeps the package from being over-the-top in sweetness. Another highlight is the curried sweet potato patty, a luscious and belly-warming mixture of stewed sweet potatoes, chickpeas and onions.
Currently, she does pop-ups and delivers to addresses in San Francisco and Oakland. Shes hoping to expand to farmers markets if business continues to come in at a brisk pace. Order by attending one of Tasty Tings scheduled pop-up events or send Magadaluyo a message on Instagram.
Soleil Ho is The San Francisco Chronicles restaurant critic. Email: email@example.com
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