When asked by Jim O’Conner on the Food Network's “Secret Life of Cookies” how many thousands of years old his mamoul cookie recipe is, Panos Zetlian could only guess: “Maybe six, maybe five, maybe eight.” At his self-named bakery, his daughter, Jovina, and her husband, Nick, churn out this and other recipes that her father perfected as a baker in Beirut, Lebanon. They make all of their baklava from scratch—the dough is free of trans fats, additives, and preservatives—and fill some varieties with freshly ground pistachios, walnuts, almonds, or cashews. Their repertoire also includes coconut macaroons, butter cookies, and chocolate truffles, along with other Middle Eastern specialties such as the atief ashta, a bundled, pancake-like dessert filled with milk crème, dipped in pistachios, and used to make taco vendors jealous.
When Hollywood sets need to feed their starlets and staff, they order up a batch of cookies from Snookies Cookies. The bakery has been a Hollywood staple for 30 years, with a specialty in gift baskets of their fresh-baked cookies. Semi-sweet chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin lead the pack, though up to 16 different cookie varieties have been known to come from their ovens. When it comes to putting together those memorable gift baskets, cookies are paired with themed treats such as brownies, microwave popcorn, chips and salsa, or candy. Snookies staff can even throw in a festive balloon or other essentials that make a celebration great, though they still haven't found a way to fit a magician inside.
Row upon row of baked, fried, and shredded dough line the glass case at Baklava Factory, tantalizing customers with a bounty of honey, walnuts, and custard cream. The factory?s pastry experts concoct more than a dozen kinds of baklava each day alongside other European and Mediterranean sweets, such as fried balls of dough dipped in honey. Customers can sip espresso or cappuccino as they peruse these confections and the bakery?s array of elaborate gift boxes and baskets filled with Belgian chocolates, cookies, and, of course, baklava. Baklava Factory also does corporate gifting and enlivens events with custom cakes embellished with edible butterflies, cartoon characters, and rhinestones capable of fooling amateur jewel thieves.
Sipan Bakery and Cafe's cooks stuff pita bread with falafel balls, hummus, and authentic Lebanese spices and fill crispy boerek pastry crusts with potatoes, meat, and feta cheese. After meals, customers can sweeten palates with baklava morsels and fashion radio-antenna helmets from leftover scraps of tinfoil.
Tucked away in the kitchen of each Paris Baguette, bakers trained in French techniques craft buttery, flaky croissants and tart crusts, and their success at this has earned attention from the likes of the New York Times. In addition to pastries and sweets such as mocha rice balls, the bakers knead bread for their namesake baguettes and yeasty creations that hold an Asian twist, such as red-bean-paste-filled donuts. The experts also create fondant-cloaked cakes that venture beyond classic flavors into green tea, cappuccino, and sweet potato, delighting partygoers bored of the same laminated sheet cake that makes its appearance at each year’s birthday celebration.
To wash down these treats, patrons sip cups of java or more exotic drinks such as wheatgrass and black-sesame lattes, persimmon smoothies, and bubble tea. At lunchtime, many locations layer sandwiches, filling hungry stomachs with croque monsieurs and baguettes stuffed with chicken and pesto.