Theresa Velazquez's D.C. bakery business is thriving, yet she has no interest in expansion. "We own this one place, and we really make ourselves part of the neighborhood," says the co-owner of Baked & Wired in Georgetown, where hazelnut ganache cupcakes are playfully displayed in upside-down coffee beakers.
Many of America's best bakeries are family-run establishments that take a similar approach and pride in their community. They're appealing, one-of-a-kind spots where travelers can break to enjoy made-from-scratch pastries that often highlight local ingredients.
At Standard Baking Co. in Portland, ME, Alison Pray recently debuted Maine miche, an organic whole-wheat bread made with 100 percent single varietal wheat grown by a local farmer. "You couldn't have imagined this 18 years ago when we started," she says.
Great bakeries are not afraid to evolve or experiment, reinventing classic desserts as well as offering lesser-known European treats. So on your next trip, head to one of these bakeries for a sweet start to the day -- whether an apricot puff pastry tart with almond cream or the gibassier, a French citrus-flavored bread.
See More of America's Best Bakeries The owner and head baker at this pared-down Atwater Village bakery has a self-described “low sweet threshold,” but that may just be her secret to success. Na Young Ma’s seasonal-fruit-packed pastries like plum herb galettes and mango hand pies never verge on cloyingly sweet and have attracted celebrity fans like Kristen Wiig. The offerings change daily and often include unorthodox ingredients. Black sesame financiers, for instance, are flavored with nutty black sesame powder, brown butter, and fresh raspberries or candied orange. Must-Try Item: The flaky twice-baked almond croissant filled with a thin layer of almond cream. proofbakeryla.com Photo: Proof Bakery
See More of America's Best Bakeries Originally a stand at Chicago’s Green City Market, Floriole is now a buzzy café in the Lincoln Park neighborhood with expanded offerings of sandwiches, salads, and wood-oven-fired pizza. Baker Sandra Holl’s caramel pecan sticky buns, fruit galettes, and crème fraîche tea cakes use the finest ingredients, from Valrhona chocolate to European-style butter. She has a knack for turning mistakes into inspired treats; a botched batch of pistachio brittle became pistachio croissants with a lemon glaze. Must-Try Item: Gateau Basque, an almond cake filled with pastry cream and seasonal fruit. floriole.com Photo: Hanna Marie Pageau
See More of America's Best Bakeries Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito rocketed to fame when Oprah named their dense, fudgy brownie one of her favorite things. Three cookbooks later, Baked’s owners are still accomplishing their mission of elevating classic American desserts. The Peanut Butter Crispy is an elegant ganache-topped crisped rice cereal treat, and dessert hybrids include the Brookster, a deep, dark brownie shell filled with a chocolate chunk cookie. You’ll find them at the un-frilly Red Hook shop, with its wood-paneled walls and faux taxidermy. Must-Try Item: A layer of salted caramel oozes throughout while baking, making for an incredibly moist and indulgent sweet and salty brownie. Photo: Courtesy of Baked
See More of America's Best Bakeries It’s true that great things come in small packages—just consider this 400-square-foot bakery in the bustling Midtown Global Market. French windows on three sides let customers watch chef and owner Michelle Gayer (a three-time James Beard nominee) work her magic on rustic French pastries like seasonal fruit Danishes and pastry-cream-filled brioche rolled in vanilla sugar. Her crisp and chewy coconut macaroons have become so popular they’ve earned the nickname “crackaroons.” Must-Try Item: Bostock, a French pastry typically made with brioche bread. Gayer’s is toasted sourdough soaked in orange simple syrup, topped with brown butter and blueberries, and baked in the oven. saltytart.com Photo: Kris Hase
See More of America's Best Bakeries The owners of this bakery in a former laundromat are so devoted to serving simple, fresh food that every sweet and savory tart is made to order. Baker Julianne Jones was inspired after apprenticing with renowned Vermont bread baker Gérard Rubaud; Jones was reportedly one of the only students to last the entire three-month stint. Together with her French husband, a candy maker, they created a light-filled space featuring Baltic birch and a wood-fired oven where Jones bakes tartes flambées and perfect Bordeaux-style cannelés—think crème brûlée in mini-Bundt-cake form. Must-Try Item: The seasonal berry tart filled with blackberries, gooseberries, and raspberries. vergenneslaundry.com Photo: Adam Jackson
See More of America's Best Bakeries As its name suggests, this Georgetown institution takes coffee as seriously as its homespun baked goods. Baristas train for months, and the concrete coffee bar serves only the best roasters in the country (Stumptown, Intelligentsia). Cupcakes are playfully displayed in upside-down coffee beakers, and decadent flavors include hazelnut ganache–topped vanilla cake with a dulce de leche center. Other coffee-pairing options range from breakfast breads to strawberry pistachio pie. Must-Try Item: The Bee Sting, a shortbread bar with a honey and sliced almond topping, is the perfect balance of salty and sweet. bakedandwired.com Photo: Courtesy of Baked & Wired
See More of America's Best Bakeries This venerable Pike Place bakery opened in 1983 with a commitment to making Normandy-style pastries (one of the owners still makes regular reconnaissance trips to France). Stop in for tarte aux abricots—a traditional fruit tart with puff pastry crust, almond pastry cream, and sour apricots—or the Feuilletés, a Le Panier creation of puff pastry with savory fillings like delicate chicken in cream sauce. The salmon-colored space with a wooden communal table is cheery enough to brighten any gray Seattle day. Must-Try Item: The flaky jamon croissant topped with Mornay sauce and a sprinkle of Emmental cheese. lepanier.com Photo: Jonathan Cook
Follow Travel + Leisure on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TravlandLeisure