Bake Sum, Berkeley, Plus San Francisco, Redwood City, and Oakland
Imagine impeccable French Viennoiserie with crisp, buttery layers to get lost in — but flaunting inspired Asian flavors.
That, in sum, is Bake Sum.
This Berkeley-based bakery, which has amassed a huge following during the pandemic, was co-founded by local baker, Joyce Tang, who had the wholesale bakery Chinoiserie, and previously supplied pastries to Boba Guys.
Each week, Bake Sum offers one set pastry box ($35) filled with about half a dozen treats, as well as a specialty bun box, Gochujang sourdough loaves, mochi bites, and cookies.
Sign up for its newsletter ahead of time because it drops Monday morning with that week’s offerings. It pays to be quick on the draw because the baked goods, especially the pastry box, sell out quickly. Pick up your order on Fridays or Saturdays at the Bread Project in Berkeley; Fridays at Golden Goat Coffee in San Francisco; Saturdays at Grand Coffee in San Francisco; or Fridays at Red Giant Coffee Roasters in Redwood City.
Last week’s pastry box included a Croissubi, a unique riff on a traditional ham and cheese croissant that paid homage to Spam musubi. Just on its own, this was one beautiful croissant — shattering into deep golden shards upon the first bite. Add in the novelty of thin slices of Spam wrapped in nori, and get ready for your taste buds to take a French-Hawaiian ride. Crispy Parmesan cheese and flecks of togarashi dot the top to add more umami, savoriness and just a hint of spice. It is every inch like a nostalgic ABC Store musubi transformed into a perfect French croissant.
I can’t say enough, either, about the garlic cheese pull apart roll in the box. The top is as crisp and flaky as a croissant, and because it’s a pull-apart made of many little pieces of laminated dough, there’s even more hills, valleys, edges, and corners of lovely crunchiness. The pull-apart tastes intensely of cheese and roasted garlic. It will spoil you forever for any standard garlic bread.
The lychee raspberry danish is what you can imagine yourself daintily tucking into at high tea in Hong Kong. It’s a flaky danish with a foundation of pastry cream that’s topped with whole raspberries plus lychees, which give it a delicate floral quality.
The brownie with hazelnuts is made with a little sourdough left over from Bake Sum’s bread. That imparts an unexpected depth and complexity to this brownie that sports a crunchy exterior and soft, cakey interior.
The ube milk bun is modeled after traditional Mexican concha breakfast bread with its seashell-like top. Tinged purple, it has a thin crisp crust that gives way to a tender, airy crumb, plus a lavender-hued purple yam pastry cream in the center that’s velvety, slightly sweet and subtly starchy.
The mochi bites are some of the best I’ve had with that coveted crispy exterior that yields to a supple interior with plenty of noticeable chewiness. Four are included: ube, black sesame, lychee, and a blue jasmine that tastes hauntingly of Chinese tea.
I couldn’t resist getting a bag of four cookies ($13), too. Each is as big as my palm. The chocolate chip is crispy on the edges, substantial in heft, and chewy in the center. The dazzling ube and coconut one sports a purple center, and is dusted in crystalized sugar all over. The black sesame is crisp through and through like a snickerdoodle. The hojicha double chocolate is simply outstanding. You expect the deep dark cocoa taste, but not the underlying smoky, roasty, nutty taste of the green tea that lingers on the finish. It makes this cookie extra special.
Pro Tip: If you miss snagging a pastry box on Bake Sum’s web site, check Oakland’s Magnolia Mini Mart web site, as it offers boxes later in the week for Saturday pick-ups. Or order a la carte items on Saturdays at Bread Project in Berkeley, Grand Coffee in San Francisco, and Cupcakin’ Bake Shop in Berkeley and Oakland.
And if you pick up your pastry box at Red Giant Coffee Roasters in Redwood City, you can make it a two-fer outing, as Mademoiselle Colette is right across the street. Yes, don’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy top-notch pastries from two different establishments in one day. It may seem overkill, but after this past year, you more than deserve that kind of sweet pampering.
Pizzeria Delfina, Burlingame, Palo Alto, and San Francisco
If you’ve been following my takeout series, you might think I eat a lot of pizza.
You would be correct.
Truth be told, if my husband were left to his own devices, he would probably eat pizza twice a week, every week.
So it’s no surprise that our takeout adventures would bring us to Pizzeria Delfina, which is always a solid choice.
Its pizza crusts are crisp on the edges, with soft, bready outer rims that are airy almost like focaccia. They have a nice, developed flavor like a good artisan loaf, too.
The broccoli raab pizza ($17.75) is a study in dark, vivid green. The greens cover the top of the pizza, along with Italian Caciocavallo cheese, mozzarella, olives and hot peppers for a flavorful pie with vibrant bitter edge.
The prosciutto pie ($18.50) was draped with thin slices of the Parma ham, mozzarella, Caciocavallo, and panna. Baby arugula leaves usually get showered over the top once the pizza comes out of the oven. In a thoughtful touch for to-go, the arugula was packed in a separate plastic container so that it didn’t steam and turn soggy in transit. Instead, we could add handfuls to the pizza at home, enjoying the freshness of the tender leaves. In fact, so much arugula was provided, that there was enough for a mini salad the next day.
Speaking of salads, the marinated artichokes ($15) make for a nice first course. Artichoke hearts are grilled, leaving them tender and smoky, then tossed with nutty, chewy farro, salty ricotta salata, and more arugula in a lemony dressing.
The Neapolitan meatballs ($16.50) come three to an order. They are big and bountiful, made with a blend of veal, pork and beef. Moist and tender, they are napped in a zesty tomato sauce, accompanied with crostini for dunking.
The mezzemaniche al ragu ($19) is a blend of those three meats in a thick, sweet-savory sauce that clings to the rigatoni-like pasta.
Don’t skip dessert, which comes in the cutest logo glass jars. The butterscotch budino ($6) has a fluffy, creamy texture and deep butterscotch flavor. It’s crowned with fluffy whipped cream and crunchy turbinado sugar. It was so good, I wished I had ordered two.
Pro Tip: When scrolling the takeout menu online, don’t forget to peruse the “Kits and Goods” category. That’s where you’ll find a make-at-home-pizza kit ($24.99), frozen pasta sauces ($8), and frozen gnocchi ($8.99).
I bought a lasagna al ragu ($29.99) that comes with printed directions for heating in the oven. This is no grandma’s homespun lasagna, but a definite restaurant-quality one made with layers of green-tinted nettle pasta sheets stacked with a rich, complex tasting ragu of beef, pork, pancetta, and chicken liver, along with creamy bechamel. An elevated taste of comfort, it will serve two hungry appetites or three standard ones.
The restaurant threw in gratis a quart of frozen Stoll Family Matzoh Ball Soup ($18). The homey broth is is full of celery, carrot, onion, and shredded chicken, plus fresh dill for a distinctive grassy note. It’s a hug in a bowl. The fluffy matzoh balls hide a surprise — a walnut in the center that adds a bit of fun and burst of delicious sweet nuttiness. It’s a Stoll family secret tradition. A no-nut version is also available.