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Food gifting: Cookie bakeries around the South Sound

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on Dec. 14, 2012 at 12:00 am | No Comments »
December 13, 2012 1:40 pm
Conchinitos are just one kind of cookie available at El Zocalo Bakery in Tacoma. Peter Haley/Staff photographer

If you’re the kind of person who can dedicate four or five hours to mixing, rolling and baking dozens of cookies – yay for you! For the rest of us who would just turn out misshapen cookies looking like little pucks of doom – we do what nature intended. We buy cookies from a bakery.

Lucky us, we have our pick of bakeries to backfill our busy lives: A French-Korean bakery that sells macarons. A Mexican bakery in the Lincoln neighborhood that bakes cute little pig-shaped molasses cookies. A German bakery with buttery cookies (not to mention a great selection of cakes). Also, a bakery known for its fancy wedding cakes, but also has a solid selection of cookies and single-serve desserts. Read on.

Butter cookies are sold at German Pastry Shop in cellophane bags.

German Pastry Shop
Where: 6108 Mount Tacoma Drive, Lakewood, 253-588-5777
The bakery: It’s the kind of place you enter and think you might bump into a German grandma on a serious baking bender. The front display case holds all kinds of pastries and treats. Turn around and you’ll find shelving stuffed with packaged holiday cookies.
The cookies: Cellophane bags full of at least a few dozen cookies each ($3.75-$4.25) are sold during the holidays. The must-buys are the chewy-sweet hazelnut macaroons and crunchy butter cookies with a glossy finish. The bakery also produces buttery spritz cookies. I had leftovers (shocking, right?). You know what I did with them? Whacked them with a rolling pin, mixed the crumbs with butter and table sugar and turned the mixture into a cheesecake crust.
Besides cookies, try: Apple, blueberry and other fruit-filled pastries with flaky crusts and sticky icing. Turnovers are filled with sweetened cherries. Blueberry-filled puff pastry offered a better ratio of thick filling to flaky pastry than the dry tasting strudel. Layered European-style cakes are sold by the slice ($2.90) or as whole cakes ($27.50-$36.50). Pastries are priced around $1.50-$2.
Also for the holidays: Stollen, a sweet Christmas bread, is in the display case now.
Stay for lunch: They make great cold-cut sandwiches, table service in the dining room.
Across the hall: A separate business across the hall is Hess Deli, which sells the best pretzels in town and fresh-baked breads. Check out the extensive German beer selection.

Hazelnut macarons from Boulangerie.

Boulangerie Bakery Café
Where: 9701 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood, 253-682-3488
The bakery: This clean, cute and smart-looking bakery is just inside the entrance of the Paldo World grocery store in the middle of Lakewood’s Korean restaurant district. The bakery walls are lined with cases filled with individually wrapped pastries and cakes – a hodgepodge of Korean flavors merged with French style pastries. A scattering of tables offers seating for espresso and pastries.
The cookies: Macarons come in multiple flavors – try mocha, strawberry or hazelnut in a clamshell packed with  a few dozen of the little Parisian cookies that are little puffs of meringue that break to a sweet, sticky interior. (A macaron is different from macaroons, the chewy coconut cousin.) Warning: I’ve found Boulangerie’s cookies occasionally stale. More cookies line a case adjacent to the espresso counter.
For a gift: Pick up a 5-pack of mini tarts in a gift box for $9.99. Choose from cherry, orange, chocolate and nut-flavored tarts. The mini tarts are filled with a cakey walnut-flavored filling. Also, try a clamshell container of cream puffs – love those things.
For the holidays: The bakery offers stollen a few weeks before Christmas.
Oddity alert: If you’re looking for the Korean equivalent of pigs in a blanket, you’ll find a crunchy oblong donut stuffed with a hot dog. Also, look for a pastry called “ugly corn.”
Stay for lunch: A restaurant serving Korean food is just down the corridor past the tofu business that also sells walnut-shaped donuts, called hodo gwaja, that are addicting.

El Zocalo Bakery and Torta Shop
Where: 701 S. 38th St., Tacoma, 253-474-9000
The bakery: The bakery offers very little aesthetic beyond rows of display cases and bakery racks, but is attached to a small torta shop with a dining room. The bakery is mostly self service – look below the cases for the trays and tongs (the tongs were sticky on a recent visit, but have been clean on other visits). Pay at the counter in the adjacent restaurant. They charge a surcharge for debit purchases less than $5.
The cookies: I admit that I head to El Zocalo for the cochinitos. They’re a molasses cookie shaped like a pig and sometimes called marranitos or puerquitos. Cookies come in all kinds of flavors, but occasionally they’re stale and off tasting – best arrive early in the day. Cookies start at 20 cents each. Mexican wedding cookies are a real treat.

Sugar dusted sweet buns and pastries at El Zocalo.

Also try: Apricot-filled turnovers and sweet buns shaped like sea shells. Criss-crossed puff pastry buns filled with a sweetened cream cheese, too. Pastries are 50 cents-$1.
Stay for lunch: The attached torta shop makes some of the best Mexican sandwiches in Tacoma, but not as good as the tortas at the nearby taco truck, La Fondita.
For the holidays: Rosca de Reyes cakes are available through pre-orders for pickup in January. If you’re not familiar with them, Rosca de Reyes is a round cake with a baby Jesus baked inside, intended to be eaten for the Epiphany, marking the end of the Christmas season.

Celebrity Cake Studio
Where: 314 E. 26th St., Tacoma, 253-627-4773,
The bakery: Fancy wedding and party cakes are the bulk of Celebrity Cake Studio’s business. The bakery operated for years in Freighouse Square, moving earlier this year to a new stand-alone bakery on 26th Street. Owner Odette D’Aniello has a long history of cake decorating here – she’s operated Celebrity Cake Studio since 2004. Before coming to Tacoma, she owned a bakery in Lacey, which she opened in 1999. She bought the Freighthouse bakery after the owner passed away and decided to merge the two bakery names into one – the Celebrity Cake Studio. While special order custom cakes make up the bulk of the business, the bakery stocks a display case with single-serve desserts, including pretty petit fours,  cupcakes and cookies aplenty.
The cookies: Think pretty – these are cookies made for platters: Decorated shortbread, Russian tea cookies dipped in chocolate and coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate. You’ll also find spritz cookies and this bakery is gluten-free friendly -look for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. Decorated cookies are around $2.25 each – platters are $25-$75.
Also try: Stay for coffee in the cute dining room.

Editor’s note: This gifting series features edibles from South Sound food businesses. Check back daily through Dec. 23 for something new.

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