Home cooking for sale to the public has become far more prevalent during the COVID-19 crisis. Call it second-hand comfort, with adventurous diners looking to try something different benefiting from highly personal plates. Resourceful bakers selling savory and sweet creations, a mix of seasoned veterans and semi-pros, are well positioned to thrive during the pandemic, offering distinctive flavors and designs that aren’t readily available in local bakeries.
Pastries from the Middle East and Caucasus are one trend that’s popping in the San Fernando Valley. Here are four bakers whose goods we highly recommend.
Avo Akmakjian makes exquisite baklava in the guesthouse behind his home in Glendale’s Verdugo Hills. Delicate queens (fingers) and kings (larger pyramids) contain ground, cinnamon-tinged walnuts; sport flaky phyllo coats lined with crushed pistachios; and arrive in shallow pools of simple syrup. Akmakjian opened Glendale’s first Armenian bakery in the ’80s—Sako’s Bakery—and has been a general contractor for years, but returned to baking three years ago after making holiday baklava for his real estate agent wife’s clients. He also bakes kataifi, coconut cookies, and pistachio cookies with sesame seeds. Baklava Bar even supplies craft services with baked goods for the NBC drama This Is Us. Order on Baklava Bar’s website and allow three agonizing days for pickup or delivery (add $7.50).
Mariam Amiryan and husband Artavazd launched their business in 2019, naming their home bakery near Glendale’s Kenneth Village for daughter Ovsanna. Mariam worked as a museologist at Hovhannes Sharambeyan Centre of Popular Creation, a folk art museum in Yerevan, and now champions a different aspect of Armenian culture. They bake two types of large-format pakhlava (baklava in Armenia). These discs feature soft dough instead of flaky phyllo that’s more synonymous with baklava. Slice along perforations to separate sticky rhombuses. Mayrik Pakhlava combines bezeh (meringue), walnuts, and honey. Artsakh Pakhlava is a regional variant named for a disputed region between Armenia and Azerbaijan that melds apricot jam, walnuts and honey. Ossy’s Bakery also sells Gata Gyumri, supple cookies dusted with powdered sugar and filled with khoreez, blitzed flour, butter, and sugar that bake to a streusel-like consistency. Schedule pickup for eight-inch and ten-inch pakhlava directly through their Instagram feed and find boxes at select Glendale markets (and gas stations).
Sugar Fairy Mary
Palestinian-American baker Mary Yaghnam, the aforementioned “sugar fairy,” also debuted in 2019, operating out of Northridge. The longtime corporate employee and current substitute teacher is fulfilling a childhood dream, providing up the “magical bites of bliss” she grew up eating, including lacy, oval “date-filled delights,” cookies made with her family’s Eastertime maamoul recipe that she seasons with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Her repertoire also includes “pistachio rose delights,” co-starring crushed pistachios and fragrant rose water; spiral patterned “anise scented date filled swirls”; and powdery, pistachio-studded sugar cookies. Her Mediterranean variety pack is a great way to sample different cookies. Yaghnam also allows custom boxes. Order cookies through their Mediterranean web page.
In a residential section of Granada Hills north of the 118 freeway, a waving Armenian flag and a pomegranate tree mark the spot. Kristine Jingozian and sister Rose Jingozian recently built on the success of the ornate Farine cake and pastry concept they launched with mom Karine, which is still running. Rose + Rye is more rustic and draws on a range of influences. “Our family hails from all corners of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean and my sister and I are L.A. born and bred,” Kristine says. “Our menu reflects not only our Armenian heritage, which is criminally underrepresented in the mainstream, but our affinity for American food culture as well.”
The sisters source Sonora wheat, Rouge de Bordeaux and rye from Tehachapi Grain Project to produce multi-layered medovik (honey cake); flaky, spiral-patterned brandied date and walnut nazook; vanilla nazook; and soft Persian-style saffron halva squares, “a cross between shortbread and fudge” that caramelizes on the stovetop before cooling and slicing. The sisters also make banana Nutella cream pies and chocolate fudge tarts.
The Jingozian family’s goals for Rose + Rye go deeper than flavor and artistry. “The world today can be a very painful place. A place where injustice runs rampant and infects the lives of so many,” Kristine says. “The aim here is to harken back to simpler times.” Order through Instagram and allow two days notice. Pickup is available Wednesday through Sunday.
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