Blame it on Halloween, and the fact that no matter how old you are, you’ll never outgrow the pure bliss of the fall season’s first (insert your personal kryptonite here) sweet treat.
And then, thanks to Thanksgiving, your diet just goes downhill from there. Add holiday parties, cue those TV segments in which we’re told to eat a handful of almonds before arriving, and, well, lookeee here, somebody’s pants don’t fit.
So if weight gain is a predestined kind of thing, why not indulge in the crème de la, well, cream?
We’ve had our eyes on the following new-ish bakeries in Dallas-Fort Worth and recently mounted an in-depth investigation to find out which cookies, cupcakes and cream-cheese brioches are worth your (waist’s) while.
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Susie Cakes, Fort Worth
“Bake”story: It’s a sweet one: Chicago native Susan Sarich has built a big business on the nostalgia of her childhood, when she enjoyed a glass of milk and a fresh-baked treat with her grandmothers, who called her Susie.
Fast forward to Sarich’s move to California — with her grandmothers’ 4-by-6 recipe cards in tow — and a bakery was born. The first store opened in Brentwood in 2006, and after expanding all over California, it was natural that the successful enterprise would look to other locations across the country.
This store opened in September in the WestBend center off of University Drive.
What to order: To resist the allure of ordering the entire menu; that is the problem at this attractive shop, where everything is made in-store with no preservatives — ever. I loved the red-velvet buttercream-rich mini cupcakes ($2; flourless $2.25) and the not-too-sweet whoopee pies ($5.25).
Side effects: Each store has a Celebration Specialist who can collaborate with you on a special order, because SusieCakes is all about “Connecting through Celebration,” and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Pants disturbance factor: High. Very high.
Bread Winners Cafe, Fort Worth
“Bake”story: Long a Dallas legend — especially for its winding-around-the-corner waits at the original location in Uptown — Bread Winners finally made the journey west to Fort Worth this year. The lines are still long at peak weekend hours, but for good reason.
What to order: A separate bakery is at the front of the restaurant and features a rotating roster of greatest hits, from bread pudding ($3.50) to granola bars ($3) to Pig and Monkey Bread ($3.50) — sweet monkey bread with applewood-smoked bacon inside(!). Other items, like cheesecakes ($45) require a minimum of 48 hours notice, but you will hardly regret any advanced planning.
Side effects: It’s the ultimate test at Breadwinners: Are you sweets- or savory-inclined? Yes, the fried chicken and soups and salads are all stellar, but Breadwinners had me at Pig and Monkey Bread.
Pants disturbance factor: Medium. Avoid anything slightly snug for 24-36 hours.
Hurley House, Fort Worth
“Bake”story: What started as a literal mom-and-pop special-order business run out of Katherine and Timm Sasser’s home has morphed into a southwest Fort Worth storefront, which opened in July 2016. Known for its small-batch baked goods, Hurley House may not have a huge selection if you walk in on the average day. But take anything they have left — you won’t be sorry.
Last spring at the Fort Worth Food & Wine Festival’s “Desserts After Dark” event, the Sassers put their own spin on carrot cake (with Firestone & Robertson TX Whiskey), proving in my mind that they are a force with which to be reckoned.
What to order: Huge Rice Krispies treats ($2.50), moist and tantalizing, were topped with sprinkles and irresistible to my 10-year-old, while an oversize chocolate-chip cookie ($2) was snapped up for the more straightforward dessert eater. The elegant Sparkle sandwich cookie ($2.50) was a revelation: Two shortbread-esque cookies with icing in between, and a melt-in-your-mouth quality that was disturbingly awesome.
Side effects: Hurley House has started featuring a small lunch menu (the Hurley House Trio is chicken salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, or pimiento cheese plus a choice of bagel chips and beverage, $10) as well as prepared take-home items like a recent spaghetti pie ($15-$25) which looked luscious.
Pants disturbance factor: Off the charts.
Unrefined Bakery, Fort Worth
“Bake”story: Mother and daughter Anne Hoyt and Taylor Nicholson are “Celiacs and More,” according to their bakery’s website, so it would make sense that the nutrition-minded food-lovers would open the gluten-free, soy-free, preservative-free, non-GMO and unrefined sugar haven known as Unrefined Bakery. The first location opened in Dallas seven years ago; this Fort Worth store is the duo’s nod to the need westward for such tolerable fare.
What to order: From custom cakes with “unButtercream” to snack mixes and packs of almond rusks, the menu runs the gluten-free gamut. A refrigerated case in the back will make a grain-averse person’s day, with everything from cornbread to paleo sandwich bread and pizza crusts.
Side effects: Our experience with a chocolate cupcake did not go over well with the gluten-tolerant amongst us. In no way did the treat taste like a regular, sugary crave-able cupcake — especially with its grainy, too-tangy icing.
Pants disturbance factor: My skinny jeans still fit, so take that to the bake, er, bank.
85Cº Bakery Cafe, Carrollton
“Bake”story: This chain — with more than 1,000 stores worldwide — opened a location last fall in Carrollton and has one looming on Fort Worth’s caloric horizon in 2018. It all started when a businessman named Wu Cheng-Hsueh had an idea: Why not build a Taiwanese and Japanese bakery that would serve fancy, ultra-decadent sweets and sell them at an affordable price?
85ºC Bakery Cafe was born, and now primarily has outposts throughout California, a few in the Pacific Northwest and two in Texas — this one, and one in Houston. The name refers to Cheng-Hsueh’s belief that it’s the ideal brewing temperature for coffee (or 185º Fahrenheit), and the shop offers an enticing beverage menu, with everything from iced sea-salt coffee to green milk tea.
What to order: Pick your potential pleasure, but please, use the tongs! So pleads a large sign near the gateway to the pastries. Take an oversized tong, a tray and choose from a huge selection of Taiwanese, Japanese, European and “other” sweets.
Dozens beckoned, even if I had no idea what the Raisin Milk Butter or Red Bean Bread would taste like — but it’s all part of the fun for the uninitiated. The sugared cream cheese brioche ($1.50) looked like a Danish, but tasted more like a delicate cottage-cheese kolache. It wasn’t too sweet, despite the sugar, and paired well with my rose milk tea.
Side effects: There’s also a separate case for the fancier desserts, like the 85ºC Mille Crepe, sea-salt coffee brulee and napoleon cakes.
Pants disturbance factor: Low. It was an eat-and-run kind of morning, especially since the Carrollton location lacked Wi-Fi. I couldn’t dwell in this sweet haven for long; I had more work to do.