Editor's note: You may know Kathy Chan from her blog A Passion for Food or from such pieces on Serious Eats as How to Make Spam Musubi. She'll now be appearing weekly here with Thursday's Sugar Rush column. Please give her a warm welcome. —Adam
It surprises me that Dorina Yuen's gem of a bakery is still under the radar, by Manhattan standards at least. Perched on the borders of Little Italy and Chinatown, Oro Bakery, with cozy brick walls, long countertop seating and more than its share of quality pastries, opened late January, and I've yet to see a line out the door.
Perhaps it's better this way. If it could be like this forever, then I could continue to stroll in Saturday mornings, like the neighborhood regulars and start the day off right with croissant bread pudding, softly studded with tangles of chocolate and plumped raisins. The pudding itself could afford to be less packed with a higher custard to croissant ratio, but mild flavors shot though with the chocolate-raisin combo satisfies the taste buds just right. If you take the pudding home, make sure to warm it in the oven, and top off with softly whipped crème fraîche—breakfast meets dessert.
A dabble of chocolate always leads me to crave more, and I found solace in the aptly named Chocolate Dot, a dark one bite creation that answers the eternal question: what happen when chocolate truffles and cookies collide?
On the lighter end of the chocolate spectrum is the dainty hazelnut-topped chocolate moelleux, cousin to the almond molleux, both of which are dangerously tender, not to mention easy on the eyes. I preferred the almond version over the chocolate for more assertive flavors achieved by a high percentage of ground almond paste—the little molleux is akin to popping an almond explosion in your mouth. A single bite is never enough, which is all the reason more to have two, three or even four.
It would be silly to come to Oro and neglect the glass cookie jars off to the right of the bakery case. Flavors change frequently, and on this particular visit I claimed the crumbly peanut butter fleur de sel and oatmeal raisin as my own. Priced at $0.50, it makes you wonder why people pay upwards of $3 for cookies elsewhere. Oro's are substantially smaller, but what these cookies lack in size, they surely make up for in quality. The peanut butter cookie surrenders with a bite, bringing down with it light sprinkles of fleur de sel both on the surface and in the dough. The best part of the bakery is that everything is sweet just enough and not a touch more. No Magnolia sugar highs here, no toothaches—only simple and pure satisfaction.
I'm on a constant search for a madeleine that will have me down on my knees. But those of you who live in the city know how hard it is to come across a semi-decent madeleine. In theory, madeleines are the most simple baked good one could ask for, requiring only simple, quality ingredients done right. Which is why I find it so befuddling that the majority of madelines in Manhattan bakeries are either dry with uneven crumbs, too sweet, or—the worst crime of all—humpless.
Oro's madeleine, while not the best I've tasted, has, without a doubt, the biggest humps I've ever seen on a madeleine. It's a terrific sight; you must go take a look for yourself. The scalloped underbelly and sides leading up to the hump are perfectly brown, the delicately crisp edges sinking into a fine crumb. It leans on the mild side with but a whisper of lemon zest. A dunk into dark chocolate adds a degree of richness—wonderful if you're in the mood, but a pure and plain version ought to be offered alongside.
Citrus zest makes a strong appearance in the lemon financier, a simple and unadorned creature with a lovely twist at the sides. It's a fine accompaniment to an afternoon cup of tea on a summer day. The carrot cake financier is surely worth a mention, though for the moist cake itself, just a touch spicy, and not the gluey cream cheese frosting.
I would return to Oro on warm afternoons to cool off with a peanut butter chocolate bar, featuring a square of moist chocolate sponge upon a thin shell of dark chocolate, and a good half-inch of frozen peanut butter mousse, melted by the heat of your mouth into nothing more but a divine memory.
The bakery does brisk business, though it appears that the majority of customers are repeat regulars delighted to have found a solid neighborhood spot. Service is spotty, though always well meaning, and on that note, the bakery itself is very welcoming—I could easily find myself savoring the day away at that corner seat near the window. Did I mention that Oro turns into a wine bar in the evenings? Can you dare imagine that: pastries and wine at a bakery till late in the night!
About the author: Kathy Chan is a Hawaiian living in New York City, performing unexciting accountant duties by day and eating voraciously by night. She documents her never-ending feasting on her blog A Passion for Food.
Address: 375 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013 (b/n Mott and Mulberry)