Russian Pastries on a Budget at Bakery La Brioche
On a sleepy stretch of Brighton Beach Avenue you'll find Bakery La Brioche, a glitzed-out Russian bakery with gold trim and marble countertops festooned with doughnuts, cakes, and small buns. If you've been disappointed by pretty-looking but dull-tasting pastries elsewhere in Brighton Beach, this bakery may be your answer.
There are fist-sized meringues sandwiched together with hazelnut cream that crackle when you bite into them, sending powdered sugar everywhere. The cream is intensely hazelnutty and the meringue retains just enough chewiness, sweet but not cloying—as good a meringue as you'll find in any fancy Manhattan pastry shop.
I was also impressed by an especially moist "caramel cake," made of crumbly wafers and more excellent hazelnut. The dulce de leche-like caramel is surprisingly not too sweet, though a cake this rich and dense is best cut by some strong tea.
You can find the namesake brioche in doughnut form, topped with powdered sugar or a crackly glaze, and filled with rose petal jam. At the end of the day (this visit was just before closing time) the doughnuts were a little tired and tough, but not unreasonably so, and that jam is worth licking off powdered sugar-coated finger. One suspects that earlier in the day they'd be even better.
Best of all: one of each of these pastries will cost you a grand total of five bucks. That's a deal even by Brighton Beach standards.