I can’t believe it’s not butter. Seriously.
Baker’s Bench is the newest little stall in Far East Plaza, operated solely by Jennifer Yee (who had worked previously churning out the stunning croissants at Konbi), and is a mostly vegan bakery.
Now that she has struck out on her own, it seems like she’s at the height of her powers. To be frank, it is absolutely shocking that these pastries are vegan. They don’t smell like it, they don’t look like it, and they sure as hell don’t taste like it. I’m fully prepared to give the vegan bakery championship belt over to Chef Yee.
This is insane. It should be criminal. Chef Yee’s croissants are soft, pillowy, and absolutely delicious. The exterior isn’t completely shattering (though it does flake), but examining the interior reveals that classic croissant honeycomb structure. I can’t say the taste is buttery (because there isn’t any) but I don’t care because it’s still got a fantastic butter adjacent flavor.
Chef Yee’s chocolate croissant also reveals the insane laminate. It’s truly a superior vegan croissant, and while there may be no true substitute for butter (Chef Yee uses Flora Butter) I don’t really care to dissect the differences. The exterior of the chocolate croissant is a bit flakier and with the same soft and moist interior of the regular croissant.
Chocolate Chip Cookie
First, shameless plug for the death match thread. To cut to the chase, this is one of the best vegan cookies I’ve had in my life–like top 2 and don’t even know what the 3rd one would be. Of course it’s vegan, so can’t describe it as buttery because it’s not, but it’s almost there so I’d say its butter adjacent. The cookie is substantial, with firm edges that are a bit crisp and a bit crunchy as a result, but that yields to a soft and chewy center. Bottom line, this is just a damn good cookie. Vegan or not, it’s one of my favorites in the city.
Double Chocolate Cookie
The double chocolate chip cookie is a bit more firm and chewy, but otherwise similar to the chocolate chip and an absolute banger.
Lemon Honey Ginger Cookie
The third cookie is great if you don’t like chocolate (but why don’t you like chocolate?). The chunks of ginger are a real standout.
Blueberry Blackberry Muffin
I’d pick this over nearly every other non-vegan blueberry muffin. It’s soft and moist, with a bit of a chew and a stunning and subtly corn flavor. Don’t miss this.
Stone Fruit Danish
Chef Yee’s fantastic danishes are another flex. The spiced, caramelized slices of stone fruit on top of a a thin almond frangipane layer meld beautifully with the flaky dough. Chef Yee has played around with the fillings, sometimes making the danishes with cherries or nectarines with basil & shisho, but no matter what she has they’re another item you’ve got to pick up.
Baker’s Bench will occasionally introduce some specials, and this was one of them. An incredibly dense and sticky bar that was chocolatey and studded with chopped nuts and coconut. Of all the bars I’ve had, this one is the most memorable and I’m bummed I haven’t seen it since (though all her other specials like a recent plum cake have been fantastic).
While it is a bit of a sugar bomb, this one or two biter is also fantastic and another way to enjoy Chef Yee’s expertly crafted dough.
Melon Panna Cotta
This is why Baker’s Bench is mostly vegan, because the buttermilk panna cotta is one of the only non-vegan items. The sweet melon, cumquat, some cooling cucumber are well balanced against tangy buttermilk panna cotta. It’s really a great way to showcase the fresh produce in a way that’s light and refreshing on a hot summer day.
Some mornings you’ll find a long line wrapped around the stall and others you might be able to walk right on up. There doesn’t seem to be much method to the line madness right now, though I have noticed Friday mornings being a bit easier to get what you want if you arrive before 10:30am.
727 N. Broadway (but on the Hill St. side)
Hours are 9am to sell out
RIYL: not being able to tell if something’s vegan or not