Often overlooked in O.C.’s wealth of Middle Eastern fare are its sweets—those sticky, often honeyed confections that delight in their simplicity and party-ready portability. They make any dessert platter instantly interesting. And is there anything better with a perfectly brewed cup of Turkish coffee?
Ikram Bakery is the locus of local Turkish life. The tiny storefront prepares a number of savory pastries (think flaky, cheese-stuffed borek) and is increasingly famous for its simit, a sort of blackened, sesame-seed-studded bagel that’s central to a good Turkish breakfast. Still, desserts here are a must. Look for almond, walnut, or pistachio baklava, as well as sobiyet, a supersized slice of baklava with a cream-filled center. A host of specialties reserved for catering orders include cakes topped with pomegranate seeds, sliced fruit, even eclairs.
For the savory and the sweet, there’s nowhere better than Forn Al Hara. The Levantine bakery’s pizzalike flatbreads are a fantastic lunch, but it’s impossible to leave without at least one treat. The baklava, soaked through with just the right amount of syrup, is terrific. So too are the ma’amoul, shortbread cookies filled with dates. The kanafeh—warm, creamy cheese capped with a toasted semolina-dough shell and sweetened with syrup—is wonderful, like a molten Middle Eastern cheesecake.
Assal Pastry has a more European flair. But beyond the tiramisu, cream puffs, and ladyfingers, are the shop’s Persian treats. Look for trays of zoolbia and bamiyeh, sticky-sweet yogurt-based doughnuts fried to a warm brown. The only difference between the two is their shape: Zoolbia is fried into a web of dough that resembles a palm-sized funnel cake, and bamiyeh is extruded into something of a Persian churro.
Assal Pastry, 14130 Culver Drive, Irvine, 949-733-3262, assalpastryus.com
Forn Al Hara, 512 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, 714-758-3777
Ikram Bakery, 9895 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley, 714-964-5726
SUGAR SHOCKED? Order one of Ikram Bakery’s shawarma sandwiches. You can stuff it all into a wrap if you’d like, but the spit-roasted chicken and beef is best in the bakery’s Turkish pide, a thicker, sturdier handmade pita bread. Few things are better fresh out of the oven.