The scent of the panaderia is intoxicating, setting off cravings for soft, warm rolls and indulgent pastries. It’s the reason hungry customers crowd these bakeries throughout the morning. Around the holidays, you’d be wise to do the same, as Orange County’s many panaderias are some of the best places to stock up on sweet treats.
At Spigas Bakery (right) you’ll find wonderfully wobbly flan and remarkably flaky croissants alongside a case of Mexican pan dulce (literally sweet bread). Everything is terrific: a chocolate croissant-Danish hybrid so suffused with butter it all but melts on contact; a soft, slender bar stuffed with guava jam and sprinkled with crunchy sugar crystals. The many variations of pan dulce are great, too: round loaves topped with shredded coconut, and oversize, seashell-shaped conchas encrusted with sugar—all to be enjoyed with a cup of champurrado, an ultra-thick Mexican hot chocolate.
La Poblana Bakery does it all. An Orange institution, its customers line up for fresh breads and holiday tamales. There are sweet, baked empanadas filled with apple or pumpkin, and crumbly cookies called polvorones that almost always disappear in one bite. Even more special are the dessert tamales. Unwrap a warm strawberry tamale and it looks unnatural at first, the vivid pink masa flecked with hunks of fresh fruit.
There’s a little bit of everything at La Espiga de Oro. All the traditional pan dulce are here, including batches of marranitos, crackly, gingerbread-style cookies made in the shape of full-bellied pigs. The bakery also sells richly decorated cakes that could serve as your next edible centerpiece.
Unlike many bare-bones panaderias, Spigas Bakery also has a full-service kitchen that churns out all manner of Mexican specialties. Try a torta (perhaps with a sheet of finely fried beef milanesa) on one of Spigas’ freshly baked bolillos—airy loaves toasted just enough to support the sandwich’s impressive heft.
1643 W. Chapman Ave., Orange
La Poblana Bakery
604 W. Chapman Ave. Orange
La Espiga de Oro
805 W. 19th St.