Baking at high altitude has its challenges. Cakes emerge from the oven with the appearance and texture of a frisbee, bread rolls metamorphose into rocks, and there’s a ten-second window before cookies mutate from underdone to charred. In Santa Fe, it’s best to leave the baking to the experts.
402 N. Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe
Clafoutis is a pocket-sized piece of France hidden in New Mexico. It’s so popular that a line usually clogs the door – you can practically see the drool marks on the glass! The owner peppers customer interactions with touches of her mother tongue and the chocolate mousse is as authentically French as she and her husband. This thick and creamy concoction is embellished with a glazed mandarin slice and a triangle of chocolate. The ideal order also includes an almond croissant, in which a generous layer of almond paste is cradled in wisps of pastry. Even if you’re as stuffed as that croissant, play digestive Tetris until you find room for a pistachio macaroon. You won’t regret it.
217 E. Palace Avenue, Santa Fe
Located within an easy stroll of the Plaza, Chez Mamou is the other French bakery in town capable of giving Clafoutis a run for its money. The apricot tart features fresh fruit that tingles on the tongue, while the cheese Danish is another star of the display case. The mild tang of the cheese is offset by a gentle dusting of confectioner’s sugar, while the actual pastry resembles a flakier version of a donut.
Hint: Make it a meal with the paper-thin crêpe espinard.
1100 Don Diego Avenue, Santa Fe
Despite this bakery’s name, its savory offerings are as alluring as its sweet ones. The quiches vary each day, but the combinations are original – caramelized onion, gruyère cheese and cauliflower for instance – and the hefty slices could stub your toe. Another savory delight is the cheddar scone (more like a biscuit), which contains visible kernels of corn, and green chile for a mild kick. On the sugary end of the spectrum, Dulce‘s brownie, studded with chocolate chunks and walnut pieces, is as big as the palm of your hand.
Hint: Coffee aficionados should pick up the blueberry scone – the perfect complement to a cup of joe.
401 S. Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe
Switzerland is a multilingual country, so it comes as no surprise that several influences vie for dominance in this bakery. Representing Germany is the apple strudel. Chunks of fresh apple and plump raisins are wrapped inside iced pastry. France’s contender – a mini lemon tart, brimming with lemon curd – is more delicate but no less delectable. For sheer charm, you can’t beat the cream puffs, which are shaped like swans.
535 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe
This bakery is best known for supplying area restaurants with unbeatable bread, but its baking ability extends beyond dough. Don’t attempt to split Sage Bakehouse’s apple tart (it’s really more of an apple flavored cloud) with a loved one, unless you relish a wrestling match. Or divorce. The chocolate hazelnut torte manages to recreate a Ferrero Rocher chocolate as a dessert that truly does melt in the mouth.
1291 San Felipe Avenue, Santa Fe
Gluten-free devotees flock here, but there are plenty of reasons for the wheat-tolerant to stop by as well. For one, the turkey, provolone, and pesto sandwich on brioche. The brioche lends a hint of sweetness to the fresh, rich pesto. Somehow this sandwich manages to be simultaneously airy and filling. Follow it up with one of Revolution Bakery’s fruit bars – think apple crumble in bar format.
229A Johnson Street, Santa Fe
This new kid on the block was still identified by a paper sign when I visited, but if cupcake quality is a barometer of success, then Sweet Lily Bakery is here to stay. The chocolate cupcake was forty percent smooth frosting and sixty percent moist cake. The experience is akin to diving into a chocolate fountain! The bakery’s peanut butter cookies are a textural triumph: crunchy on the outside and chewy in the center. Don’t leave without buying the cheese and herb brioche, which answers the question: what happens if you combine a croissant with cinnamon roll dough?