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[photograph courtesy of Brian Mercury]

Free time is a precious commodity for most pastry chefs. Add a new baby to the mix, and things get really hectic, as Brian Mercury, Executive Pastry Chef at Harvest, (and nominee for Food & Wine's 2013 "The People's Best New Pastry Chef" award), can attest to. When he has a moment to unwind, Brian says he likes to relax in local coffee shops and cafés, where he can think about new desserts with an energizing beverage and something sweet. Check out all his top picks in Cambridge and Somerville, below.


View Brian Mercury's Favorite Café Sweets in a larger map

Cambridge

Pistachio Cream Cookie Sandwich from Area Four: Pizza is the main attraction at this open, modern restaurant with a café section, but the pistachio cream cookie sandwich is my choice with a cup of tea. It consists of two sugar cookies sandwiched with a cross between buttercream and pistachio paste. It really hits the mark for my love of pistachio. And don't forget about the breakfast sandwiches on homemade English muffins.

Lemon Macaroons from Darwins Ltd.: There's a laid-back, homey feel, comfy chairs, a great selection of local MEM Teas, and many types of cookies here. I'm a fan of the lemon macaroons: sweet and citrusy cake-style almond macaroons, topped with icing and glazed in white chocolate, a perfect little treat!

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Pecan sticky bun [Photograph: Flour Bakery and Café]

Pecan Sticky Bun from Flour Bakery and Café: This bakery offers some of the city's best-baked goods, and is located close to M.I.T. Joanne Chang makes an incredible product and is a leader in the city for pastry chefs. The pecan sticky buns are the best in the city, a must if you stop in. Rich buttery buns coated in caramel glaze and pecan...how could you go wrong?!

Brioche from Hi-Rise Bread Company: Read a book and unwind. I love the iced tea and apricot brioche. I get a mix of berry and black tea, and love eating the buttery rich brioche filled with apricot jam, almost like a little surprise. The Concord location is set in a beautiful neighborhood of Cambridge, or try the convenient location between Porter Square and Harvard, which is my typical haunt.

Cannelles from Crema Cafe: This busy shop has a great vibe, perfect outside seating in summer months, and it is right in the middle of Harvard Square. Classic pastries are their specialty, and caneles are a must-have. They're beautifully caramelized on the outside and nice and custardy inside! They're so perfect I'm jealous; one day I'll master them as they have!

Somerville

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An assortment of doughnuts [Photograph: Union Square Donuts on Twitter]

Brown Butter Hazelnut Doughnut from Union Square Donuts:
The best doughnuts in the city bar none! Open Thursday through Sunday, get them while they last. It's like my second home on Sunday mornings. It's hard to pick a favorite when they are all so good, but if I'm forced to it's the brown butter hazelnut. Not only is it huge, it's sweet, salty, and covered in hazelnuts. No matter how full I am there is always room for that in my day!

Whole Wheat Cherry Ginger Scone from The Biscuit: This busy breakfast spot lies near the border of Cambridge and Somerville. They always have a nice variety of great scones, but the best, in my opinion, is the whole wheat cherry ginger. Studded with crystalized ginger and cherries, it's got a great balance of sweet and spicy that I love! The dense and hearty scone really gets you through the morning and goes great with a cup of tea or coffee.

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Apple Cider Donut Muffin [Photograph: 3 Little Figs]

Apple Cider Donut Muffin from 3 Little Figs: This small neighborhood shop off the beaten path in Somerville serves the neighborhood amazing baked goods, and is a great place for an early morning or afternoon treat. If you buy one thing, get the apple cider donut muffin! There are so many great things in the name how could it be bad. Covered in sugar and beautifully spiced, even though they're big I can easily eat two!

About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax

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