Maple Bacon Biscuit at Huckleberry ($3.75)
Like SE national editor, Erin Zimmer, who tried this porky pastry during a recent visit to Los Angeles, I'm not one to go gaga for a sweet just because it's packed with a little bacon. But chef Zoe Nathan's maple bacon biscuit is defiantly delicious. Its tender but sturdy buttery layers put it somewhere between biscuit and scone in texture, and it similarly straddles the savory-sweet divide, with a sprinkling of sugar and salt atop the glistening, egg-washed exterior. Inside, the biscuit has hearty crackling bits of bacon present in each bite, acting as high notes of salty, fatty crunch to the constant, grounding baseline of rich, earthy maple flavor.
Almond Croissant at Amandine ($2.65)
So many almond croissants are cloying, brought down by the artificial flavor of too much almond extract and not enough nutty richness. But the filling inside Amandine's rendition is spot on, highlighting the almost fruity sweetness of almond's essence. And the vehicle for this lush, nutty spread? The tender, buttery layers of what is arguably L.A.'s best croissant, with a crisp, light exterior that splinters as you bite it.
Guava and Cheese Taco at La Monarca Bakery ($1.50)
This dainty confection, its feather-light crisp puff pastry shell freckled with crunchy crystallized sugar, and filled with moist, subtly sweet, creamy guava and cheese, is a two-bite wonder. And it is small enough that you've easily got room for another pan dulce or two from this trio (Santa Monica, East LA, and Huntington Park) of Mexican bakeries.
Blueberry Muffin at Atwater Crossing Wood Fire Kitchen ($2.00)
Though the muffins from this new hideaway cafe in Atwater Village are each packed with what seems like a pint of ripe, luscious blueberries, the baked goods are impossibly light, with none of the leaden, cakey density that has made the blueberry muffin a pedestrian throwaway. This version is airy and moist, with a crisp, nutty exterior. It's the kind of muffin that makes you lick the paper baking cup to get every last morsel.
Strawberry Bun at Donut Hut ($1.60)
Take four sticky-sweet mini fried doughnut style cinnamon buns, fill them with strawberry goo and stick them together, and this swirling, Princess Lea-like pastry is the result. Drenched in sugary glaze, it's in no way subtle or refined, but when eaten fresh, it achieves a plump pillowy-soft interior, with crunchy bits of frosting, to give the morning a super sweet start.
2025 West Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91506 (map); 818-840-8718
Sweet Focaccia at Deli at Little Dom's ($4.00)
The daily sweet focaccia offering at this deli off-shoot of the popular Los Feliz Italian rotates, so you don't know precisely what you'll get any given morning. But you can always bet on fresh fruit and a bright, sweet glaze, gently laid over beautiful disc of focaccia. Using the same dough as in the savory presentations, the bread is not too sweet, allowing the tart fruit to remain the dominant flavor. It has a great chew, particularly after a quick visit to the deli's panini press, which adds a hint of char to the bottom of the pastry.
Morning Bun at Proof Bakery ($3.50)
Proof's flashier pastries (like the proscuitto-stuffed croissant or the gingerbread pudding teacake) might overshadow the simplicity of this petite morning bun, but it would be shame not to include this beautiful swirl of a pastry in your a.m. rotation. There's a wallop of a crunch as you bite into golden brown crust dotted with crystallized sugar, but it quickly gives way to soft folds of buttery pastry. The texture here is extraordinary, but the flavor shines as well, lacking the overbearing sweetness of some morning buns, instead focusing on the aromatic blend of cinnamon and cardamom.
Pastries at Hygge Bakery ($2.25)
I'll admit to having a childhood loyalty to the classic Entenmann's Danish cheese twist loaf, but this authentic Danish bakery, near the Staples Center downtown, has entirely changed my outlook on that nation's famous pastries. The versions here are flaky and gossamer-thin on top, giving in to lightly chewy, moist interiors, circling sweet chunks of apple (top) or in the Spandauer (right), custard and marzipan with a sugar glaze. My favorite, however, is the kringle bar (left) perhaps because it's the most reminiscent of my Entenmann's guilty pleasure, but elevated, with textural complexity from the slightly crisp outer folds of pastry, which are freckled with crystallized sugar. Inside the marzipan and eggy custard come together in a delicately sweet, nutty medley.
Blueberry Scone at Bricks & Scones ($3.00)
This Larchmont coffee shops wins major points for free Wifi, lots of electric sockets, and a solid cup of coffee. But the eponymous scone is the perfect pick-me up when computer fatigue sets in. It's a no-fuss classic, slightly biscuity, not too sweet, with a velvety, but not overly dense crumb. They come in a range of flavors, but my favorite is the blueberry, packed with loads of succulent fruit. Ask for it heated up and the warm fruit burst as you eat them, making it absolutely unnecessary to add jam to this complete, satisfying pastry.
Pain au Chocolat at La Maison du Pain ($2.75)
This mid-city French bakery still feels like a hidden sleeper, despite receiving numerous accolades for its assorted pastries and breads that achieve that French je ne sais quoi. But there's nothing sleepy about the bakery's pain au chocolat, which jolts you out of AM zombiedom with a crackly exterior of light flaky crust and perfectly laminated tender folds inside. Then there's the chocolate, which comes in the form of tiny bitter-sweet morsels at the exterior, melting into a ganache-pudding extravaganza inside that satisfies your inner chocolate monster without taking away from the delicacy of the pastry.
Guava and Cheese Pie at Café Tropical ($2.75 slice)
Given that I live in anticipation of the day after Thanksgiving when I get to have pie for breakfast, as soon a I heard about this Silverlake stalwart coffee shop's guava and cheese pie, I knew I needed a slice (or two.) And the pie didn't disappoint. The slices are kept in a warmer, so the filling of sweet tangy guava and creamy cheese is always gooey and molten, oozing out as you bite into the layers of paper-thin, flaky pastry that form the outer crust.
2900 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026 (map); 323-661-8391
Cinnamon Roll from Jamaica's Cakes ($3.50)
It should come as no surprise that a bakery known for its cakes spreads its cinnamon rolls with generous strokes of luscious, finger-licking cream cheese frosting, the sort you'd consider eating on its own with a big glass of milk. What comes as a pleasant surprise, however, is that the cinnamon roll itself easily holds its own. The outer ring, which at first looks dry, actually serves as a fortress, holding in the folds of sweet, aromatic cinnamon dough—moist and chewy even without reheating.
Fonuts at Fonuts ($2.50-3.50)
Given that they're faux doughnutsl—baked, not fried, giving them an incredibly moist, but decidedly cake-like crumb, these hybrid breakfast treats deviate from the traditional doughnut enough to be included in this list. Waylynn Lucas, formerly the pastry chef at Jose Andres' Bazaar, and partner Nancy Truman have created a menu of "healthier" takes on classic fried dough, including vegan, gluten-free offerings, that range from the slightly savory (rosemary and olive oil) to the unabashedly gooey and sweet peanut butter and chocolate filled. My personal favorite is the lemon, which is like a velvety, zesty lemon cake presented in the round.