Bakeries are popping up all over Los Angeles and have taken desserts to a new level. Gone are the days of terrible store-bought baked goods with sugary cakes smothered in pastel-colored icing. I seem to find a new bakery every week these days and thought I would check out a few local spots that offer wonderful tasty treats.

There are bakeries and then there are fine bakeries. I will start with the former, Angel Maid Bakery on Centinela Avenue right past Washington Boulevard. It is a Japanese bakery so the goods are not too sweet, which, from reading all the reviews on Yelp about them, is their claim to fame, so to speak. The place is a no frills working bakery with nothing fancy about it, but they crank out some very nice items. I went in there about a month ago to buy a few dozen cookies for a meeting I was going to and they were very yummy; chocolate chip, peanut butter chip and one that was half chocolate and half vanilla in a swirl type of pattern. All of the cookies were delicious and tasted homemade and buttery. I hear their chocolate mousse cake is the real deal but didn’t try it yet, as I said I don’t want to get into this research too deeply.

Then I went to Schmerty’s Cookies on Ocean Park Boulevard near 28th Street in Sunset Park. I have walked by there a million times and resisted the temptation and aroma to go in, but finally, in honor of this piece, I broke down.

It is a family-run business that has been around since 2001 and specializes in very delicious cookies. I know the owner as we both go to the same pilates class so she hooked me up! I was treated to a large box of every cookie they make plus a brownie, lemon bar and their latest flavor, cranberry.

First of all, the place is so sweet and appealing that you want to sit there all day eating cookies and milk. It is a small space with a few tables and is clean enough to eat off the floor. They do have the ability to serve coffee and sell small bottles of milk for the true cookie lover. I really loved the soft, chewy texture of all the cookies and my favorite was the chocolate, chocolate chip — what a surprise.

I also enjoyed the oatmeal and peanut chocolate chip. The only one that wasn’t my taste was the red velvet cookie; too buttery and there was no real taste to it and the heaviness made me not want to finish it. The cranberry bars were really good, surprisingly so, rich and dense. They do have the trendy cupcake featured with many flavors and icings and sell cookie dough to take home if you want to make your own cookies.

I was lucky enough to find a true gem on Washington Boulevard in Culver City named Platine. The retail store opened in 2009 (although the business has been around since 2002) with chef/owner Jamie Cantor at the helm. She has taken baked goods to a new level; elegant, refined and unique, this place was my favorite. It is a working kitchen which you see from behind the small display case, and delivers some of the finest cookies, pastries and tarts I have seen outside of Paris or New York. I had a sampling of their artisan cookies, fancy cookies and mini pastries, all done with subtle flavors and twists that made me want more. For example, there is a chocolate gingersnap that I loved. What a perfect combination of ginger, spices and chocolate. They have created a Ho-Ho (remember those?) in a mini “updated” version that was to die for. There is also a cheesecake cup that has seasonal flavors such as blood orange, pumpkin and fleur de sel. And they make a seriously addictive new twist on an Oreo with a soft dark chocolate cookie filled with thick vanilla bean frosting. This stuff was so much more refined than the previous two that it was like night and day. The cookies were delicious without being overly buttery or too sweet so you could taste the vanilla bean, chocolate chips, currants and nuts used. The bars, mini tarts and “fancy” cookies were just like you would find in a Parisian bakery.

Of course there are many more establishments worth visiting and endless goodies to taste all over the city such as; Thyme Café, the new Bite Bakery on Pico Boulevard and 32nd Street and Hotcakes, also on Centinela and Washington Boulevard. So venture out for your next sweet treat and enjoy!

Amanda Cushman is a culinary educator who has cooked professionally for 25 years. She teaches privately for groups of two to 20 students. She has developed hundreds of recipes for cookbooks as well as food magazines and Web sites. She can be reached

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