Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven. And somehow, it’s even more delicious when someone else does the baking. Here are some of our favorite places for a beautiful loaf of bread or crazy good cookie:
Wild Flour Bread, Freestone
We might start simply with how to find this bakery. Follow Hwy. 12 about five miles past Sebastopol toward Bodega Bay, then journey up a steep hill after which you will descend into a beautiful valley. Turn right on Bohemian Highway and follow your nose to the wood fired brick oven where bread master Jed Wallach churns out a dozen different kinds of organic, sourdough-based breads daily along with whipping crème scones, sticky buns, cheese fougasse, goat cheese flat bread, the Bohemian loaf (apricot, orange and pecan), the Egyptian loaf (pear, fig and candied ginger) and biscotti. Relax and munch awhile in the lovely organic garden next to the open fields and barns, sipping a delicious coffee drink. Then, when something smells wonderful (it will), simply venture back into the bakery, to work your way through free samples and decide which delight you’ll buy next.
140 Bohemian Hwy., Freestone, 707-874-2938, wildflourbread.com.
Raymond’s Bakery, Cazadero
This little hideaway amid the majestic old growth redwoods on the Russian River is one of West County’s best-kept secrets. It’s an Inn, but also an enclave of great baking, turning out a jaw-dropping, mouthwatering array of fresh-baked-daily breads like rustic baguettes, traditional French, Pugliese, seeded sourdough and French sourdough. Depending on the whims of the baker-owners Mark and Elizabeth Weiss, there may be garlic-rosemary and kalamata olive-rosemary loaves, Parmesan focaccia, New York deli rye, 9–grain whole wheat, Italian ciabatta, onion rolls, or breads like buttermilk potato, semolina raisin, pumpernickel rye and cinnamon-raisin swirl. Then, there are lavish temptations of muffins, cinnamon rolls, buttermilk blueberry scones, croissants, lemon bars, apple coffeecake, cookies, fruit tarts, turnovers, fougasse, double chocolate brownies, biscotti, palmiers, Danish and so much more that your belly is guaranteed to rumble just thinking about it.
5400 Cazadero Hwy., Cazadero, 707-632-5335, raymonds-bakery.com.
Mixteca Bakery, Sonoma
You know you need a towering, multi-tiered cake in shocking hues of lime green frosting, perhaps decorated with Day of the Dead characters. Or maybe a gold leaf wedding cake, or a cake shaped like a hot rod sports car and finished in cherry red ganache. Fortunately for you, bakery owner and cake god Javier Lopez can deliver. His shop specializes in Mexican-inspired fantasies, not just whimsical-to-ravishing cakes, but also breads, pastries, cookies and more, waiting to be plucked up from the display case with tongs and taken home to be cherished with coffee or chocolate caliente (hot chocolate).
18981 Sonoma Hwy., Sonoma, 707-996-8600, Facebook.
Basque Boulangerie Café, Sonoma
The recipes here have been family treasures since 1956, and have survived in their delicious glory even as the café has changed hands over the years. What keeps everyone coming back for more are the original sourdough and sweet French breads, the decadent pastries, and signatures like nearly two dozen flavors of croissants. Moon pie Danish is magical, as are cranberry scones, apple strudel and apricot buttercream coffee cake. Linger over all-day breakfast like crepes, lunch like croquet monsieur, and be sure to order a treat for your pup on the dog-friendly patio.
460 1st St. E., Sonoma, 707-935-7687, basqueboulangerie.com.
Tip: How about this for a real holiday gift? Play Santa and deliver fresh-baked pastries and breads to everyone who’s “been nice” on your list. Make it a festive day, by reserving your private Pure Luxury limo and sipping some sparkling wine as you go from home to home.