Chris Preovolos/The Advocate
Above: A pair of alfajores from Matthews’ Bakery. Below: Beef empanadas.
MATTHEW’S BAKERY: 71 WEST BROAD ST., STAMFORD
Pepe Huyhua, the owner of Matthew’s Bakery in Stamford, is quick to let you know he offers a dazzling variety of pastries for such a small bakery; French, Italian, German, Jewish, you name it.
Huyhua, a native of Peru, was trained as a baker in Lima where he baked almost exclusively Peruvian pastries and breads. However, in 25-years of work in other people’s bakeries in the United States, he picked up a lot of experience baking a wide array of European and American confections. Naturally, when he went into business for himself nearly two years ago, Huyhua drew on all of this to offer a truly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic menu.
It is evident he doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a Latino or Peruvian baker, but just ask him about his Peruvian offerings and he will proudly tell you about the empanadas, alfajores, and the chicha morada-inspired dessert (the latter made only on weekends).
My brother-in-law, Luis, a native of Lima, has been teaching me a little about Peruvian cuisine. Unfortunately he and my sister live in Washington, D.C. and I’m only able to sample his cooking (particularly the papa a la huancaina) once or twice a year, so I had no idea what alfajores were. When I found out Pepe was talking about butter cookies filled with dulce de leche and covered in powdered sugar, I couldn’t wait to try one. The cookies are rich – I could only eat one, which is really saying something coming from me – but at the same time light, not-too-sweet and generally really, really good.
I usually go for the empanadas; they are Peruvian-style and always hit the spot. The beef empanada is baked and filled with ground beef, onion, hard-boiled egg and an olive. Matthew’s also offers a chicken version, though I prefer the former (doused liberally with La Victoria’s Orange Sauce).
I’ve also had the brioche, croissants, egg-and-spinach croissants, cheese Danish, scones, etc. and they are all worth a try. You can’t really go wrong.
Just about the only thing I don’t much care for are the tamales and even then, not because there are bad, but because they are plain corn tamales and I can’t bite into one without wishing it was stuffed with pork. But I’m just quibbling here, I’m not sure I could ask for more, all within a 15-second walk from my front door.
And all the rest: