I'm charmed by the many ways that bakers signal what's inside their wares. You can't, however, always judge a nut by its shell. The oreshki of Lithuania, Russia, and neighboring countries, for example, take the form of walnuts but are filled with cooked, sweetened condensed milk called sguschonka. (Many writers of Eastern European descent frequently and not unfairly refer to this filling as dulce de leche.)
Similarly shaped hodokwaja, or walnut pastries, are a popular snack on the streets of Korea. (You may also see the spelling hodugwaja, and I suspect that "Cocohodo" is a nonstandard, brandable transliteration of "cake walnut.") Though you might track down plastic-wrapped trays of locally made hodokwaja in Korean markets, they can't compare to little cakes that are still piping hot — like this free sample — especially when there's a chill in the air. Inside the baked-dough "shell" you'll find red bean paste and, yes, a chunk of roasted walnut, too. It's a nice combination.
Cocohodo 158-07 Northern Blvd. (158th-159th Sts.), Murray Hill, Queens (The first New York location of a California-based chain) 917-808-5306 www.CocohodoUSA.com
The golden countenance of the pastel de choclo ($13.50) is a pillow of pureed corn seasoned with basil, baked atop a beef-and-onion filling that also sports black olives, raisins, and generous chunks of chicken breast. Literally it's a "corn pie," but menu captures its spirit in fine telegraphic fashion: This is "the Chilean version of a shepherd's pie," both savory and sweet.
Previously: A housemade bun frames this rendition of the iconic Chilean hot dog, the completo ($3.50). Smothering the thin beef frank are chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut, pureed avocado, and squiggles of mayonnaise. The avocado, unlike guacamole, has only the barest of seasoning; a few spoonfuls of pebre, a salsalike condiment provided at every table, adds just the right jolt. On another occasion, a baked seafood empanada (not shown, $4 at the time, and probably a special), featured clams, shrimp, and, in typical Chilean style, lots of onion.
San Antonio Bakery 36-20 Astoria Blvd. (at 37th St.), Astoria, Queens 718-777-8733 Also at 174 Rockaway Ave., Valley Stream, New York 516-568-0075 www.Facebook.com/SanAntonioBakery
As my dining buddies headed down one short aisle of this halal market, I made my usual beeline for the point-of-purchase display. Among the locally made baked goods were these three pastries (about $5 per container), whose labels wore an Algerian name. "Blossom water," probably orange blossom water, was common to crunchy, sticky griwash; coconut-covered, cakelike richbonds (the "bond," a thin seam of apricot jam); and weighty, grainy, date-paste-filled semolina makroot. The third of these was the consensus favorite of our small scouting party.
Regarding a pair of hanging lanternlike objects inside the market, clearly handmade of paper and hand-lettered in Arabic, a fellow customer observed that they were gifts of children from a nearby school. Community connections such as this speak well of any shop.
Al Sahaba 1955 Bath Ave. (Bay 23rd St.-20th Ave.), Bath Beach, Brooklyn 347-492-5680
Warmer weather is on its way, and Daylight Saving Time is upon us. My wish for the snow on our streets and sidewalks is modeled after my interlude with this cream-filled pastry cone ($1.50): Very soon, all gone.
Rokhat Kosher Bakery 65-43 Austin St. (65th Rd.-66th Ave.), Rego Park, Queens 718-897-4493 Closed Saturday
In Turkey, the classic simit resembles a heavily encrusted sesame bagel, with proportions that suggest a game of ring toss. Though a simit loaf loses traditional appeal, it gains in versatility: It more easily accepts fillings like olive ($4.25), and, when need be, more securely holds a sandwich.
Simit Sarayi 435 Fifth Ave. (38th-39th Sts.), Manhattan 646-922-7876 (First U.S. location of this Turkey-based worldwide chain) www.SimitSarayi.com/en_US
This no-frills bakery makes my current favorite mochi, filled with a mix of ground peanuts, sesame seeds, and granulated sugar and rolled in shredded coconut. A second style, filled with red bean paste, is distinguished by a red dot. They're not much bigger than a golf ball, and they begin to lose their shape even as you peel back the paper wrap. That's good: It's evidence of the extremely supple glutinous rice dough. (Compare the firm appearance of the mochi at Mango Mango.) And there's no beating the price: three for $1.25.
A tip of the hat to LauHound, who seems to have scoped out Chiu Hong's entire stock in trade, and who pointed me this way.
Chiu Hong 161 Mott St. (Broome-Grand Sts.), Manhattan 212-966-7664
While many items in the display case compete for your attention, the cinnamon bun (about $2.50), more than most, invites you to tease it apart with your fingers. Previously: an omelette lightly folded over sauteed crawfish, andouille sausage, red onions, and roasted tomatoes (special, $10.50 a number of years ago).
New Orleans Cake Cafe & Bakery 2440 Chartre St. (at Spain St.), New Orleans 504-943-0010 www.NOLAcakes.com Breakfast and lunch only; closed Tuesday