The South's Best Bakeries: Cookies
One pleasure of adulthood is reaching into the cookie jar again and again without anyone smacking your hand. Sure, cookies are some of the easiest desserts to whip up at home, but a top-notch bakery thrills with its sheer number of choices: chunky, nutty, fudgy, spicy—and hopefully warm from the oven!
Fluff Bake Bar
Paris-trained Rebecca Masson, who recently competed on Bravo's Top Chef Just Desserts, is the queen of the sugar fix. Find her creations at Revival Market, or order online.
Why we're sweet on it: Rebecca updates retro desserts for modern palates.
Order this: Fluffernutters and Concord grape macarons—together, they're the ultimate PB&J combo. Mail order available; fluffbakebar.com, revivalmarket.com
The quaintness of this wood-beamed bakery, housed in a 1901 building, epitomizes Franklin, a town that prizes its history. Original owner Merridee McCray's recipes still circulate among the panoply of cookies and pies.
Why we're sweet on it: The cookies, in flavors like chocolate chip and molasses, honor old-timey goodness without descending into hokum.
Order this: Tea cakes, an old-fashioned variation on a sugar cookie. Hold with two hands, childlike, and nibble slowly. merridees.com
Muddy's Bake Shop
Bright colors, mismatched plates, and funky furniture lend a kitschy, carefree vibe to Muddy's, an attitude amplified by the good-humored staff.
Why we're sweet on it: Kat Gordon has a playful knack for making childhood favorites into sophisticated seductions.
Order this: Double chocolate-sea salt cookies. muddysbakeshop.com
Doron Petersan amazed viewers when she won the Food Network's Cupcake Wars last year with vegan dazzlers containing no dairy or eggs.
Why we're sweet on it: Doron's vegan approach doesn't sacrifice richness.
Order this: The Cowvin, two oatmeal cookies sandwiching a creamy vanilla filling. Mail order available; stickyfingersbakery.com
Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop
This darling of Baltimore's Little Italy has satisfied the city's dessert cravings since 1956.
Why we're sweet on it: Traditional Italian-American bakeries are an endangered species. Attention to authenticity keeps lines out the door.
Order this: Amaretti with pine nuts or almonds. Mail order available; vaccarospastry.com