Business Review: Shilla Bakery -- Interesting Twists on the Classics
Don't let the size of this bakery fool you -- their pastries are worth coming back for.
The word Shilla was once associated with one of three great kingdoms in Korea that eventually became so powerful that it conquered surrounding areas to form a prosperous dynasty. You may be wondering how pastries relate to the kingdom of Shilla.
Once you taste these pastries, you'll get a sense of the greatness that is found in the art of Korean baking.
There are several Shilla Bakeries in the Tri-State area, all in Korean plazas or near Korean grocery stores. The Shilla in Ellicott City is in the Lotte Shopping Plaza. They have a small area in which they operate their separate business from with limited space, but often their selection can be quite good because the items are baked at larger centers off premise. The drawbacks are the fact that they will run out of the best stuff earlier in the evening without having the ability to replenish that same day.
I often come to Shilla Bakery, located in the plaza next to Lotte, when I need to take pastries or a roll cake to a dinner party. It is hard to put my finger on why I choose this bakery when I plan to share Korean delicacies, but I think it boils down to the intensity of flavors that I have found here. The individual pastries run from 95 cents to upward of $3 for the larger ones, but the custard filled breads are heavenly and the mocha creams are addictive.
Korean baking is often all about subtlety, but in this process, you can lose some of the flavor that needs to be present in a dessert. Shilla bakery is not afraid to broach more unique ingredients and combinations to make their pasties memorable.
That said, their Korean classics like the chestnut pastry or the white bean filled bread are not as fresh or tasty as their more Western influenced pastries and rolls. I would stray away from the red bean, white bean, and chestnut filled items.
Shilla also likes to put an occasional interesting twist on certain varieties. For example, they have a great variety of strawberry cream breads that are scrumptious and unique. They also tend to put creams in the pastries that are often made without it. Usually, the bongho bang that has this amazing bumpy top that is nutty and yummy is not made with cream, but their varieties have a light, sweet cream, which makes it even better.
I tend to purchase their bags of pastries that contain several of the same kind. You can save money and have pastries to last a few days. I highly recommend the almond crème pastries that come in a bag of about 6 pastries for around $4 or $5. These are one of the best in their selection. The almond crème is fluffy and flavorful within a sweet roll that is soft and fresh. You might have to stop yourself from eating the whole bag.
More so than coffee I think Korean pastries tend to taste better when you have dark black tea, Chinese variety like lychee or oolong or strong green tea. As the weather gets colder, this is a great breakfast as well as afternoon snack or to tea time.
Get your pastry to go and have it with a cup of steaming hot black tea at home.
8801 Baltimore Natl Pike # 6, Ellicott City