At the quirkily named Bubble π bakery and café, the glass display case is filled with large, eye-catching pastries. But owner Ivy Lin steers you away from the giant puffy buttercreams, and toward inexpensive, deceptively simple items: cookies.
"They are unique," says Lin of her specialty. "Some of them are my own recipe."
There's the Earl Grey cookie, a round, shortbread-like cookie with tea leaves baked into the dough, and brown rice cookies, crescents with the earthy taste and crunchy texture of the toasted grains. There's also the crumbly, bready double-chocolate cookie, with large chunks of the good stuff mixed in.
Alongside the more Asian-derived treats are European flavors as well -- French pastries like the "financier," a chewy, almond-rich cake. Overall, Lin has more than 40 different varieties to choose from.
"I'm sort of combining Eastern and Western styles of baking," she says. Many of the recipes and ideas she picked up while traveling extensively. When you ask how long she's been baking this wide selection, she laughs: "All my life!"
Bubble π has been on Murray Avenue for two years now; before that, Lin operated Asia Tea House, in Schenley Plaza. "I was selling my bubble tea. That was my specialty at the time," she says. Though the tea sold briskly in the warm months, "when it cooled down, nobody bought it. Now I'm more focused on my pastries and designed cakes."
Open seven days a week, Bubble π also offers its namesake beverage -- the fruit- or tea-based drink with tapioca pearls -- as well as coffees, shaved ice and a few simple lunch items.
You may have sampled some of Lin's wares at La Prima a few years back ... or at a Carnegie Mellon event, such as a department party or Ph.D. defense. Her largest order, she says, was 275 pastries ordered for a CMU Chinese-American group's banquet last New Year's.
Now, though, Lin's treats aren't found much outside Bubble π -- all the more reason to stop in yourself. And though the looming holidays may make us instinctively look for fanciness and flash, don't overlook Lin's specialty: the deceptively simple, satisfying cookie.
2218 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill