The frozen gold, a saffron snow cone with rice noodles and a sprinkle of gold is the perfect summer refresher. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

Lena Derisavifard’s fondest memories always revolved around baked goods. When it was time for a family to get together, she’d find her aunts, mother and grandmothers in the kitchen, baking. It was an activity that brought the family joy. When she’d come back from school, it made her happy to see both of her grandmothers making warm bread from scratch in the family’s garage — her grandfather had put an oven there. When she needed to bring desserts to school, she strayed from the typical cookies and cupcakes, and instead brought her mothers’s famous baklava.

Lena Derisavifard preparing baklava. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

The first thing Derisavifard baked on her own was a plum pie. In high school, she took cake decorating classes and was often given cookbooks, but she always attributes her baking skills to the women in her life. 

After attending college, Derisavifard built a career in finance and consulting, and baked for fun on the side; traditional American desserts like cakes for friends’ birthdays,but also classic Iranian desserts like her mother’s baklava for engagements and weddings. After around 10 years of baking on the side, in 2022 Derisavifard decided to make it her full-time job. She opened BiBi Bakery, inspired by the women in her life who taught her how to bake. 

“Bibi is what we call our great-grandmother. In Farsi, it is similar to a nickname one would have for their grandmother or the eldest women in the household. It was also used as a word of respect,” she says. “I learned how to bake and I learned about Iranian flavors through the women in my life. So when I decided to start my own business I wanted to make sure women were at the center of my brand.”

BiBi Bakery was also a way for Derisavifard to fuse the American culture she grew up with and the Iranian culture that surrounded her at home. 

“Growing up in Texas as an Iranian-American, I grew up around different kinds of desserts, the Iranian desserts my mom was making but also around cookies, cakes and ice cream that had more of an American style,” she says. “So part of my mission is to share Iranian culture and flavors, because we don’t have a lot of representation in the food industry.”

While some of her desserts may look traditionally American in appearance, she uses traditional Iranian flavors in them. For example, her barberry chocolate cookie. 

Derisavifard makes sure to highlight the women that taught her how to bake. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

“The barberry is similar to a sour cherry and is used in predominantly savory dishes in Iran but I put it into a chocolate cookie. It’s something you would never see in an Iranian dessert but the barberry is so undoubtedly Iranian,” she says. “I think it could help educate people on different flavors that are not necessarily found in American cuisine. I am trying to pave my own way in a section of dessert that is not traditional but it’s authentic to my experience as an Iranian American.”

Currently, BiBi Bakery’s most popular item is the baklava — a recipe passed down from Derisavifard’s mother. The spiced walnut baklava is the only “traditional” item on the menu. It’s made by layering thin sheets of phyllo dough with chopped nuts and spices, soaked in honey. For those looking for something a little less traditional, Derisavifard also sells baklava in flavors like hazelnut chocolate, vegan coconut almond and cardamom rose. For summery treats, there are saffron rose and baklava pistachio ice cream sandwiches and the frozen gold, a saffron snow cone with rice noodles and a sprinkle of gold dust.

But be sure to try BiBi Bakery’s tea cookies, inspired by the warm hospitality Derisavifard saw from her family growing up. 

“If you go to an Iranian’s house you’ll always be welcomed by some hot black tea and ajil, an Iranian nut mix, made up of almonds, pistachios and cashews,” she says. “So we made a tea cookie that rolls some of that hospitality into one cookie. The jeweled tea cookie has the dried nuts and the dried fruits and you can dip it into a cup of hot tea.”

BiBi Bakery’s popular desserts, the frozen gold, a saffron rose ice cream sandwich and its traditional baklava. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

Richard Cozone visited the BiBi’s location at Somorgasburg in Williamsburg and liked the baklava so much he made his way to the Prospect Park location.

“I tried the almond coconut and the hazelnut for the first time. It reminds me of a Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal,” he says. “I’ve never tried Iranian inspired desserts so today I had to come back and get some more.”

Derisavifard preparing baklava, from a recipe passed down by her mother. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

While BiBi Bakery is only a year old, it has grown quickly. It’s been at different holiday markets, summer markets like Smorgasburg and has a spot in a commercial kitchen. While Derisavifard still consults part-time, she sees her duties at BiBi Bakery growing, and hopes to have a brick-and-mortar location one day soon.

“It feels important to own a small business as a woman, as an Iranian woman. I feel like for a long time while I was growing up, I leaned away from my culture because it was very different, but as an adult, it’s something I am very proud of and want to make sure that Iran has that representation,” she says. “Our culture is so beautiful and I think we have such intense hospitality, that is why I feel so strongly about sharing my culture with everyone so that they can experience that hospitality.”

Business address: Smorgasburg Williamsburg on Saturdays & Smorgasburg Prospect Park on Sundays


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