Proof Bakery's Na Young Ma - Best Pastry Chefs 2013

Behind the scenes at Na Young Ma's beloved Atwater bakery

At Atwater Village's Proof Bakery, run by our Los Angeles choice for Best Pastry Chefs 2013, Na Young Ma, the baking starts early–4 a.m. to be exact.

Parceling out flour, folding dough, sliding pastries in and out of the gargantuan double-door antique oven: There's no shortage of effort or attention to detail.

By 8 a.m., Proof's doors have opened. By 8:15 a.m., a sizable line has formed. By noon, the shop's morning goods, including gooey canelés, blueberry-kumquat tarts, and candied orange and black-sesame financiers, will be all but sold out.

Ma isn't working the opening shift anymore, but her day is filled with baking nonetheless: For our Best Pastry Chefs feature, Ma was tasked with reinventing a classic dessert. The inspired result: a tender, airy replica of Entenmann's famous crumb cake (see the recipe).

As for selling out almost daily at Proof, Ma admits that her kitchen's limited production capacity is something of a blessing in disguise, especially when it comes to the bakery's revelatory croissants. "Ideally we should be eating croissants before they're eight hours old. It's one of those of-the-moment things."

We couldn't agree more. And like those croissants, Ma's moment is now.

Make sure to read the rest of our profiles and recipes from seven pastry chefs around the country, as part of Tasting Table's Best Pastry Chefs 2013.