Brooklyn's SCRATCHbread isn't like any other bakery in the city. Time after time, its ovens have produced many of New York's most original loaves—breads with utterly original flavors layered with serious technique. Here's how they do it.
For the last four decades, the narrative of Jewish bakeries in America hasn't been a positive one. It consists mainly of bakers retiring, stores closing, and the link between Eastern Europe's great bread-baking traditions and us eroding by the day. But that's starting to change.
Good bread lies at the heart of New York City's culinary life. Sure, other cities also have their loaves (San Francisco sourdough and Dutch crunch, Boston and its brown bread) but New York's bread culture runs as deep and diverse as the history of our town.
Sometimes good bread happens in circuitous ways. Alexis Faraci has roots in the Bronx and Italy, not Germany, but she has built the city's best pretzel bakery. Here's how it happened.
A few years ago it would have unthinkable for a restaurant not to serve bread. Today the staff of life faces a number of threats, particularly due to perceived gluten threats and carb worries. Given this retreat, it's heartening when a highly regarded restaurant starts baking its own bread.
An empty oven is a baker's opportunity. Four years ago, the owners of Roman's in Fort Greene decided that they wanted to use their wood-fired oven to bake bread in the hours that it wasn't pushing out pizzas. Enter She Wolf.
Jewish corn rye bread is an endangered species, but two new-school New York bakeries are helping it make a comeback.
The loaf bread, great as it is, does not fit all purposes. Sometimes you want something custom-made for wrapping, dipping, or chewing. Flat breads are the answer, and not just pocket-filled pita. So here I present my favorite flat breads, many from the city's ethnic bakeries, whose whose customers understand the value and flavor of the 2-D loaf.
Empty kitchen space is the chef's bane. The owners of Ditmas Park's Farm on Adderley rented a space on nearby Church Avenue to use as commissary for their role as food purveyors for the Propect Park Celebrate Brooklyn! events. However, that only lasted three months of the year. What to do with the space for the other nine months? Open a bakery!
Whether you're making sandwiches or toast for pâté, sometimes only soft white breads will do. Here are the whitest breads I know.
Too few restaurants pay real attention to their bread baskets. For most chefs, it's enough to offer a few pro forma French rolls, grissini, and flatbreads. However, if they really want to integrate their bread baskets into their menus, they turn to bakeries like Bien Cuit to produce their own bespoke bread creations.
The Peasant Sourdough comes out the oven looking like some crusty rye loaf, but it's actually on the soft and thin-crusted side. As in many SCRATCH products, the bakers build the ingredients for this bread out of a small group of building blocks that are also used for other loaves. First comes the sourdough starter, made from oat mash, rice, and wheatberries. To this they add cane sugar, a bran mix of wheat bran, flax seed, and oats, and then a mixture of dark rye, whole wheat, regular wheat, and spelt flours.
If you're doing some last-minute holiday shopping today, stock up on sweet breads at Il Buco Alimentari.
The end of the year is a time of excess in the bread world. Bakers who spent 11 months tending their levains and sourcing locally-grown, organic rye flour suddenly pull out the white flour, sugar, booze, butter, and more sugar. But the city's bakers are an inventive bunch, so this year's crop of holiday breads offers incredible variety, both sweet and savory.
If you don't want to fight Brighton Beach parking, New York Bread off on Neptune Avenue (conveniently a few blocks from Totonno's is a perfect place to shop for Russian specialties like bread, smoked fish, pre-made salads, and plenty of kvass.
New York's bread world has gone through a seismic shift since our last baguette tasting in 2011. Which bakery is making the best loaf of French bread today? Take a look to find out.
In order to celebrate the season, SCRATCHbread, one of the city's most creative bakeries, has concocted a Mesquite Pork Sourdough with Maple loaf ($6.50) that captures its essence in bread form.
New York's baguette bakers like to play with their bread: Prosciutto, Parmesan and picholine baguettes! Kosher baguettes! Buckwheat baguettes! Big, soft, and crappy baguettes! So last summer, Keith Cohen of Orwasher's had a radical concept. What about making the best possible real French baguettes?
Bakers work notoriously long and irregular hours, with their days frequently beginning or ending in the wee hours of the morning. The question is, how to keep healthy? For Eric Kayser, globe-trotting founder of the Maison Kayser empire, and Yann Ledoux, overseer of his New York ovens, the answer is running.
Harvest time is a slippery slope leading directly to holiday feasting. In Central Europe, any fruit that isn't consumed fresh or canned is dried, to be turned into all kind of dishes that presage the holidays. In Switzerland and Southern Germany, dried pears are saved for Hutzelbrot—dried pear bread—which is now available at Runner & Stone.
My general bread-buying rule of thumb is the darker the better. Dark breads tend to have more flavor a more pleasing chew and a better nutritional profile. So here's a roundup of some of my favorite dark breads, both old and new.
The most famous Georgian bread in New York right now is khachapuri, a heavy, cheese-stuffed gut bomb that may send you in search of a nap. If you're looking for something lighter from one of Brooklyn's talented Georgian bakeries, seek out shoti, a lean bread that's something like the Georgian baguette, made in a much cooler oven.
One of the best places to see New York's bounty of dark, dense Russian breads is Brighton Bazaar, arguably the city's best Russian market. There you can buy aromatic, freshly-baked, glistening brown loaves coming straight from...Germany!?
SCRATCHbread is an "evolved fast food joint" according to Matt Tilden, guiding spirit of the Bed-Stuy bakery/restaurant. This week, the joint's menu evolved once again with the introduction of a new loaf and a takeout supper menu that's filled with typically SCRATCH, rich, multi-layered, and delicious options.
Wherever the Armenian diaspora travels, it brings its baking traditions, particularly the flatbread staple called lavash. You can get it at Brooklyn Bread House, the sole source for fresh, local Armenian bread in New York.
The Ironbound district of Newark is a pancake-flat trapezoid hemmed in between the city's downtown, the Passaic River, and the highway. For almost a century, it's been home to a thriving Portuguese community, rivaled in size only by Massachusetts communities like Fall River and New Bedford. The Ironbound's main drag, Ferry Street, is lined with Portuguese, Spanish, and Brazilian restaurants selling platters of paella, barbecue, and the like. If you want a bite of something just as Iberian but not so gut-busting, head to Teixeira's Bakery, with two stores in the Ironbound. The line to the counter is often forty deep, but it's worth the wait.
If you want to judge the state of bread in New York, a good place to start is the bread counter at Dean & DeLuca's main store at Broadway and Prince Street. Here you find a wide selection of great loaves both haute and earthy, from the latest Manhattan artisan sensation to old school breads from the farthest reaches of the outer boroughs.
Talk about crust. That's the first thing you notice about Sullivan Street Bakery's breads. Here's bakery founder and owner Jim Lahey: "The crust of bread has to do with how bread is cooked. The crust is something that forms during the cooling process. I like cooking things to their highest expression. I like the contrast of soft and crunchy. I like to taste the by-products of lacto-fermentation in dough. That's what gives a unique flavor to the crust."
The yeasty heart of the Daniel Boulud empire is hidden at the end of an East Village alley, through an unmarked door, and down a long, brightly-lit corridor. There, amid a phalanx of stainless steel ovens, mixers, and other machines, genial master baker Mark Fiorentino and his team of assistants turn out a dizzying array of breads for Boulud's half dozen restaurants.
There's a trio of cartoon skeletons dancing on the window of a bakery on Brooklyn's 4th Avenue. Just inside the door, you find an elaborate altar decorated with sugar skulls, comic skeleton figures, bottles of tequila, photographs of deceased relatives, candles, crosses, and round loaves of sweet bread decorated with bone designs. This is how the family that owns Don Paco Lopez, maybe the city's oldest and certainly its best known Mexican bakery, celebrates the lives of its ancestors.
[Photos: Andrew Coe} In the Guyanese bakeries of Brooklyn, every bread is linked with a specific food. At Tota's Bakery in Crown Heights, the platt or plait bread is a big, braided white loaf that looks like challah without...
The rest of the country knows Hoboken for the sculpted sheet cakes that come from its most famous bakery. They're swathed in sheets of Satin Ice brand fondant tinted a rainbow of hues not found in nature. Even on the coldest days, the line for Carlo's Bakery, of reality show fame, stretches for blocks down toward the train tracks. Hobokenites know their city for the good bread produced by the bakeries that aren't featured on TV.
The Japanese like their bread soft and fine-grained. This is partly due to the baleful influence of American culture, post-World War II, when the taste for Wonder-style white loaves spread with American food rations into Japanese society. Today, Japanese may eat more bread than rice, mainly as breakfast toast and quick-lunch sandwiches. Most of this is shokupan, a big, white Pullman loaf that's sold in crinkly cellophane bags. Like any bread, it can be ruined by adding preservatives and too many cheap ingredients. In New York, the place to buy your shokupan is Tribeca's Takahachi Bakery, where the cooks are committed to quality, freshness, and wacky invention.