There are bakeries that emphasize crust, and there are bakeries that emphasize crumb. I'm a crumb man myself, so that's why I love Silver Moon Bakery. Not that its loaves don't have a nice crisp crust; they just aren't wrapped in those hardened carapaces that tear apart the insides of your mouth when you chew. And the Silver Moon crumbs: soft, dense, moist, with the warm aroma of real bread. In fact, the only drawback to the bakery is its proximity to Absolute Bagels, which leads to the conundrum, "How much bread can you eat?"
Silver Moon was opened by Judith Norrell, a trained musician who gave up the ephemeral world of music for the more substantial art of mixing, kneading, and baking loaves. She spent years as an enthusiastic home baker, studied at the French Culinary Institute, and worked at Amy's Bread and Le Pain Quotidien before opening Silver Moon in 2000. As owner and head baker, Judith can bake any bread she wants, and her culinary interests range widely. In fact, one of the glories of the bakery is the incredible variety of loaves for sale: with 21 baked daily, an additional 28 in the regular weekly rotation, and then many holiday specials. The best time to visit is on weekends, when the most loaves are for sale.
Judith is a huge fan of sourdough breads. I counted almost a dozen sourdough loaves on her menu, including an excellent sourdough baguette. The bakery's sourdough boule ($4.75) is a beautiful loaf marked with the floury imprint of the proofing basket. Inside, the moist crumb is a mixture of white and wholewheat flours, with a moderate sourdough bite—a great sandwich or grilled cheese bread.
For a more inventive version of this loaf, head straight for the Ethiopian sourdough ($4.50), inspired by a young Ethiopian woman who used to work at the bakery. The dough is mixed with nigella seeds (used in Ethiopian cuisine) which also coat the crust. They give the dough a lovely flowery perfume and a bit of a crunch. I'd serve it with a mild cheese like mozzarella to highlight the spice.
City bakeries are filled with seeded rye loaves. Almost all of them are too dry, with a harsh caraway bite. Made with rye flour and sourdough, the Silver Moon caraway rye ($4.75) puts them all to shame. It's dense and moist, with a full but not overpowering caraway flavor. You can eat it as easily spread with jam for breakfast or topped with pastrami at lunch.
Like Classic French chefs, bakers hate to see anything go to waste. There's a long but hush-hush tradition of bakers using bread and cake crumbs as ingredients. After reading about French bakers reusing old loaves, Judith was inspired to invent her 7 1/2% bread ($3.40). The dough is made from white flour mixed with 7 1/2% of crumbs from unsold baguettes. However, there's nothing stale about this loaf. It's dense and moist, with far better flavor than a regular white bread.
Like many crumb-centric bakers, Judith also has a strong affection for Central European baking traditions. Reminiscent of German vollkorn bread, the bakery's carrot walnut health bread ($8.00 for a large) comes flecked with orange carrot shreds and whole wheat berries. It's not quite as moist as the German health breads that come in little plastic packages, but it's tastier and it lasts for days thanks to the dough's moisture content and touch of oil.
Now's the season that New Yorkers' tastebuds turn to challah, and Silver Moon naturally has a full line of holiday challahs. But the loaf I'm looking forward to the most is Judith's take on a classic Bialystoker bialy, due to hit the shelves this week.