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 only exception is the whole-wheat baguette: Why trade off the perfect balance of taste and texture found in a classic baguette for what must be a miniscule health gain?
Runner & Stone's Peter Endriss can always be counted on to produce delicious and inventive loaves that still fall within the great European bread traditions. His new Rye Ciabatta ($5) is another breakthrough. It has the shape and hole structure of a classic ciabatta, yet it's as brown as dark chocolate. It's made from organic white flour, 30% rye sour made from Farmer Ground rye flour, salt, yeast, and barley malt powder from which it gets its rich brown color. It comes out of the oven with a nice crunch to the crust and a crumb that's slightly denser than a classic ciabatta but still on the fluffy side. A slice has very slight sweetness combined with an earthy rye flavor that's exceptional in a loaf so light.
Almost three years ago, Nordic Breads was the first bakery covered by this column. From the start, its has concentrated on just one loaf, the whole grain Finnish Ruis, made from 100 percent rye flour, sourdough starter, salt, and water. Nordic Breads has expanded, modestly, yet their loaf has remained remarkably consistent, with a rich rye flavor and a lovely moist and chewy texture.
There's no darker loaf anywhere than Black Rooster's Baltic Rye, made by the excellent New York Bread in Coney Island. It gets its deep color from rye malt, which is mixed with rye flour, sourdough starter, sugar, salt, and caraway seeds. Sliced paper thin, it makes a perfect base for smoked fish, cured meat, or pork fat. It's also a perfect addition to your survival pack, because a loaf will last for weeks.
Under owner Keith Cohen, Orwasher's Bakery has developed a fascinating mix of New Wave and Old School New York loaves. On the Old School side, I've always been partial to the raisin-walnut pumpernickel. This is a traditional New York dark pumpernickel—dark and soft. The addition of raisins and chopped walnuts gives it a classic Yorkville flavor. Spread it with cream cheese and blackberry jam.
Silver Bell Bakery, now in Middle Village, Queens, is the Old School New York bakery hiding in plain sight: Its loaves are available in supermarkets throughout the boroughs. Like bakeries in Germany, they bake paper tags onto their "Old World" line of breads, which are mostly ryes and pumpernickels. I'm partial to their dark rye, which is sold in loaves ranging from one pound ($3.25) to 12 pound ($39) monsters.
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About the author: Andrew Coe is the only reporter covering the city's bread beat.