The flagel at Bagel Boss. [Photographs: Andrew Coe, unless otherwise noted]

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.

Flagel at Bagel Boss

The flagel, or flattened bagel, is the newest of my favorite flatbreads. It was probably invented in Brooklyn two or three decades ago. The trademark on the name is owned by Adam T. Rosner, owner of Bagel Boss out on Long Island. My preferred Flagel ($1.75) comes from Bagel Boss on Manhattan's First Avenue, which appears to have different management. This is a dense and flattened torus heavily covered with seeds. It's the bread I turn to when I want something for my teeth to grip into and chew. Smeared with cream cheese and jam, it makes a ruminative breakfast.

Onion Board at Chiffon Kosher Cake Center


Eastern European Jews have long understood the value of foods that you can chew and savor and chew some more. At the city's best kosher bakery, Brooklyn's Chiffon Kosher Cake Center, the most chewable flatbread is its Onion Board ($3.50), aka "pletsl." This is an 11-by-14 inch rectangle of thin dough liberally coated with finely chopped fried onions. Tear off chunks and enjoy the sweet onion flavor as you chew.

M'smen at Hot Bread Kitchen


strong>Hot Bread Kitchen offers breads from all around the world—wherever their bakers come from. My favorite flatbread from its ovens is its Moroccan M'smen ($2.50), made from organic wheat flour, semolina, and butter shaped into a paper-thin sheet of dough that's folded over on itself and griddled. Lightly warmed, it's a soft and gooey treat, perfect for either drizzling with honey or wrapping around a hot merguez sausage.

Lavash at Brooklyn Bread House


Another of my preferred wrapping breads is Brooklyn Bread House's Lavash ($1.50), which is flat enough to give your tongue a paper cut. Made from just flour, salt, and water, then barely cooked, it has a delicate floury flavor. You can use it for wrapping, say, spinach with melted Armenian cheese, or for dipping and crumbling into soup when it dries.

Nan-e Qandi at Hot Bread Kitchen


Other flatbreads are made for dipping, such Hot Bread Kitchen's Nan-e Qandi ($3). Made from unbleached wheat flour, milk, butter, honey, baking powder, and yeast, this disc is topped with sesame seeds. A favorite of Persian children, it's usually eaten for breakfast or tea, perfect for dipping into yoghurt, honey, or jam.

Pide at Taskin Bakery


[Photograph: Rabi Abonour]

For a more rustic dipping and swabbing bread, I recommend the Pide from Taskin Bakery in Paterson, NJ, and available at some markets in New York. From Newark west, a broad swath of Northern New Jersey is dotted with Turkish and Middle Eastern bakeries. What makes Taskin's product stand out is that its bakers don't use preservatives with their pide; it's made from just flour, water, yeast, and salt. The result is a soft and fluffy hole-filled disc that's perfect for tearing apart and using to dip into oil, baba ghanoush, yogurt, and so on.

About the author: Andrew Coe is the only reporter covering the city's bread beat.

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