After suffering extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy, Almondine is back open in Dumbo. Once again we can enjoy Almondine's excellent patisserie and, more importantly, some of the best baguettes in New York.
'breads' on Serious Eats
Pain d'Avignon is the great New York City bakery hiding in plain sight. It doesn't advertise or otherwise toot its horn. Yet its delicate, crispy rolls fill the breadbaskets at many of the city's top hotels and white tablecloth restaurants. Not bad for three guys from Belgrade who arrived here a little over 20 years ago with only a few dollars in their pockets.
I met with some food writers, chefs, and the patriarch of an appetizing store clan to taste some corn rye, a classic New York Jewish loaf that risks extinction in modern bakeries.
This city's great bakers don't stand still. Here's a round-up of some of my favorite new breads—ample evidence that the quality of baking in New York City has never been higher.
Latvians love their dense, dark rye bread. Latvian-Americans love it so much that they have it shipped over from the old country in loaves weighing over 17 pounds. It goes fast, because it's their staff of life, a necessary accompaniment to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A number of mail order businesses have sprung up to cater to this community. Last year, Baltic Shop teamed up with the famous Laci bakery in Riga to sell their top quality breads in the United States under the Storye ("stor-eye") brand name. They're so good they might even wean Manhattanites from their baguettes.
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.
It's worth going to the chain's Bleecker Street branch, where they've installed a glassed-in bakery right inside the entrance. Here bread is front and center, and behind the counter are stacks of some of the most interesting loaves in the city.
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.
In July, he opened his bakery, La Boulangerie, in Forest Hills. It's evidently a good-bread-deprived neighborhood, because on weekends the line is out the door.
At Bien Cuit, his new Smith Street bakery, Zachary Golper is assembling a team of top-notch "bread hands." By that, he means workers with hands that are "delicate but strong and dexterous" and with an instinct for shaping dough. Serious Eats has already documented his lovely tarts, croissants, and sandwiches. Here we're going to celebrate Bien Cuit's breads.
Walking into Bien Cuit Bakery, which just opened a couple weeks ago on Smith Street in Boerum Hill, you get that overstimulated-in-a-bakery feeling. Rustic bread loaves the size of Jeep tires in baskets next to long baguettes. Dainty tarts piled with plump cherries and wet, juicy peaches behind the glass case. You're also a little intoxicated by the warm, yeasty baking aroma from the ovens (and want to bottle it up for later).
Today, John Melngailis is a partner in Black Rooster Food, which makes and sells unapologetic Latvian rye just like his mother's. The first thing you notice about his Baltic Rye is that it's heavy and dense. A whole loaf weighs five pounds and is enough to feed a party of 50. Luckily, it's sold in 17-ounce sections that can keep a family in canapés for at least a week. The Baltic Rye's crust is as black as coal but surprisingly not bitter, while the crumb is tightly packed and a bit moist. It's made from 100 percent rye flour, sourdough leavening, rye malt, sugar, salt, and caraway seeds.
The goods that come out of the Scratch Bread ovens are the baked equivalent of one of those Robert Rauschenberg paintings that combines found objects with carefully haphazard splashes of color. Bite into one of their sweet and greasy plantain bread cakes, and you could discover surprises like a whole dried chili pepper or a coffee bean.
A bakery grows in a shipping container in a Brooklyn yard. That yard is part of the Bushwick compound of Roberta's Pizza, whose business seems to grow and morph every day. At first, the bakery used the pizza oven during the few, early morning hours it wasn't churning out pies. Last year, the restaurant hired master oven artisan Dick Bessey to build a big wood-fired oven in one of the many shipping containers that clutter its yard. In November, the restaurant brought in Melissa Weller, who has a resume that includes stints as head baker at Per Se and Bouchon as well as work at Sullivan Street and Babbo. The loaves that she pulls out of the oven every morning rival any in the city.
About two years ago a young Israeli named Ronnie Savion bought the store, renaming it the Kingsway Bakery. Radically, he changed the pita recipe, determined to make it the best pita bread in New York City.
I can't get through the day unless I have a couple of slabs of good bread, toasted and smeared with cream cheese and jam, along with my morning coffee. For me, "good bread" has to be fresh, with a great aroma; I have a great appreciation of all the dense breads out there.
One of the Silver Bell Bakery's customers is so addicted that every week he drives 10 hours round-trip from Saratoga Springs just to get his bread. By the end of the summer, Silver Bell is going to move out to the suburbs, following its customer base. So get it while you can.
[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.
In 2007, the family sold to Keith Cohen, a baker who started his career at Tribeca Oven. Keith kept the old ryes and pumpernickels and developed his own line of delicious artisan breads.