When I was a teenager I dreamed of escaping my hometown and moving to the big city. That big city wasn't London though, it was NYC. I grew up on Friends and a whole host of other tv shows and films that made the big apple seem like the dream. It was decided, I would move to NYC to live my sophisticated life in the West Village, in a classic New York townhouse; think Carries apartment in Sex And The City, but the whole building, small dreams right?! Whilst I have changed my goals slightly over the years, NYC is still amongst my favourite cities to visit and I’m lucky enough to go back every few years. As baking became my career and basically my entire life, I started to view the city through a different lens and once you get passed the tourist hustle and bustle you get one of the best food cities in the world, specifically one of the best baking cities in America. Like London, NYC seems to thrive on trends, meaning almost every time I visit there is a handful of new bakeries to explore. The list below is therefore woefully incomplete, I could write a whole book on NYC and its bakeries (don’t think I haven't tried to get that gig) so think of this list as the places currently at the forefront of my mind, the places I go back to time and time again, or the newer spots that left a strong impression. New York will always be a big source of inspiration for me and if you've never been before let this list wet your whistle, for when you do finally visit.
When it comes to New York Bakeries no one does classic american treats better than Baked. The original location, in Red Hook, opened in 2005 making it a legit classic by this point. I first visited over 8 years ago and I schlepped out to Brooklyn, deep into Red Hook (thank god for the Ikea ferry that drops off you a short walk away) and fell in love with the bakery, they really know what they are doing. If you’re one of those visitors that doesn't leave Manhattan then no need to despair as they have since opened a location in Tribecca. If you are looking for layer cakes, brownies, cookies or bundt cakes there really is few places that do americana better.
I have been visiting NYC for over 10 years and each and every visit there will be at least one visit to the Doughnut Plant. Despite the fact that this place has been around for so long I will never tire of the doughnuts here, there is just something very special about the doughnuts this place churns out daily. There are other doughnut shops in the city, some with more trend points and press at this point but for me these are the best ‘nuts in the city. They make both cake and yeast doughnuts and something the same flavour in both styles to please all comers. The cake doughnuts are incredibly tender, which is rare for cake doughnuts which I often find unacceptably dry. The cake doughnuts have just that right amount of chew, the style of doughnut that unlike brioche feels more classic in style and something harder to find these days. What makes this place stand out though isn't just the dough but the filling, specifically the way they fill the doughnuts. Most ring doughnuts do not come filled but Doughnut Plant has figured a way to get filling all the way around said doughnuts and it basically makes the perfect combination of a ring doughnut and a filled doughnut. My two all time favourite doughnuts are the cream cheese carrot cake and the coconut cream yeast doughnut, now I just to know when they’ll open a London shop.
Time for some classic New York bagels, something savoury for a change, but to NYC purists this place is breaking some rules. Instead of a true New York style bagel this place describes their style as a cross between the NY style and Montreal style bagels. Whatever style they use these are damn good bagels. I often stay in the Lower East Side and a Black Seed breakfast bagel is my favourite way to start the day.
Supermoon is one of the newest bakeries in the city and one of my favourites. Set up by baker Ry Stephen and business partner Aron Tzimas this spot is churning out the most incredibly baked goods, specifically laminated pastries with some doughnuts thrown in for good measure. Ry was the baker that set up Mr Holmes Bakehouse in San Francisco but has since moved on from the West Coast and set up shop in the heart of the Lower East Side. Despite what some websites have tried to claim this is not simply an Instagram darling (trust me, I have been to plenty of spots in NYC that do a roaring trade on the ‘gram but who’s product is more myspace worthy, this isn't one of them) Ry’s speciality is the croissant and yes they do make a plain croissant (side bar - I hate the term plain when it comes to food, plain chocolate, plain croissant, plain bagel. There is nothing plain about any of these things when made well, they are fabulous and the wording simply bad) but what they are known for is their filled croissants.
The flavours of the croissants, and everything else for that matter, change regularly so at any given time you might be served a raspberry white chocolate version, a matcha white chocolate version or maybe even an almond white chocolate twice baked delight. But it isn't just sweets here, they make an NYC, a New York Croissant, filled with lox, cream cheese and capers, which I am sure is fabulous were it not for my hatred of lox. My favourite of the savoury of the options has to be the ham and cheese, which you absolutely have to have warmed, it is filled with the as stated ham and cheese but also a pepper rich béchamel which makes this more of a meal than a snack. I last visited in the middle of a bitter winter, missing a huge snow storm by just a few hours, and this was the comforting dish I was crying out for. After visiting the bakery a handful of times and chatting with Ry it is clear they really have a passion and drive to make the best pastries going and as far as I am concerned they are doing a damn good job of it.
My editor at Bake From Scratch, on hearing I was visiting NYC declared that I absolutely had to visit another slightly newer NYC bakery, Mah Ze Dahr. In some ways the opposite of Supermoon, it’s in the West Village, more classic in its approach and look maybe even understated a little, Mah Ze Dahr is quietly producing a whole array of delightful baked goods. Set up by former Wall St executive Umber Ahmad, Mah Ze Dahr, a spin on the Urdu word mazedar which means unexpected magic, is a very with class. The interior is a right on trend mix of dark blue and marble, with accents of copper dotted around the store. The baking matches perfectly. Think feta and spinach hand pies that are at once both simple and swoon worthy, incredibly tender brioche doughnuts, an array of perfect cookies and still yet more. This is a very with such a wide variety of styles and influences but which seem perfectly blended together, nothing out of place and everything crying out to be tried. It is also hard not to fall in love with the owner, Umber, who has an infectious smile and laugh, and over the times I have been lucky to meet her incredibly warm and welcoming.
Most will come to this spot for the crullers (2018 trend anyone?) but for me it the breakfast sandwiches that will keep me coming back. That isn't to say I didn't like the crullers, the maple version had an amazing flavour but to my taste was a little on the oily side. I have been told by many a friend this must have been a bad day so I will give them another shot but I will most definitely be having the breakfast sandwich again and again. New York is the city of the BEC, the bacon egg and cheese, you can get them on almost every street corner, from the cheap and cheerful bodegas, to the carts on the streets of midtown, they are synonymous with the city. The BEC here though is no bodega sandwich. They have taken the idea and elevated it and not in a pretentious way that strips the dish of its heart, simply a spin to put their own stamp on it. Their version has thick cut Berkshire bacon, think a slab of crisp pork belly, topped with american cheese and then topped with what they lovingly refer to as wake-up sauce, a spicy mayo based topping that makes for the perfect condiment. They also serve a range of breakfast gourgeres which I definitely need to go back and try.
By now this place needs no introduction, they make the best pie in NYC, hands down. Based in Brooklyn there will be a lot of tourists that never make it to one of their shops and that would be a shame, a big shame. Not only is Brooklyn one of my favourite boroughs this bakery is making pies that make me want to move to the states, that or open a pie shop in London. They have one foot in tradition and nostalgia and the other firmly planted in inventive and unusual. You can get everything from a black bottom oatmeal pie, a throwback to civil war era baking when pecans became expensive and scare, to a matcha custard pie, a vibrant green pie that would be more at home in the bakeries of Tokyo. On my last visit, after sparking up a conversation with their barista, I was convinced to try a lavender latter, yes lavender and coffee, which I wanted to hate with every fibre of my being, it sounded like the fever dream of a bearded hipster that dreams of making bean to bar chocolate in his spare time (wait does that sound like me!) but despite my misgivings this thing was damn tasty but lets keep that between you and me. From the pies I tried it would genuinely be tough to choose a favourite, but as they were not selling the matcha by the slice last time I visited thats the one I want to go back and try.
Not a bakery per se, this is a Jewish Deli with a history. A stalwart of the Lower East Side this shop dates back to 1914, and it is still run by the same family today. The reason for the inclusion in this list is two fold. Firstly they sell a whole variety of Jewish and old school New York baked goods, think black and white cookies, rugelach, bialys, in fact this is the place I first tried a Black and White, called a cookie but really more of a dense disc of cake topped with chocolate and vanilla icing; one day I want to do a search across the city to find the best version going. But what I came for was the babka; not a super gooey, too sweet version like many others this is more restrained more bread like but for me this is no bad thing. I actually brought a loaf of this home and now have sliced and stored in the freezer, waiting to become french toast, an idea I have borrowed from the deli themselves who make this dish at their fabulous cafe a few streets over. The second reason I love this spot, other than their design which I have a huge fondness for, is the sandwiches. On a recent work visit to the city where I was basically locked in a studio for a couple days a bagel from here filled with egg salad was exactly what I needed. They use bagels from the Bagel Hole in Brooklyn and they are a spot on version of a NYC style bagel, smaller than most but with that perfect texture.
Although this is also far from complete below is a map of these spots plus a handful of more. Make sure to bookmark this as I will update the map as and when I can