I recently visited New York with my mother. (Like so many other food bloggers!) She retired this year and we took this trip with two of her long-time friends and their daughters. We all had different goals for the trip and I regret that I did not get to as many bakeries as I had hoped, but the most important thing was spending time with my mom and I am happy to say we had a lovely time. It had been four years since I had last been to New York and I fell in love with the city all over again. I will always be a Chicago girl at heart but I hope to spend some more time in New York soon.
On the morning of our third day some of our party insisted on going to Rockefeller Plaza to shout at morning news stars and try to get on TV. After about thirty seconds of this I took refuge in the Dean & Deluca on the corner and decided I would spend my time reviewing something tasty. Their croissants sure looked like they would fit the bill.
This croissant was buttery and tasty, though uncomplex. The crust did not flake as one would desire and was overall below average with an unappetizing toughness. The crumb did most of the work and was in fact quite decent, as was the coffee (though I did not see any fair trade options).
Later in the day my mother and I parted ways with the other women and headed to Amy's Bread in Hell's Kitchen. Amy's is an adorable little store with a shockingly blue paint job and a pleasant staff. There are a few tables in back as well.
I ordered a rosemary mini, a small black olive loaf, a French baguette, and a tomato and basil focaccia. My mother and I walked to Central Park and I planted myself in the grass to try the breads while we waited for the others to meet up with us.
I began with the French baguette. In the handout I picked up the French baguette is said to be made with: "unbleached flour, water, salt, and yeast. Shaped by hand!." I find the latter claim to be a bit alarming, what else should I expect from a small, professional, artesian bakery? The appearance of the baguette was nice (must be that hand shaping!). The crust was oddly chewy, soft, and flavorless.
The crumb had a nice flavor but a poor structure and very few holes, much like a hamburger bun. Butter did very nice things for this bread. Overall this was a below average baguette.
The rosemary bread is said to be made with: "unbleached flour, organic whole wheat flour, water, natural starter, fresh rosemary, olive oil and salt." This bread had a fantastic aroma and a lovely flavor. You can tell that they do in fact use fresh rosemary. The thin, chewy crust was good and had integrity, though ideally it would have been a little more robust and thick.
This bread had a nice crumb that was moist and semi-resilient with a decent hole structure. However, it was in serious need of some salt. With a bit of sea salt and butter this would have been a very nice bread.
The black olive bread is said to be made with: "unbleached flour, organic whole wheat flour, water, natural starter, Kalamata, Amfissa and Atalanti olives, salt, and yeast." This bread also had an excellent aroma and had a pleasant sourness that went well with the olive and yeast flavors. Much like the rosemary bread, this crust was decent, thin and chewy but could be improved upon.
The olives were chopped and used liberally, giving a strong and excellent flavor to each bite. The crumb was resilient and glossy with a decent hole structure. This bread took butter superbly.
The focaccia is said to be made with: "unbleached flour, water, natural starter, olive oil, milk, salt, and yeast." They had a lovely tomato and basil focaccia propped up in the display window and it prompted me to order one. However, as I spread out my loot in Central Park I noticed that my tomato and basil focaccia had no basil. . .
This was a beautiful focaccia nonetheless. Unfortunately, it did not taste as well as it looked. The crust was passable, but the crumb was down-right bad. It had the same hamburger bun-like texture of the baguette but this was far worse. It honestly looked indistinguishable from a bun and it tasted like one too. This focaccia was also far too oily. It was a hot day so I could be mistaken, but it appears as if the bread was doused until wet with olive oil after it was baked rather than before.
Amy's is an adorable bread shop and I suggest a visit. When you go stick to their rustic breads rather than their delicate European breads. Amy's would do well to let a real crust form on their breads. I do not know what type of oven they use, but a thick charred crust would do wonders for the olive and rosemary breads.
I will post more about our New York trip soon.