By the time you read this description of the fabulous Maison Kayser, there will be nearly a dozen shops from which to choose from the Upper West and East sides to Tribeca. Born in Paris at the hands of Eric Kayser in 1996, Kayser proved an artisanal French Boulangerie travels well (and can also be found in Lyon, Menton and Beausoleil, France). The most ancestral techniques go into that crispy croissant but don't stop there, try out the breads, some made with liquid leaven for those who seek the back story. Breads run the gamut from traditional French such as the Baguette, the Tourte de Meule, a whole wheat and rye. Try les petits pains: from cheese to walnut raisin to olive, fig or seeded, perfect for an urban picnic; leave room for the melt-in-your-mouth madeleines.
Family-run, Sicilian bakery does a brisk business on Arthur Avenue just about every singled day. Headed by two owners who specialize in savory breads and are willing to try new combinations including the jalapeno bread, the ham and cheese, the olive breads. Skip the pastries and move on to the wide array of biscotti, crackling with pistachios, walnuts, and flavor. To get the best sometimes have to move far from trendy spots downtown to the sources in the boroughs, this is where you will find Madonia Brothers Bakery in the heart of Little Italy in the Bronx. Chances are that loaf of bread will not make it home in one piece, so buy at least two.
When pastry chef Dominique Ansel opened his eponymous bakery on a tree-lined SoHo side street in 2011, it immediately won scores of local fans loyal to his miniature meringues, chocolate-covered canelle and flaky French pastries. What catapulted Ansel to the top of the charts is the preternaturally popular Cronut, a fusion favorite that is half croissant and half doughnut that continues to draw lines wrapped around the corner to this very sophisticated bakery that honestly has a lot more in its oven than Cronuts. Explore and enjoy the sweet life at Dominique Ansel's Bakery with his signature tarts, ice creams, sorbets and made-to-order savory baked goods.
Cannelle Patisserie is a treasure that can only be found in the global mosaic known as Queens. Its customers arrive all morning from all over the world, such as Haiti, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Colombia and more. Pastry Chef Jean Claude Perennou and Gnanasampanthan Sabaratratnam (Samba) found each other at the Waldorf-Astoria where they worked for over a decade. Today, they have a thriving bakery that features elegant, fine pastries including simple croissants or the almond croissant, which is truly like no other. Cannelle has brought us all a step closer to Paris as the crusts are flaky where necessary, the sumptuous puffy brioches split and filled with pastry cream and exquisite napoleons.
Yes, finally real Mexican food has crossed the borders to New York City and we need not make do with imitation Tex-Mex. Yet, better to arrive sooner rather than later to this family-run Mexican bakery in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant or Bed-Stuy as locals call it, one of the most gentrified corners of Brooklyn. Just picture the vast variety of handmade, hand-formed sweet breads; grab a tray and a set of tongs and choose a few samples among the breads, cheese, jarritos, rice pudding, tres leches, and conchas, those cookie-topped breads often served warm or chinos, fluted little cakes. To complement it all, the drip coffee is strong and rich. Guadalupana delivers its pastries from Coney Island to the Bronx, but best to taste their products at the source, warm from the oven.
Fortunato Brother's Cafe in Williamsburg is a family-run pastry shop & cafe that turns out an artistic line-up of too-good-to-be-true pastries. Fortunato's is all about decadence with a full glass case of goodies made of marzipan, so reminiscent of Sicily although the family comes from Naples. As much as this corner of the city has changed, the crowd is varied: young hipsters and mommies in the AM sipping caffe, by afternoon the old paisans show up and by evening, the place is hopping in the warmer months with people lined up to choose among 24 flavors of gelato including zuppa inglese.
Lucky for us, two Jewish guys from Bialystock, Poland arrived in New York with their traditional recipes only enhanced by New York City tap water. Ok so you know bagels, could it be you have never even heard of a bialy, the bagel's Polish cousin? Unlike bagels, bialys are baked instead of boiled, and have a depression in the middle (often sprinkled with fresh onion) instead of a hole. If you're looking for a place to try one, Kossar's Bagels & Bialys in the Lower East Side is the place to go. Opened in the 1930s, Kossar's changed ownership in early 2014 and things have fortunately stayed the same except the interior decorating which sheds a bit more light on the selections. Bakers here still hand form each and every precious dough ball before baking them in a brick oven. The result is chewy, yeasty and delicious, just how Bubbe would have remembered.
After the lamb has been devoured and the fish stripped from the bone, you'll probably be in the mood for something sweet. In the world of Greek bakeries, Artopolis Bakery on 31st Street in Astoria is where you should go. The picture-perfect cafe-bakery has mastered the art of Greek desserts, including baskets of spiced biscuits, and of course, honeyed baklava (of which there are 10 types here) and galaktabouriko. If you're lucky, you might grab one of the small tables outside, but even if they're taken, just have the ladies behind the counter wrap you up a box to go. Come Christmastime or Easter, the atmosphere rises to a crescendo and you simply feel you are in Greece.
Practice your Italian, your Serbo-Croatian while sipping your cappuccino because the Adriatic runs through Astoria right here at Gian Piero's Bakery. Stacked up against the broad window at Gian Piero's are a golden crusted breads: with seeds, without, white to semolina, whole wheat, olive bread, walnut raisin and that's just the staff of life. Biscotti and small pastries range from what you know to what you don't: try the warm "cassatedde," little pockets filled with sweet ricotta based on a Sicilian recipe. Regional differences among pastries like sfingi made to celebrate St. Joseph's Day are both honored here. Kids love the rainbow-colored cookies.
Judith Norell had a long career as concert harpsichordist before she retired and set her sights on her heartfelt passion: baking bread. She joined forces with Georgia Stamoulis and together they brought the first artisanal bakery to this part of town in many years. Norell's story is a delicious one: she started as an apprentice with Amy's Bread, fled to Paris to learn more, and worked at Le Quotidien by 2000 she found her partner and her home on 105th St. and Broadway. Today as many as 71 types of bread come out of this little storefront including Norell's own inventions like the orange-chocolate baguette, corkscrew sourdough rolls and her own version of Bath buns. Second to baking bread Norell loves to research old treatises about baked goods, lucky for us because the combinations are limitless.