In Pursuit of the Perfect Loaf

An ode to the shapes, crusts, crumbs, taste, and aroma of everything from buns to baguettes.

Raise your hand if you grew up on white bread. Now, raise your hand if your adult tastes tend to artisan loaves. While most of us are just rousing from our beds (or still counting sheep), the first rounds of homemade heaven are making their way from oven to shelf, thanks to a bevy of dedicated souls who’ve been working in yeast since the wee hours. One bite into the airy folds of a warm loaf, shattering the crust and sending crumbs scattering, and you’re a goner. For some, pairing the perfect loaf to its proper sibling is as serious as finding the ideal vintage. A sweet baguette, for example, is best with butter and jam, while a rustic country sourdough is great for a hearty ham-and-cheese. Still others, like a round or braided challah, are so pretty you almost hate to break them. Almost. Here, our pick of some of the county’s most luscious loaves.

Warning: The boules from Antoinette’s Patisserie (417 Warbuton Ave, Hastings 914-478 7200) may not make it home in one piece. The crusty exterior and tender inside—in whole grain and multi-grain—beckon you to tear them apart almost from the get-go. The patisserie offers the discerning palate a variety of gourmet options including melt-in-your-mouth chocolate croissants and one of the best lattes around.

It’s easy to drive by the nondescript storefront of Bellantoni Bakery (124 Fulton St, White Plains 914-948-3373). It looks like a warehouse and has been in operation since 1900 and specializes in the wholesale business, churns out hundreds of loaves daily, so there’s always fresh from the oven bread. Specialties include Italian classics like bastones and club rolls, but we’re suckers for the kaiser rolls: chewy on the inside, crunchy on the out and still dotingly crafted by hand. The bakery also offers a wide range of whole-wheat options, along with some splendid house-made breadcrumbs.

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Visual artistry defines the pastries at Chiboust Bistro + Bakery (14 N Main St, Tarrytown 914-703-6550), so why should the breads be any different? Chef Jill Rose makes two in-house: a sweet brioche and lavash (thin flatbreads). Brioche is available by pre-order or just pop by on a Saturday or Sunday around 3 pm when it’s usually coming out of the oven. Our suggestion? Use it for French toast, then sit back while everyone commends you for the best breakfast ever.

Challahs in all sizes and flavors aren’t what you’d expect from a place called Enrico’s Pastry Shop (214 E Hartsdale Ave, Hartsdale 914-723-0340), but that’s the specialty at this kosher shop where owner Joseph Floriano reigns over his “challies” with love. His imaginative flavors include chocolate chocolate chip, cranberry chocolate chip, and other marble loaves, among the more traditional raisin/non-raisin/braided/round/poppy/seeded. He also has a long list of out-of-the-ordinary cream cheeses including pistachio, blueberry, apricot, and caviar and onion. And his bagels? Crusty, chewy perfection.

The aroma of freshly baked bread hits you the minute you step out of your car and head to the retail portion of JJ Cassone Bakery (202 S Regent St, Port Chester 914-939-1568), where racks of cooling pane di casa, oversized brick-oven loaves, and bastones frame the area behind the counter. This is traditional done best—a no-frills, cash-only bakery just steps away from where the toasty smell of yeast rising tempts your taste buds.

Fine bread is like fine wine. It takes the right ingredients and the right type of fermentation to create specific characteristics and flavor. Nowhere is this more evident than at The Kneaded Bread (181 N Main St, Port Chester 914-937-9489) where dozens of artistic, irregular shapes beckon with their brittle exteriors and come hither perfumes. Go for the provolone with its flawless mixture of aged savory cheese. Of course you’ll also find ciabatta, baguettes, multi-grain, foccacia, sourdough, sunflower, potato rosemary, and stone-ground whole wheat, among the scones, muffins, and croissants. Decisions, decisions.

If you like rye, head to Scarsdale Pastry Center (1487 Weaver St, Scarsdale 914-723-6722) where the made-on-the-premises plain, seeded, and marble boast soft centers and just the right amount of tang. Just go early. By 11ish, most of the best loaves are gone.

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Man cannot live by bread alone—unless we’re talking about the bounty of choices at Susan Lawrence Gourmet Foods (26 N Greeley Ave, Chappaqua 914-238-8833). Once inside this elegant shop it’s hard to pick just one thing. The sweet cinnamon rolls are a must—and among the shop’s most addictive, as is the gorgeously drizzled chocolate babka. But it’s the buttermilk bread, with its powdery tan color, crackling exterior, and sweet interior that takes eating pleasure to a whole new dimension.

Looking for something to sop up stew or dip into olive oil? Second-generation baker Bobby Giorgio, owner of Westchester Italian Bakery (631 Mamaroneck Ave, Mamaroneck 914-698-6780), has perfected his pizza bread so that it’s light and crumbly and unreservedly delectable. His carbohydrate kingdom—here 50-plus years—also specializes in shiny-top rolls and double rounds. Head to the back for your pick of long, narrow loaves, ring-shaped pane rusticas, French and Italian bread, and more. Whether it’s your first time or your 50th, Bobby treats you like a regular.

French baguettes draw you in at Zeytinia Gourmet Market (51 Maple St, Croton 914-271-5600), where the wide variety of spreads, pâtés, and olives practically scream to be added to your cart and paired with this Parisian staple.

Bread is baked three times a day at Turco’s (380 Downing Dr, Yorktown Heights 914-243-9100), where the range includes rolls, baguettes, foccacias, and pane di casas. On the savory side, the walnut loaves are a much-lauded favorite, while sweet teeth are satiated with the variety of flaky pastries.

Arthur Avenue Is Closer Than You Think

No need to schlep to the Bronx. The following sell made-that-day Arthur Avenue bread.

A S Deli & Pork Store (986 Broadway, Thornwood 914-747-1449)
Dante’s Gourmet Deli (429 Central Ave, White Plains 914-946-3609)
DeCicco Family Markets (21 Center St, Ardsley 914-813-2009)
North End Meats (835 Post Rd, Scarsdale 914-723-3363)

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Jeanne Muchnick, author of Dinner for Busy Moms, is known among her friends and family for her wicked banana bread.

Caption: The pane rusticas come in many shapes and sizes at Westchester Italian Bakery in Mamaroneck.

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