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The Best Bread Bakeries in America

March 04, 2020

From standout sourdough to rustic rye to crackly baguettes, here’s where to score loaves from the best bread bakeries from coast to coast.

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Photo: John Lee, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Hewn (Evanston, Illinois)

Everything about Hewn exudes a hand-made vibe, from the rustic loaves lining the shelves to the wooden panels fashioned from repurposed pickle barrels. The neighborhood bakery, run by Ellen King and Julie Matthei, is a local favorite in the college town of Evanston, with a well-earned reputation for seeking out (and in some cases, resurrecting) heritage grains and locally grown, organic and stone-milled grains to craft the daily rotating bread selection. Baguettes are a perennially popular pick, as are heritage wheat loaves baked with red fife and red turkey flours. For a taste of the region, opt for the Midwest Blend, which blends Illinois and Wisconsin-grown einkorn, spelt and Glenn wheat, to hardy effect. As a classically trained chef, King can’t help but tinker with savory ingredients, as with the picholine olive-studded country loaf sprinkled with herbes de Provence; an heirloom potato-and-rosemary loaf; or her personal favorite, a rye loaf folded with caramelized onions.

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Photo: Platonic Studios

Zak the Baker (Miami)

What began as a bootstrap start-up bakery out of Zak Stern’s garage has blossomed into a full-fledged, certified Kosher bakery in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District. Zak the Baker is a 24-hour-a-day operation; wholesale baking starts at 4 a.m., with morning baguette pick-ups destined for area Whole Foods and dozens of restaurants. By 7 a.m. the morning sun light spills into the cheery bakery and the smell of butter and freshly baked croissants permeates the air. Pro tip: The coveted everything bagels are first out of the oven around 8 a.m., so plan accordingly (get it with nova and cream cheese). By lunch time, the dough room is turning out dozens of naturally leavened loaves. Stern has earned a reputation for the sourdough country wheat, but other standouts include breads that nod to his Jewish culture, such as the sweet braided honey challah, or the sourdough Jewish Rye, one of his personal favorites. Linger for lunch in the perennially packed café to nosh a bagel with whitefish salad or a salmon Rueben on Jewish rye. For Stern, the sky really is the limit: He’s also started baking sourdough, croissants and cookies for select Scandinavian Airlines flights out of Miami.

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Photo: Thomas Schauer

Bien Cuit (Brooklyn)

Baker Zachary Golper learned to appreciate well-done baguettes as an apprentice in France. Now the name of his Brooklyn Bakery, Bien Cuit, which means 'well done' in French, showcases the style of his dark, deeply caramelized loaves. At first, Golper had to convince people that the loaves — often made with New York grains — weren’t burnt, but now, regulars seek them out for their crackly crusts and supremely flavorful crumb. Even better? Thanks to the thick crust, loaves have a longer shelf life and the flavor improves with time, peaking around three days. Golper is partial to the miche, a classic sourdough loaf made from a wheat-rye flour blend. His kids are fans of the pain de mie, a white flour loaf fermented with milk, whose fluffy crumb makes it ideal for sandwiches and toast. No matter how you slice it, this is bread done well.

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Photo: Shannon Renfroe

Seylou Bakery (Washington, D.C.)

If there was one word to sum up D.C.’s Seylou Bakery, it would be intention. Founders Jonathan Bethony and his wife, Jessica Azeez, opened Seylou not only to bake great bread, but to serve the greater good. Bethony honed his technique and philosophy at Washington State University’s Bread Lab, where he learned the importance of plant variety, farming practices, fresh milling and long fermentation, all key factors to unlocking maximum flavor and nutrition. For sourcing, he found a kindred spirit in Heinz Thomet, who runs a regenerative farm that supplies Seylou with buckwheat, millet, barley, beans and wheat. Grains are milled at the bakery using a New American Stone Mill, and breads are baked in a wood-fired rotating deck oven. (The oven makes a fine centerpiece to the bakery, too.) Perhaps the loaf that best embodies Seylou’s ethos is the Horse Bread, a nutrient-dense loaf featuring Thomet’s corn and millet, which Bethony first slow cooks in the wood-fire oven’s ash to break down the grains and unlock nutrients before adding sorghum, legumes and camelina and mustard seeds to the dough. The flours also find their way into Seylou’s sought-after pastries, including 100% whole-wheat croissants and millet chocolate chip cookies, as well as into the dough destined for the bakery’s Friday pizza night. To make bread accessible to more people, Seylou offers 50% off bread for those on nutrition assistance benefits, and unsold bread is donated to Food Runner US, which distributes the loaves to shelters, soup kitchens and the like.

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