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"Artisan" Western-style bread in Flushing

We're in Flushing (near Main and Northern) for a few days and having a rough time finding "artisan" (for lack of a better word) bread. Our toddler is a very picky bread eater, and right now we're having to trek to La Boulangerie in Forest Hills.

The "artisan" claims at Tous Les Jours were... misleading. The baguette at Paris Baguette was acceptable for a few minutes, but there's something off about it (spongy texture.) The bread at Iris was a miss, too.

I don't expect Bien Cuit level bread, but any solid, honest attempts should suffice. Any type of bread will do -- baguette, sourdough loaves, brioche, ciabatta, focaccia -- it just has to be good.

Anything come to mind?

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    1. Yeah PC is right that is tough, but so are Chowhounds. Head over to the other side of the Grand Central after a day at the Zoo and try Rio de la Plata Bakery for some Italian Argentine stuff or up to Mama's. Not Bien Cuit level but good.
      The best choice though would be a trek to Cannelle Patisserie in Jackson Heights. I love some of their pastries but I usually walk away with loaf of bread as well.

      1 Reply
      1. re: stuartlafonda

        The walnut and fig bread at Cannelle Patisserie is excellent.

        I don't remember ever seeing a Western style bakery near where you're staying.

      2. I appreciate the replies. La Boulangerie in Forest Hills is pretty good. I've never had the bread at Cannelle Patisserie. Is their bread as good as La Boulangerie's bread? I think Cannelle is much further than Forest Hills, too.

        11 Replies
        1. re: bmorecupcake

          The bread at Cannelle is very good, as is La Boulangerie, I haven't had the same breads at both so it's hard to compare. Cannelle is definitely worth a trip.

          For a place that's close to Flushing, Leo's Latticini has Italian bread and it's worth checking out because it's near Tortilleria Nixtamal.

          For artisanal bread you're probably best sticking with La Boulangerie based on distance and quality.

          Tous Les Jours and Paris Baguette are both gross to me.

          1. re: Pookipichu

            I think breads at Cannelle and La Boulangerie are both fine. I like the other offerings at Cannelle a lot better though. The almond croissant, the apple turnover, the pastries, etc.

            Going off-topic a bit, since you mention Leo's Latticini...I've been disappointed with my last two visits there over the past year. Got the roast pork sandwich on one visit and the Mama's Special on the other. Both were pre-assembled which I never minded in the past, but they didn't taste that fresh and were kind of dried out. Was I just unlucky or are they not as good anymore?

            1. re: churros

              I agree that I'd sooner go to Cannelle for their excellent pastries than the bread.

              Regarding, LL, hopefully it's a fluke, I haven't been there in the past year but the last sandwich I had there wasn't pre-assembled. :(

              1. re: Pookipichu

                I think I worded my post awkwardly. I meant that I far prefer the viennoiseries at Cannelle over the ones at La Boulangerie. Breads are probably comparable though I admittedly have less experience on that front.

                Leo's Latticini almost always had a few pre-assembled Mama's Special sandwiches on the counter on my visits. They would then add the roasted peppers and mushrooms at the time of purchase. I never had a problem with the sandwich until this last time. Hoping it's a fluke as well. Along with my roast pork sandwich visit.

              2. re: churros

                I've been to Cannelle many times before, just not for bread. One thing I will say for Cannelle and La Boulangerie, staff at both places act like they are doing you a favor selling to you.

                1. re: bmorecupcake

                  Ahhh, okay. I thought that you hadn't been to Cannelle before in which case I would have recommended going there just to try their other stuff. By the way, if you go back to La Boulangerie, I heard their almond croissant is very good though I haven't tried it myself.

                  Agreed on the service at both places. Not the most friendly, but that seems par for the course for a lot of bakeries throughout NYC. At least in my experience.

            2. re: bmorecupcake

              I used Flushing Town Hall as my reference point for Main and Northern as the old RKO Keith movie theatre is no longer in Google maps and I get this:
              Town Hall to La B 4.8
              Town Hall to Cannelle 3.7
              So really no difference. Why not do both?

              1. re: stuartlafonda

                One big plus for Cannelle Patisserie is that they have a large free parking lot. Finding parking is never a problem. Can't say the same for Forest Hills. From Flushing, I usually take Grand Central Pkwy past the airport and take exit 5. It brings you very close to Cannelle Patisserie.

                1. re: Robotron

                  Maybe the biggest advantage is that between OP's location and Cannelle is some of the world's greatest chow. Can't say as much for Forest Hills.

                  1. re: stuartlafonda

                    Hey, Forest Hills has Nicks Pizza, La Boulangerie, Gotta Getta Bagel, and this very interesting Japanese grocer (forgot the name). Gotta Getta Bagel may not be great for you guys, but it's better than anything I can get in Baltimore. (I only like their bagels toasted, though, they lose some denseness that way.)

                    1. re: bmorecupcake

                      PS - if you haven't tried it, there's a very good pastry shop next to Nick's Pizza called Bonnelle's. Leagues better than the pre-fab crap at Martha's Country Bakery (which I really don't like).

            3. Unfortunately, the Flushing Chinatown does not have any good breads, as the Asian food culture is not known for their breads. In China, baking was never established as one of their primary cooking techniques due to the lack of plentiful fuels, which is why the stir frying wok technique was developed to cook foods quickly using less fuel. The typical home in China in the past did not have ovens as in western countries. Most bakery items were steamed. (ref: http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodasian...

              )

              There is a distinct lack of very good western bakeries in Flushing and in this north east part of Queens also, but if eating a better quality western style bread is a must have and you would like a closer venue, there is a nearer place than the La Boulangerie Bakery in Forest Hills or Cannelle in Jackson Heights. There is a supermarket 1.67 miles north of Flushing called "Strawberry Farms" ( http://www.yelp.com/biz/strawberry-fa... ) in Whitestone, that has a whole aisle with breads from 7 to 8 different bakeries. The breads that we like are listed under the "Polito Bakery" sign (we think) and has the standard baguette, ciabatta, and a bread that is very similar in appearance and taste to the "pizza bianca" bread sold by the well known "Sullivan Street Bakery" in Manhattan (picture of the "pizza bianca" bread from the Sullivan Street Bakery is at the top of this post). Your toddler just might enjoy the "bianca" bread, which is not quite as good as Sullivan's, but reasonably close. If you go too late, especially on weekends, most of the Polito breads will be sold out, hence if you plan to go, we would recommend that you go early, although there are usually several pieces of "bianca" bread left, even in late afternoon.

              Your toddler already has high end taste buds? We would think that a typical toddler would like the soft "Wonder Bread," that can be obtained at any supermarket. (LOL)

               
              6 Replies
              1. re: lwong

                There was no shortage of fuel in ancient China. Boiling, deep frying, smoking, steaming and roasting and were the order of the day then. While it is thought that the wok was first used during the Han Dyansty, stir-frying as we know it today did not really come into its own until the Ming. Fuel shortages in China are of a more recent problem. Access to cooking oil was more of an issue.

                Certainly the ancient Chinese had bread. Since antiquity the Chinese had contact with Iran and Inner Asia and the baked goods these peoples produced - although they did not become a major part of the Chinese diet.

                In northern China, wheat and maize were turned into breads – both steamed and fried. In the northwest (Xinjiang) yeast and sourdough bread was mainly how wheat was consumed. And this bread was usually made in circular ovens. The ancient Chinese milled barley, buckwheat and sorghum into flour to create cakes.

                By the Tang Dynasty small sesame covered breads were sold in major Chinese cities – the forerunner of todays shaobing. Meat was stuffed into them and they were served like sandwiches. In the 1930’s, Princeton scholar Sydney Gamble (1890-1968) documented that yeast bread was widely consumed in Beijing by wealthy Chinese families.

                1. re: scoopG

                  We reread our original post and essentially we made two assertions:

                  a. Fuel was scarce in China's past.
                  b. And for this reason, China did not develop baking as a primary cooking technique and also developed the wok for fuel efficiency.

                  We did not state that there was no baking of any kind in China, or that there were no breads, or that there are no other cooking techniques. Our statement was "baking was never established as one of their primary cooking techniques due to the lack of plentiful fuels," that "Asian food culture is not known for their breads," and that the wok was developed as a very efficient cooking device due to the lack of plentiful cooking fuel.

                  You made the assertion that "There was no shortage of fuel in ancient China" and then listed the many other cooking techniques, which we assume is your evidence that there were no fuel shortages, but just listing these other techniques "Boiling, deep frying, smoking, steaming and roasting," does not indicate that fuel was plentiful in China's past. Baking requires a lot of energy, much more energy than the cooking techniques you had listed. It should be noted that "roasting" was not a typical cooking technique in China, since it would use too much fuel. When a society has fuel shortages, the society will adjust by using more fuel efficient cooking utensils and techniques, which is why you were able to cite all those other more fuel efficient cooking techniques.

                  In stating that there was a "lack of plentiful fuels," this is not the same as stating that China had no cooking fuel, as this would mean that there would have been no other cooking techniques and China as a society would have perished. Just think about why baking/roasting never developed as one of the primary cooking techniques in China and the reason for the development of the wok.

                  In reviewing the websites for why oven baking did not develop as a primary cooking technique in China, most of the references we found on the Internet indicated that it was due to a shortage of fuel, since oven baking requires a lot of energy, which makes sense as baking/roasting sometimes requires hours of cooking. It is basically physics, as conduction heat transfer from the air to the food in baking/roasting is much less efficient (even convection ovens with forced moving air) than conduction heat transfer where food has contact with metal as in pan frying and the even more efficient convection/conduction where food is in contact with boiling moving water. When you open an oven, you can put your hands in the hot oven to take out food items and your hand will not be burned or suffer any pain other than feeling some warmth, but if your hands come in contact with a hot pan/pot or it is put into a pot of boiling water, you will definitely feel pain and cause injury to your hand. That is the science of heat transfer and heat capacity in action, where the heat capacity of air is much less than metal or water. Likewise due to the shortage of fuels, the development of the wok, since it is a very fuel efficient cooking utensil that cooks food in a very short time.

                  From our understanding of evolution, the logic stated in the many Internet articles appear logical and sound, that the environment shapes evolution, where the lack of plentiful fuel leads to particular aspects of the food culture in China, which is namely little to no baking/roasting in the Chinese food culture.

                  You write "sesame covered breads were sold in major Chinese cities – the forerunner of todays shaobing," which we assume was your evidence of oven baking, but a Shao Bing is a flatbread that was traditionally cooked by slapping them onto the side of a pit oven that was cooked within several minutes, and that later Shao Bing's were more typically cooked by pan frying:

                  a. Shao Bings originally cooked on sides of oven very quickly: http://www.cooksinfo.com/shao-bing
                  b. NYT's discussion of a Shao Bing; includes a recipe from Ms. Barbara Tropp, a Chinese cookbook author, for a Pan Fried Shao Bing: http://www.nytimes.com/1999/06/02/din...
                  c. Youtube video showing the Shao Bing being pan fried in China: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBcmKE...

                  In our original post, we had provided a link that supported our contention that cooking fuels were not plentiful in China's past. Didn't you check the link we provided in our original post before posting?

                  Below is the relevant passage in the link from our original post:

                  Chinese bread
                  Asian cultures are not generally known for bread. Grains are traditionally consumed as noodles, dumplings (wontons), and pancakes (accompaniment to Peking Duck) etc. But! Bread does exist. Steamed buns from North China is an often overlooked example. In cultures where fuel is scarce, *traditional* bake ovens requiring many hours of fuel were swapped for quickbreads cooked on the back of woks, steamed or boiled in water/broth. Some food historians assert the only places in the world without an indigenous bread culture are the North & South Poles. Why? The climate prohibits indigenous wheat or grain. - ( http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodasian...

                  )

                  But it is a fact that the typical Chinese home in China's past (let us arbitrarily use 50 years ago) did not have western ovens. But even in present day China, a home oven is a rare appliance:

                  "That’s perhaps the only challenge of baking in China: the lack of proper ovens for home kitchens. Baking isn’t part of Chinese cuisine, and most kitchens here are absolutely tiny – a gas range and some decent counter space is as much as one can hope for. Only toaster ovens are available, and only in Beijing and other large cities, where baking western pastries has lately become very popular with young urbanites (mostly women, actually)" - ( http://www.hawberry.net/2010/05/14/ba...

                  )

                  Since the one link we had provided was apparently not sufficient to convince you, here are more Internet sources in support of our statements:

                  1. Anderson, Eugene N. (1988). The Food of China. New Haven: Yale University Press ( http://books.google.ca/books?id=BAckn...

                  )

                  Prof. Anderson writes that "Chinese cooking is a cooking of scarcity. Whatever the emperors and warlords may have had, the vast majority of Chinese spent their lives short of fuel, cooking oil, utensils, and even water." (page 182)

                  Additionally, Prof. Anderson states that "Cooking methods that use a lot of fuel, notably roasting and baking, were virtually absent." (page 189)

                  2. Le Cordon Bleu - a cooking school: http://www.chefs.edu/Student-Life/Cul...

                  Although the regional cuisines of China and other Asian countries vary in flavors and ingredients, the unifying link between them is the wok as the primary cooking vessel. The wok evolved centuries ago as a result of fuel shortages. Its rounded shape and long sloping sides provide an extended cooking surface, which may be heated to very high temperatures with little fuel.

                  3. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stir_frying

                  Historically, stir frying was not as important a technique as boiling or steaming, since the oil needed for stir frying was expensive. The technique became increasingly popular in the late Ming dynasty (1368–1644),[8] in part because the wood and charcoal used to fire stoves were becoming increasingly expensive near urban centers, and stir-frying could cook food quickly without wasting fuel.[9] "The increasingly commercial nature of city life" in the late Ming and Qing (1644–1912) periods also favored speedy methods.[2] But even as stir frying became an important method in Chinese cuisine, it did not replace other cooking techniques. For instance, "only five or six of over 100 recipes recorded in the sixteenth-century novel Jin Ping Mei are stir fry recipes and wok dishes accounted for only 16 percent of the recipes in the most famous eighteenth century recipe book, the Suiyuan shidan".[2]
                  (Lwong note: Wikipedia has footnote links, but they may not show in Chowhound

                  )

                  4. Ken Hom - a chef and cookbook author: http://www.west175productions.com/gfs...

                  "China has one of the world's oldest culinary traditions. Its cuisine is unique because it developed independently of the West. Because of the ancient, insular civilization, poor transportation network, lack of arable land, shortage of fuels and lack of ovens, Chinese chefs were forced to accommodate their art to necessity. Later, as the Chinese moved abroad, they took this culinary heritage with them. If one wishes to understand the essence of Chinese cooking, therefore, it is important to make a cultural leap of faith."

                  1. re: lwong

                    I'm not trying to get into a huge debate but there are several cultures with limited fuel resources that have baking traditions much like China. Shared ovens, communal ovens address some of those needs. Wood, coal, animal dung were all used as fuel.

                    Remember that Chinese culture is quite famous for fuel hungry ancient kilns has an extensive history of porcelain and other pottery. Peking duck, is a dish over 800 years old, that requires slow roasting.

                    China has over 4000 years of history, with one of the largest, if not the largest population in the ancient world. Much of that history has been lost, especially with the cultural revolution. There are culinary techniques and heritage that are not well documented, even with the advent of google and the internet. :)

                    1. re: lwong

                      Read "Food in China: A Cultural and Historical Inquiry" by Frederick J. Simmons; Boca Raton, FL, 1991 and "Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives," edited by K. C. Chang, Yale University Press; New Haven, 1977.

                      1. re: scoopG

                        If you wish to have a gentlemanly debate, and if we are not mistaken, this debate was initiated by you, then you will have to do the hard work to quote and summarize the relevant passages in your two references, and argue your points logically and persuasively, otherwise merely citing whole book references does not cut it.

                        1. re: lwong

                          You originally wrote “in China, baking was never established as one of their primary cooking techniques due to the lack of plentiful fuels, which is why the stir frying wok technique was developed to cook foods quickly using less fuel.”
                          ______________________________

                          I disagree. I have not seen any scholarly evidence that there were any widespread fuel shortages throughout China’s ancient history or that the development of stir-frying was due to supposed lack of fuel. The Chinese from antiquity had a wide range of cooking styles available to them (boiling, deep frying, smoking, steaming and roasting etc.)

                          Certainly the ancient Chinese had bread. Since antiquity the Chinese had contact with Iran and Inner Asia and the baked goods these peoples produced - although they did not become a major part of the Chinese diet.

                          In northern China, wheat and maize were turned into breads – both steamed and fried. In the northwest (Xinjiang) yeast and sourdough bread was mainly how wheat was consumed. And this bread was usually made in circular ovens. The ancient Chinese milled barley, buckwheat and sorghum into flour to create cakes.

                          Sources:

                          1) “Food in China: A Cultural and Historical Inquiry.” Frederick J. Simoons. CRC; Boca Raton, 1991.

                          Chapter Three (Cereals and Pulses). Page 89 is where he discusses these ancient Chinese contacts with neighbors in Iran and Inner Asia who produced oven-baked breads. Later “Western influence, especially in the cities with large Western communities such as Shanghai encouraged the use of yeast bread.”

                          Chapter Eight (Edible Nuts, Nut-Like Fruits, and Seeds). On page 286 he writes that while cooking oils were in considerable use since Han times (when the wok and stir-frying were invented) they were expensive. “Even in modern times, stir-frying is less common than boiling and steaming, more used in restaurants than at home.”

                          2) “Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives.” Edited by K. C. Chang, Yale University Press; New Haven, 1977.

                          Chapter Three (T’Ang) by Edward H. Schafer. On pages 116-118, he claims that baking was already a common form of cooking by 800 CE - especially “baking something in a wrapping of some kind.” Tang texts he declares, paid the “greatest attention to cakes” which were highly popular. The word cake appears so often that they appear to be “the gold of the Tang dinner table.”

                          While certain cereals were preferred, they were cooked in a variety of ways. One cake was made of barley and wrapped in hemp leaves – but the most popular “cakelets were made of wheat or rice.”

                          Looks the Chinese may have invented doughnuts around this time – as they made a sweet “ring-shaped cake fried in oil.” Foreign cakes introduced from the West also became quite popular. Shafer asserts that Iranians “for the most part,” sold them on urban street corners. There are Tang references to a pastry (called pi-lo) that were either sweet or aromatic.

                          Chapter Five (Yuan and Ming) by Frederick W. Mote. On pages 216-217, he writes about a Ming scholar in the 1590’s who composed a list of the “prepared foods which the empress and imperial consorts offered each day in the reign of the Founder in Nanking” some 220 years earlier.

                          This was a complicated month-long presentation in which the foods offered changed every day. Because the offerings “were expected to convey the spirit of offerings made to the ancestors in ordinary family life we can reveal that they reveal the tastes and food ideals of the former poor peasant family which now found itself the imperial family” in 14th century China. Among the many foods presented at court:

                          Sugared butter cookies
                          Steamed rolls with steamed mutton
                          Sugared steamed biscuits
                          Sugared jujube cakes
                          Open oven-baked breads (or Shāobing 燒餅)
                          Sugar filled steamed breads
                          Mutton filled steamed breads
                          Rice-flour cakes
                          Fat-filled pastries
                          Honey cakes
                          Puff-paste baked breads
                          Flaky filled pastries
                          Marrow cakes
                          Rolled cookies
                          Honey biscuits
                          Scalded-dough baked breads (the world’s first bagels?)
                          Pepper and Salt breads
                          Sesame-sugar filled baked breads
                          Sour Cream and
                          Thousand-layer baked breads.

                          3) “Chinese History: A Manual” by Endymion Wilkinson. Harvard University Press; Cambridge, 2000. In Chapter 35 (Agriculture, Food, and the Environment) on page 639, Wilkinson writes that the Han Chinese used a mud-baking technique and developed elaborate cooking stoves. The Chinese used open roasting, deep-frying, boiling, braising and steaming. The most popular cooking method though was stewing.

                          On pages 647-648 Wilkinson says that while the wok may have been introduced in the Han it was mainly used for drying grains…it began to become one of the more important cooking methods only in the Ming.

                          He adds that he 17th century novel “The Plum in the Golden Vase” (Jīn Píng Méi 金瓶梅) includes references to only five or six stir-fry recipes out of a total of more than one hundred dishes mentioned. Even by the 18th century, wok dishes accounted for only 16 percent of the recipes in the most famous recipe book of the day, Suíyuán Shídān 隨園食單.