Pastry: Germans Are Butter Than the French

Photograph by Wittelsbach Bernd/Getty Images

New York is unabashedly francophile when it comes to its bakeries. Tant Pis.

The French bakery Payard now has five locations across Manhattan. Maison Kayser , a high-end bakery/restaurant from the French chef Eric Kayser opened last fall to immediate acclaim on the upper east side. Even some of the best American-owned bakeries in the city, like Bien Cuit , are run by bakers who trained in France.

France has always taken the lion's share of credit for buttery baked goods while the Germans were under appreciated. Consider this: the croissant has Germanic roots, coming from an Austrian artillery officer who set up shop on the Rue de Richelieu.

So when the German baker Landbrot opened in downtown New York last fall with dark bread, poppy loops, and apple strudel, its future initially seemed uncertain: a few trips in Landbrot's infant stages found the West Village bakery/restaurant weirdly quiet, its shelves still fully stocked even in the late afternoon.

Not anymore. Several recent trips to the bakeries have seen healthy (though not infuriating) lines of people, queuing for schnitzel and potato bread. It's confirmation that the lack of German baked goods on offer in the city is a question of availability rather than a scarcity of demand. That's because German breads happen to be as good as--if not better than--their French counterparts.

What New Yorkers have yet to see is the breadth of offerings waiting on the other side of the Atlantic. The prepared food and bakery-chain Lindner on Berlin's Friedrichstrasse, for instance, contains a range of options practically unknown in New York: dunkel vollkornbrot, a rich, moist, whole wheat dark bread; or their doppelkrustenbrot, another dark bread with an incredibly thick crust, perfect for breakfast; or the butterkuchen, a thin yellow cake that looks like foccacia but somehow manages to be sweet, savory, and moist all at once.

It's a no-nonsense type of baking--the breads aren't particularly elaborate or fancifully designed. But when they're sliced up and on your plate, as customers at Landbrot have apparently discovered-- the shape of your sawed up loaf is the last thing on your mind.

James Tarmy reports on arts and culture for Bloomberg Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News.

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