Today on our weekly NY1 television segment we visit Orwasher’s Bakery on the Upper East Side, whose 100-year-old basement brick ovens were bought by Keith Cohen in 2007. (And were profiled in the last issue of the magazine, to boot.)
As you’ll see in the piece (online right here), Cohen bought the place with a vision to make true artisan breads using the best of both old-fashioned techniques and new ideas. Think homemade starters, local flours (which is why his Sixpoint Craft Ale breads and true 100% whole wheats are both available at Cayuga Pure Organic’s Greenmarket stands), yeasts from local grapes (we wrote about his Long Island Channing Daughters wine breads in 2009) and local beers, plus slow fermentation times that yield in densely delicious breads with a craggy crust and dense crumb. (That should be slightly yellow in color, says Cohen, if made properly.)
But Cohen, formerly of Tribeca Ovens, also wanted to resuscitate the wonderful baking traditions of the original Orwasher’s, a Jewish bakery founded in 1916 by Abraham Orwasher in what was then the thriving immigrant enclave of Yorkville. That means hamentaschen, pumpernickel, challah (which are perfect when cooked in that slow-baking 100-year-old oven) cinnamon raisin and a massive 10-pound rye meant to harken back, Cohen tells me, when old Eastern European communities had only one big oven in which to bake their bread. As a result, they shared a massive loaf, buying it by the slice. (Now you can too.)
And now there are the doughnuts, which we didn’t get a chance to mention in today’s NY1 piece, which also airs Sunday morning and can be watched online right here. Years ago Orwasher’s used to be known for its early Sunday morning doughnut rush, and we suspect that’ll be back again in no time. Cohen has a local sweets maker fry up amazingly light yeast doughnuts and deliver them each morning, and then he has Beth’s Farm Kitchen make a series of locally sourced preserves–raspberry, strawberry etc. -that are just the right consistency for piping into the sugar-dusted puffs. You pick your flavors, and the folks at Orwasher’s fill the doughnut with a squirt gun while you watch. There’s been some talk on these being the best doughnuts in the whole city, and as much as we love a round of Orwasher’s whole wheat (or a warm slice of their new spelt-sunflower seed-raisin quinoa health bread) we’re gonna admit it’s the ethereally light jelly-filled poofs shown above that have us plotting reasons to head to East 78th Street.
Orwasher’s Bakery: 308 East 78th Street, Manhattan; 212.288.6569; orwashersbakery.com