Bread is both the newest and the oldest fermentation experiment, and today’s most forward-thinking food artisans are once again obsessed with it. There’s the Los Angeles baker who makes some of the best bagels we’ve ever had, and the former civil engineer making Nordic-style loaves in industrial Brooklyn. Now that naan is at the corner store, American bakers are tackling other kinds of flatbreads from around the world, like the crisp and chewy Persian nan-e barbari. Read on for easy bread recipes and irresistible breakfast dishes that put those loaves to good use: maple-bacon bread pudding, frittata sandwiches, brown sugar French toast and more.

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Bread Trend: Hearty Nordic Loaves

As New Nordic cuisine infiltrates the American restaurant scene, there’s a surging interest here in Nordic foods, among them dark, crusty loaves of rye bread. “In Finland, bakers traditionally use wheat flour only for cookies and cakes,” says Finnish-born baker Simo Kuusisto. “Because rye is hardy and strong-flavored, bakers use it for bread. Whole-grain rye is part of our identity.” Kuusisto’s company, Nordic Breads, sells his chewy, nutty Finnish ruis bread throughout New York City. Peter Endriss of Brooklyn’s Runner & Stone also makes a deliciously tangy rye, including a Layman’s Rye that gets its intriguing sourness from the addition of pickle juice. “Nordic rye breads can really stand up to complex flavors,” Endriss says. “Pickled fish, smoked meats, strong cheeses—you can put almost anything on them.”

Homemade Bagels
Credit: © Con Poulos

Bread Trend: Bagels

The elements of a top-notch New York City–style bagel are simple to describe—a noticeable chew, a crisp crust and a slight malty flavor—but difficult to master. Now, young bakers around the country are putting the time and energy into making the real thing by hand-rolling the dough, proofing it, then boiling it in alkaline water before baking. Some, like part-time food writer David Kover of San Francisco’s Schmendricks and Zoe Nathan of L.A.’s Milo and Olive, are bagel purists; others are experimental. Portland, Oregon’s Bowery Bagels sells the wonderfully savory MSG bagel, flavored with miso, soy and ginger. Owner Michael Madigan defends his unorthodox flavor choice: “I think if Jewish immigrants had arrived in Portland in 2013 instead of the Lower East Side in 1900, they’d be making bagels with miso.”


Bread Trend: Global Flatbreads

It’s become relatively easy to find naan at supermarkets, but soon enough, we could be buying bags of Moroccan m’smen: Overlooked flatbreads from around the world are the baking world’s new fixation. At San Francisco’s Bar Tartine, chef Nicolaus Balla makes discs of langos, a Hungarian fried bread, while Minneapolis’s Rustica Bakery serves the lightly sweet cañadas de azucar, a Spanish-inspired flatbread made with olive oil and sugar. Producing what might be the most diverse selection of flatbreads is New York City’s Hot Bread Kitchen, which sells a wide assortment that includes the aforementioned m’smen (a buttery, flaky flatbread) and two Persian flatbreads, one sweet (nan-e qandi) and one savory (nan-e barbari).

Video: Great Breakfast Dishes