- Orwashers has been making NYC’s most legendary bread since 1916.
- Today there are two brick-and-mortar locations plus a giant production facility in the Bronx that supplies restaurants and markets throughout the area.
- We visited the factory for a behind-the-scenes tour and learned how to make legendary bread alongside owner Keith Cohen.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: In the age of viral foods and molecular gastronomy, sometimes the world’s most basic staple food gets taken for granted. Sure, rainbow bagels are fun for the ‘gram, but to me, nothing beats the allure of a perfectly baked baguette or a sourdough fresh out of the oven. That’s why I set out to find the most legendary bread in New York City.Spencer: Hey guys, it’s Spencer, and today I’m at Orwashers Bakery. This place has been making some of the most legendary bread in New York City for over 100 years. Today, the owner, Keith, is actually gonna show me how they do it. I’m super nervous because I don’t cook. Let’s go!Narrator: Orwashers was founded in 1916 by Abraham Orwasher, a Hungarian immigrant determined to bring quality eastern European breads to his local community. Since being sold to its current owner in 2008, the business has expanded to two brick-and-mortar locations, plus a massive wholesale production facility, which makes bread for some of the biggest restaurants in NYC.
Himani (customer): This is definitely one of the best bakeries in New York City, and it’s our favourite bakery on the Upper West Side.[Off-camera]: Which one do you love?
Addison (customer): Peanut butter honey at Orwashers.
Addison’s dad: At Orwashers, right?
Addison: Don’t eat it, don’t eat it!
Addison’s dad: OK, do you wanna eat it?
Addison: No, no, no!
Addison’s Dad: OK, it’s all yours.
Narrator: To learn how Orwashers makes its legendary bread, I met up with owner Keith Cohen. His award-winning baguettes are mixed every morning at 5 a.m. and rest for over 24 hours before being shaped in a molder.
Spencer: Is it typical to shape the baguette with a machine instead of by your hand?
Keith: It is. I mean, for a home baker or very, very small bakery with limited space, you could easily do it by hand. This is a very efficient way, and for this particular baguette, it works very well.
Spencer: OK, I feel like I kinda wanna try one with my own hands, just to see if I can beat the machine. I mean…
Keith: Well, actually, you know what, we’re gonna have a contest.
Spencer: OK, I love a good contest.
Keith: We’re gonna have the super experienced baker, the mediocre baker, and the novice.
Spencer: All right, so I got my flour.
Spencer: Oh, it has a bubble.
Keith: That’s OK. That means there’s still air in the dough. It’s great. Wanna pop it?
Spencer: I don’t wanna pop it.
Keith: It’s not gonna be like the bubble wrap, you’re not gonna get the same amount of joy out of it.
Spencer: I really wanna pop it.Keith: You wanna try it, go for it.Spencer: So I’m just gonna…
Keith: You’re gonna start from the center.
Spencer: Start from the center…
Keith: And work your way out. You’re doing better than me.
Keith: And then we’re gonna bring it over to the couche, OK.
Spencer: The couche?
Keith: The couche. Flip my disaster over, and now I think John will come over and also try his hand, or hands, at it.
Spencer: Yeah, John, get in here. Oh, he’s gonna really show us up right now.
John: There’s many ways to shape a baguette. Many different ways, this is one of them.
John: So, same thing, it’s going to the couche.
Spencer: He made three in the time it took us to make one.
Spencer: But we have to see how they come out of the oven. I mean, it’s all about the finished product.
Keith: You’re correct.
Spencer: And a lot can happen in the oven, if I’ve learned anything from baking shows on Netflix.
Keith: See, these are more hand-shaped, I can tell.
Spencer: Yes, you can tell because they look not nearly as good as the ones from the machine.
Keith: Now that it’s cooled down, why don’t we see the inside of our handiwork?
Keith: OK, and we kind of know these were ours, why? Little bit longer, little skinnier, you can see the stretch marks, you can even see the flour.
Spencer: Look at that.
Spencer: Wow, still beautiful.
Keith: That is a combination of many things: our mixing technique, or less mixing, hydration, and fermentation. But you did a great job.
Spencer: And this actually isn’t it because this is just one small part of your operation, right?
Keith: That is correct. You think you’re tired now…
Spencer: Just wait?
Keith: Just wait till tomorrow.
Narrator: Although most locals think of Orwashers as a neighbourhood institution, the massive wholesale production facility is the real heart of the operation.
Spencer: You know, the hairnet’s a really good look on everyone.
Keith: I really like it, reminds me of a lunch lady.
Spencer: Exactly, that’s what you’re giving me right now, working it.
Keith: Well, in a couple years, I don’t think I’ll need the hairnet, so that makes things a little easier.
Spencer: How do we look?
Spencer: Ta-da! Pose, pose. You ready?
Narrator: The factory is split into three separate areas for mixing, shaping, and baking.
Keith: Much like yesterday, we are mixing in a far bigger mixer. This can make a lot of bread, a lot of dough.
Spencer: How many loaves do you think you’ll get out of something this size?
Keith: Well, I mean, right now we’re mixing a couple hundred pounds so could essentially get probably 150 loaves.
Spencer: That’s a lot of dough.
Narrator: Once the dough is mixed, it makes its way into the shaping room.
Narrator: Before the shaped dough is ready for the oven, it makes a pit stop to the humidity-controlled proofing room.
Keith: Here you go.
Spencer: Whoa. Oh, it’s like a sauna in here.
Keith: Well, not quite, I mean.
Spencer: It’s good ’cause it’s good for my pores, though.
Keith: So that is one of the secrets why our products are so good.
Narrator: After proofing and fermenting for various amounts of time, depending on the type of dough, everything eventually makes its final destination into the oven room.
Keith: Right, so you have your deck oven and your three convection ovens, or rack ovens, and this is where all the bread is baked, and then we move it a little bit over to cool it.
Spencer: So I have a question for you. At what point does dough become bread, is that in the oven?
Spencer: I know it’s kind of a very heady question.
Keith: It starts from the time you mix it, OK. It is once that yeast is added, and that organism starts to eat the sugars and starches, it is from the time of inception, really.
Narrator: After two full days of nothing but bread, I was exhausted and blissfully carbed out. But that didn’t stop me from taking one for the road.
Spencer: How about this guy right here?
Spencer: Is this mine, I can take him home with me?
Keith: It’s all yours.
Spencer: Fresh out of the oven, baked bread just for me? Oh, my God, that’s amazing!
Narrator: Pure heaven.
Spencer: Can I try that last little floop?
Keith: Yeah, take that and just put it right in the middle.
Spencer: All right, now “floop” is a technical term for it, right?
Keith: Fold, or floop, I’m not sure what floop is, but…
Spencer: It’s the same thing. It’s real, you should look it up.
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