A new, immediately praised French bakery that opens on the ground floor of an office tower sounds pretty alright when you work in midtown, the mecca of office drones. But the tower is actually in Tribeca, which means it’s too far to visit over a lunch hour. And the bakery—Arcade—is only open Monday to Friday, which means the possibility of ever visiting becomes severely reduced. For the most part, this is fine, a non-issue. I’m largely indifferent to viennoiserie, good bread can be found at many other places, and the pizza the bakery is becoming known for doesn’t have much pull in a city full of good pizza. But when I read that they make a “laminated” baguette, it quickly went to the top of my list for a day-off lunch. Because despite indifference to the croissant, I am all for trying a bread type made for butter being wrapped in a pastry made largely of butter. I adore the simplicity of a baguette with butter, but I am open to handling the decadence of it being wrapped in it, too.
My photos aren’t the greatest at showing its structure, but Arcade’s laminated baguette is essentially, that: yeasted bread wrapped in laminated, croissant-like pastry. The interior crumb of the baguette is tighter and (obviously) more buttery than a traditional baguette. But you can see a difference between the exterior flaky layers and the interior soft bread. For someone like me, who tends to bleed gluten, it was magical. The lamination meant flaky shards appeared when the crust was breached, but they weren’t as abundant as with a traditional croissant. And the crumb wasn’t as chewy as a traditional baguette, but the flavour more than made up for it. Arcade offers a choice of laminated baguettes, either salted or seeded with an “everything” mix. I went for the former.
I would have been very happy setting myself up back at home with the baguette and a stick of butter, but I put in some extra effort when I saw that my local Whole Foods had some European-style ham in stock. I could not inhale this take on a jambon beurre fast enough. Salt and fat in all the best forms brought together by an extraordinary bread baton.
To add insult to injury, or to make this one rare visit to Arcade worth it, I also bought a slice of their speculoos babka. While there might actually be speculoos butter or crushed cookies in the filling, I got more of the sense that Arcade used all the gingerbread-like spices of the famous cookie rather than just the products themselves to make this bread. This was a good thing in my opinion because it was bolder in flavour and more creative. It was reminiscent of speculoos without tasting like they just loaded a loaf with a Trader Joe confection. As I got an end slice, it wasn’t as moist or as full of filling as a middle one might be. My intention was to eat a portion as dessert and restrain myself enough to freeze the rest, but I couldn’t stop going back for more, pulling at the chewy bread and dipping my fingers in the spiced filling. My freezer never had a chance.