Photo by Deb Lindsey

Traditional Baguette at Fresh Baguette

Soon after Florent de Felcourt opened Fresh Baguette in Bethesda in 2013 (he opened his fourth location in February in Alexandria, Virginia), his baguettes gained a reputation as among the best in the area. He makes four kinds (pictured on opposite page, from left: super seed, traditional, sesame and another loaf of traditional; not pictured: rustic), all with organic flour. They are leavened with sourdough starter instead of yeast and then fermented slowly in the refrigerator for 24 hours before being formed, proofed and baked on stone. The slow fermentation is what gives these loaves—crunchy on the outside, slightly dense on the inside—the edge, flavor-wise. ($3.70 to $4.50)

Fresh Baguette
4919 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda; 804 Hungerford Drive, Rockville; 888-648-0009,

Challah at Great Harvest Bread Co.

Montana-based Great Harvest Bread Co. calls its stores freedom franchises, meaning the owners run them as autonomous mom and pop operations but have access to resources (such as business or recipe advice) from the mothership. Soon after Dan and Heather Gottfredson opened their Great Harvest in Rockville in 1996, they made challah, per the company’s suggestion, with half rye and half wheat flour. Their Jewish customers quickly set them straight, telling them, no, it must be white bread with a yellowish hue from egg yolks, not food coloring. They nailed the recipe, sweetened slightly with honey, and now sell 250 to 300 plain challahs—by far their bestseller—on a typical Friday. Plain challah: $7.85; golden raisin, cinnamon chip or butterscotch chip: $8.75; honey whole wheat: $7.45.

Great Harvest Bread Co.
12268 Rockville Pike, #A, Rockville; 301-770-8544,


Coconut Raisin Bread at Bread Corner

Slicing this round loaf in half reveals a tender dough dotted with raisins and rife with swirls of coconut flakes. “It’s a typical Asian-style dough,” says Neil Li, who co-owns the Rockville bakery with master baker Danny Song, “which means it’s sweeter and moister than European-style bread.” The dough is made with high-gluten flour, sugar, honey and butter. It’s delicious as is or toasted, but otherworldly as French toast. ($8.50)

Bread Corner
591 Hungerford Drive, Rockville; 240-328-6547,


Photo by Deb Lindsey

Russian Pumpernickel at Breads Unlimited

“Bread is like meat. You have to marinate it,” says Jose Molina, who worked for 26 years as a baker at Breads Unlimited in Bethesda, which opened in 1981, before buying the bakery two years ago. For his Russian pumpernickel bread, Molina refrigerates the dough—made with rye flakes, white rye flour, caraway seeds, dried onion flakes, caramel coloring and 60-year-old sourdough starter—overnight so the flavors of the tall sandwich loaves mature and intensify before baking. This bread is a perfect foil for Reuben sandwiches. ($5.95)

Breads Unlimited
6914 Arlington Road, Bethesda; 301-656-2340,


Gluten-Free Ancient Grain Bread at The Red Bandana Bakery

This lightly dense loaf is loaded with three coarsely ground ancient grains (millet, amaranth and sorghum) that imbue the bread with nuttiness and whole-grain texture. “The dough also contains garbanzo and fava bean flour and is totally vegan—no eggs, milk or butter—which is unique for a gluten-free bread, which often relies on eggs,” owner Jamie Mertz says. It’s a great sandwich bread and gives avocado toast a definite upgrade. ($12)

The Red Bandana Bakery
8218 Wisconsin Ave., #101, Bethesda; 240-284-6523,