Category Archives: Uri Scheft

Babka

Eli's Chocolate an Raisin Nut Babkas (New York City) - Photo Courtesy of Eli's

Eli’s Chocolate and Raisin Nut Babkas (New York City) – Photo Courtesy of Eli’s

Babka is a sweet yeast cake that’s quite adaptable. According to King Arthur Flour and The New York Times, Babka (or Baba) is commonly served on Easter Sunday in many Eastern European countries and is typically baked in a fluted round tube pan.  An Americanized Eastern European Jewish version, filled with cinnamon or chocolate and topped with streusel is more like a coffee cake.  It’s often baked in a loaf pan and while it’s not a Chanukah dish, it’s often served at Chanukah.

How popular is Babka?

Zucker Bakery's Chocolate Babka

Zucker Bakery’s Chocolate Babka (New York City) – Photo Courtesy of Zucker Bakery

Melissa Feit, a baker and co-owner of New York-based Zucker Bakery, reports “Our [Chocolate] Babka has always been a bakery favorite, but it recently became more popular due to an article written about it on the Serious Eats blog.  Since then, our production has greatly increased.  We’ve talked about adding more varieties in the near future (possibly including Orange, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, etc.).  As far as trends, the weekends become busy when people partake in brunches.  And of course, holidays!”

And when both Chocolate and Cinnamon are in the Babka line-up, which is more popular?

Greens & Ackermans' Round Cinnamon Babka (New York City) - Photo Courtesy of Greens & Ackermans

Greens & Ackermans’ Round Cinnamon Babka (New York City) – Photo Courtesy of Greens & Ackermans

At Greens & Ackermans, a bakery based in New York with online sales, Chocolate is the more popular Babka variety.  Both the Chocolate and Cinnamon Babka are available in different sizes – ranging from a Mini to a Full-Size Loaf to an even larger Round Babka.  And Greens is experimenting with new Babka flavors.  An interesting trend relayed by Greens:  Babka is becoming increasingly popular for corporate gifts.

How has Babka been gussied up?

Chocolate Babka from Breads Bakery

Chocolate Babka from Breads Bakery (New York City) – Photo Courtesy of Breads Bakery

New York-based Breads Bakery has won acclaim for its Chocolate Babka.  What’s in it?  Nutella and Chocolate Chips.  Breads Bakery’s Uri Scheft said he likes taking classic pastries and putting his unique twist on them.  For the Jewish New Year he adds apple to Babka.  (Note: on the Jewish New Year, apples are often dipped in honey to symbolize the wish for a Happy New Year.)  And around special holidays Uri has added other ingredients, such as halvah (a sweet confection made of crushed sesame seeds and honey) to Babka.  (Also see the Dessert Surveillance posting on Breads Bakery.)

I’d love to see a Babka with White Chocolate, but then again I love White Chocolate!

Entrepreneur Profile: Breads Bakery: A Global Bakery in New York

Outside of Breads Bakery

Outside of Breads Bakery

What happens when a master Israeli baker with Danish roots is one of the owners of a Manhattan bakery?  Luckily, you get Breads Bakery — a new purveyor of breads and pastries that helps New Yorkers forget about their diets and pledges to eat healthy.

Uri Scheft, of Breads Bakery

Uri Scheft, of Breads Bakery

Uri Scheft crafts desserts that span a variety of cultures.  There are Babka (sweet yeast cakes) and Rugelach (crescent-shaped cookies made from a cream cheese dough), typically associated with Eastern European and German Jewish baking.  But there are also French-inspired Almond Croissants and Chocolate Croissants.  And in a nod to the petite dessert trend, there are small desserts – Mini White Chocolate Tarts as well as Mini Lemon Meringue Tarts.

Chocolate Babka, from Breads Bakery

Chocolate Babka, from Breads Bakery

I put a few questions to Uri Scheft and these are the questions and his answers:

Since you were used to baking in Israel, what are the unique challenges of running a U.S. bakery?

I had to sample many different flours before I found the perfect one for my breads and pastries.  The water is also different here but the flavors that people love are the same.  We haven’t needed to alter any of our signature items to cater to the American clientele.

What characterizes your pastry baking at Breads Bakery?

I love taking classic pastries and putting my unique twist on them.  An example is altering the flavor of a classic Babka to become seasonal.  I added apple to the Babka for the Jewish New Year. [Note: on the Jewish New Year, apples are often dipped in honey to symbolize the wish for a Happy New Year.]

Which of your dessert items are especially popular?

Our Chocolate Babka has won rave reviews by foodies and customers throughout the City.  He also noted that the Almond Croissant is very popular and he said he’s “extremely humbled by the success we have received on these particular items.”

Bread Bakery's Almond Croissant

Bread Bakery’s Almond Croissant

Are there plans to offer other white chocolate pastries?  I’ve enjoyed your Mini White Chocolate Tarts.

One specific white chocolate item is the Alfajor [sandwich cookies, often associated with South America].  And I’m constantly updating our menu to feature different items.

Mini White Chocolate Tart from Breads Bakery

Mini White Chocolate Tart from Breads Bakery

It’s a good thing I don’t live that close to Breads Bakery — this way I burn off calories walking there and back!

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