Signature Bakery Items: Chocolate Babka

One signature item can do wonders for the success of your bakery, and for a notable New York City bakery that item is babka.

The resurgence of babka’s popularity in major metro areas like New York can be attributed to a commitment to high quality ingredients and traditional techniques that are practiced and perfected by bakers like Uri Scheft, one of the founders of Breads Bakery in 2012.

Since the initial opening, Breads Bakery has expanded to three locations: its original Union Square store, a Bryant Park kiosk, and a Lincoln Center location that opened in 2016.

At Breads Bakery, babkas are baked at least three times a day. They are covered in sugar syrup and feature a crisp, burnished crust. The rich interior remains moist for days. In 2015, Breads Bakery won the unofficial title for “best babka” in New York City.

Appealing to the convenience demanded by today’s consumers, their chocolate babka, which is made with dark chocolate and hazelnut spread, can be ordered online for $14.95 apiece. Breads Bakery also makes a cinnamon babka filled with cinnamon and raisins.

Jewish babka’s history spans centuries and the width of the Atlantic, according to Bread Through History. As a bread that has become an emblem of an immigrant group, the humble babka’s roots reflect the history both of the Eastern European shtetls and the early 20th century Lower East Side tenements. How many deserts can claim such a complex past?

Many theories cloud the origins of babka. It is the distant descendant of communion breads eaten in Slavic regions around Easter. Yet another explanation exists: according to a 2009 article in The Atlantic, historian and food writer Lesley Chamberlain believes that babka came up from Italy, brought by Queen Bona Sforza of Poland in the 16th century and developed into a Russified version of the typical Italian pannetone.

Babka means “little grandmother” in Ukrainian, Russian, and Eastern European Yiddish, according to Bread Through History. It is also known that babka was adopted by actual “babas” (grandmothers) in the shtetls of Eastern Europe. Most likely because a version of babka could be made with leftover challah dough, making babka a delicious yet thrifty indulgence. The babka of the shtetls was quite different from modern day babka. Instead of being filled with chocolate or cinnamon, the earliest Jewish babkas were probably filled with nuts such as walnuts and seeds such as poppy.