Babka is like manna to me. A lot of sweet, a lot of bread, all amazing. And, as any true New York babka fan knows, the most delicious variety comes from Green’s. Oh, you say you prefer Zabar’s or maybe Russ & Daughters or even Dean & Deluca? Green’s, each and every one. The company supplies its babka to some of the best shops in the city and to Whole Foods stores across the country. These businesses often repackage the loaf in their own wrapping.
What makes Green’s so delicious is what I like to call the “goo-to-bread ratio.” Though a dry, flaky babka has its place, Green’s ups the ante with pillow-y bread and layer-upon-layer of gooey chocolate. Seriously, there is so much chocolate! What keeps it from being a sugar bomb is the slight savoriness of the yeasty dough. For a girl who likes her carbs and her chocolate, it is perfection.
But I digress. There are new babka purveyors in town. Both helmed by Israeli-born chefs, Zucker and Breads Bakeries are bringing a dose of refinement to traditional Jewish delicacies with modern takes on rugelach, babka and other treats. It’s hard to succinctly describe these shops, as both serve a variety of genre-crossing baked goods.
How do their babkas stack up?
Our first entry is from Zucker. This babka is the Pillsbury Grands biscuit of babkas–so many layers! Also, I was lucky enough to get it warm, right out of the oven. As you can see, I couldn’t resist trying it before I was able to get it home.
Verdict: This babka is for those looking for a subtle dessert. Something with tea, perhaps? Or as toast for breakfast? There was not a lot of sweetness to the bread, and even with the nearly infinite layers, I had a hard time tasting the chocolate. The “goo” factor is minimal. It’s a formidable contender, but probably wouldn’t satisfy my (very ferocious) sweet tooth in a dessert emergency.
Our next entry is from Breads.
Verdit: This more experimental babka (recently named New York magazine’s best chocolate babka) couldn’t be more different from our previous entry. The bread is soft, sweet and buttery and though there aren’t as many layers, the chocolate chips and Nutella are spread thick. I only had to eat one slice to feel satiated. The best part, though, is the crust. It’s coated in a sugar syrup, which adds an appealing crispiness. This is for the ferocious sweet tooth. Something about it–maybe the butteriness and texture?–makes it read more oversized French pastry than babka. But what a delicious oversized French pastry it is!
Final assessment: Breads Bakery’s babka wins with its contrasting textures and intense chocolate and Nutella flavor.
To me, though, Green’s is still king. And long may he reign.
Zucker Bakery, 433 E. 9th St., nr. Ave. A; 646-559-8425
Breads Bakery, 18 E. 16th St., nr. Union Sq. W.; 212-633-2253