“You can’t beat a babka!”
It was no less a luminary than than Elaine Benes of Seinfeld who said “you can’t beat a babka” when it comes to host gifts. Babka, that twisted, sweet bread filled with chocolate and cinnamon, has a mystical ability to make your day about ten times brighter, even before you take a bite. Seriously, cut a slice and tell me those swirls don’t bring you joy. Whether you eat it warm and melty or cold and fudgy, you can’t go wrong with a babka on a brunch table. While you can of course make your own babka, this bread is one of the few items I choose to go store-bought. Not just any store, mind you. For babka, it’s Breads Bakery or bust.
Breads Bakery is a popular Manhattan bakery that has been churning out incredible challah, baguettes, tuna fish sandwiches (just trust me), and, yes, babka, since 2013. I’m pretty sure I have about three half-devoured Breads Bakery babkas in my freezer at any given time. People bring them as gifts when I host brunch, or I bring one and get sent home with leftovers. Sometimes I pick up a fresh one on my way home from work for lazy Sunday mornings, just for the heck of it.
When I'm choosing a babka to bring to a brunch, I go chocolate. With a Belgian chocolate and Nutella filling, you really can’t go wrong. Of course, there are times (like in that fateful episode of Seinfeld) when someone gets the last chocolate babka. That’s when you go cinnamon. Breads makes their cinnamon babka with raisins and walnuts (and cinnamon, duh). Is it as good as the chocolate? Not quite, but it’s unlikely that anyone will be mad at it. Of course, from my experience, Breads understands just how important it is to make chocolate babka in excess, and I’ve never walked into the bakery to find it sold out.
I live in Manhattan, so detouring to pick up a babka at the Breads flagship in Union Square takes me just about half an hour. I’ve also seen these babkas for sale at several other bakers and gourmet grocery stores around the city. However, if you don’t live in here and can plan in advance, Breads does ship babkas nationwide. Whether you’re heading to someone’s vacation home for the weekend or popping over to a bud’s house for brunch, bring a babka. I can already hear your host shrieking with glee.