Being Jewish, we pretty much come about our food obsessions naturally. Look at the recently-celebrated holiday of Purim, for instance, which revolves around defiantly chowing down on hamantaschen — tri-cornered, jam or chocolate-centered cookies, meant to symbolize the malevolent Haman’s hat. And while we’ve long rebelled against Jewish staples such as gefilte fish or derma (or any assortment of animal parts submerged in gelatin or bound with intestine, really), we’ve remained steadfast in our fondness for the Chosen People’s sweets. Which is why we’re loathe to limit our consumption to only a handful of sporadic, culturally-prescribed times, and thus, have dutifully compiled a go-to, year-round guide, of where to reliably find the best babka, hamantaschen, macaroons and rugelach in Brooklyn.
Babka: Often enjoyed during Rosh Hashanah, to symbolize hopes for a “sweet” new year, this braided, streusel-stopped yeast bread is basically just a vessel for insane amounts of chocolate (or cinnamon, if you actually side with Jerry on the famous Seinfeld debate). And the 30-year old Bed Stuy-based company, Green’s, is the city’s largest supplier, shipping its loaves to major retailers like Whole Foods, Fairway and Garden of Eden, while Lilly’s Bakery Shop in Dyker Heights is behind the supremely fudgy “Brooklyn” babka at Trader Joe’s. And even though it’s only currently offered at the Flatiron outpost of Dough, we’d cross the Red Sea for Fany Gerson’s Cronut-shaming Doughka; an ingenious merger of babka and donut in three irresistible variations; Mexican Chocolate, Lemon & Olive Oil, and Sticky Banana.
Hamantaschen: Leave it to the Jews to spin a tale of thwarted genocide into a winning (and again, preferably chocolate-filled) dessert. And although hamantaschen are most widely available during Purim, you can nibble on our oppressors hat year round, at places like Isaac’s Bake Shop in Midwood (browse the stacks of apricot, prune, and raspberry-dolloped triangles, while you wait for your pie at DiFara’s), Sander’s Kosher Bakery in Williamsburg, which boasts an unusual blueberry option, and Gombo’s Heimishe Bakery near the Brooklyn Museum, which excels with their cocoa-topped cookie.
Rugelach: One of the greatest Jewish innovations since stainless steel, these crescent-shaped cookies are made with a fantastically rich and flaky cream cheese-based dough, coiled around everything from cinnamon and sugar, to jam and chopped nuts to (you guessed it!) indulgent ribbons of chocolate. You never have to go a day without rugelach if you live in Park Slope, thanks to Erica’s dedicated shop on 4th Street, not to mention the Nutella-filled treats available at 5th Avenue’s Du Jour Bakery. And how can you not love the unique Clementine & Ginger rugelach at Shelsky’s in Cobble Hill, named after owner Peter Shelsky’s two adorable young daughters?
Macaroons: Why should pretentious, pastel French macarons get all the love, when, if you ask us, these sticky pyramids of coconut provide the only persuasive argument for willingly abstaining from gluten? Not like you need to wait for Passover in order to enjoy traditional Jewish macaroons—we love the (chocolate!)-dipped clusters at Baked, the almond-scented, Sephardic-style cookies at Mansoura, and of course, the range of choices from Smorgasburg vet and retail supplier, Danny Macaroons, which run the gamut from Salted Caramel to Peanut Butter & Jelly to Black Chocolate Stout.