From babkas to black and white cookies, and challah to honey cakes, few food cultures are as emblematic of New York as Jewish baked goods. This bakery scene in NYC reflects the many Jewish communities in the city, including diverse enclaves of the Upper East and West Side, the ultra-Orthodox in South Williamsburg, the Sephardic community in Flatbush, and the Bukharian community in Forest Hills. Modern interpreters like Breads and Michaeli Bakery sell buttery, croissant-like babka, and storied shops like Sander’s trace their roots to the mid-20th century, showcasing recipes that generations of customers have grown up on.
To experience these bakeries is to taste sweet and savory pastries that are steeped in tradition yet ever-evolving — and to share in the long and rich history of the Jewish diaspora. “Jewish baked goods are so closely tied to particular Jewish cultures, religious practices, and palates,” explains author Rabbi Joshua Plaut, Ph.D., of the American Friends of Rabin Medical Center in downtown Manhattan.
If you’re using this guide for a specific Jewish holiday, please look at the individual bakeries' websites to see if they meet your religious requirements.
John Tsung is a cultural writer and multidisciplinary artist whose work explores immigrant narratives and the Asian American experience, among other themes. You can find his work here.