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Babka Is the New Bagel

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Credit: Alex Lau

Babka is just like Taylor Swift during her country music period (bear with us here): a niche figure ready for the crossover to mainstream star. This is good news to anyone who's been with this deli fixture since whatever the Jewish equivalent is of that song "Tim McGraw." As die-hard fans know, babka could not be more suited for a mass audience. When made right, classic babka has a moist, buttery (not dry!) yeasted dough that's somewhere between challah and coffee cake, which gets swirled with unseemly amounts of gooey chocolate, and is then tucked into a loaf pan, where it's usually topped with crumbly streusel. (A cinnamon variety is also common, but as Seinfeld fans know, any version without chocolate is a "lesser babka.")

Now bakers are giving babka its due--and upping the ante, using croissant dough, lacquering the top with a rich ganache, and even experimenting with ice cream sandwiches. Let's call it babka's big break.

Here are 5 inventive outcomes of the renaissance:

What to do with leftover babka? San Francisco's Wise Sons Deli chops it, dehydrates it, serves it with milk and strawberries, and calls it cereal.

Ice Cream Sandwiches
Russ & Daughters Cafe in NYC sandwiches ice cream (with babka in it!) between circles of house-made babka.

NYC's Dough braids its standard doughnut dough into a hybrid called--yes--the doughka. Two signature flavors, Mexican chocolate and sticky banana-pecan, can be found year-round.

Credit: Courtesy of HotChocolate

Mindy's Hot Chocolate in Chicago twists apple-and-cheddar-flecked dough into muffin tins for babka buns.

Credit: Courtesy of General Muir

Bread Pudding
At the General Muir in Atlanta, cubes of babka are soaked in custard, then baked.

Get our recipe for chocolate babka (or let someone else do the work: Breads Bakery ships one of New York's best nationwide).