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Eat, Drink + Think

Former Breads Bakery Chef Is Opening A Rival Bakery In The Lower East Side

A new Lower East Side bakery might give beloved Breads — winner of multiple Forward Food Choice Awards — a run for its money.

That’s because Michaeli Bakery, which opened this month on Division Street near Chinatown, is the baby of Adir Michaeli, Breads’ longtime executive pastry chef. Before moving to New York City in 2013, Michaeli also ran the pastry department at Lehamim, Breads’ Tel Aviv progenitor.

In his white-tiled, breezily modern space, Michaeli has loaded clear display cases with plump crullers, flaky burekas, rich rugelach, and buttery croissants. The bakery’s also tempting passers-by with whimsical treats like log cakes in flavors like Black Forest and Coconut Mango, and – on Fridays – pillowy challah.

We know what you’re thinking: What about rugelach and babka? Michaeli’s got them in multiple varieties, though we can’t yet vouch for their tastiness vs. the legendary renditions at Breads.

After what his PR called a “super-busy” start for the bakery, the Forward managed to catch up with Michaeli, who took three years since leaving Breads to bring Michaeli Bakery to life.

Why choose this location, which has a lot of history, but isn’t as high-traffic as, say, Union Square? I always wanted my bakery to be in a neighborhood and the Lower East Side is a great one.

What’s going to distinguish the babka, challah, and rugalach at Michaeli? I’ve managed to distinguish both our babka and rugalach with my own tweaks. When I joined the original Lehamim [Breads’ Israeli progenitor] ten years ago, I told [founder Uri Scheft] ‘I will work to perfect every single item under my responsibility.’ At the time, the chocolate babka was too greasy and heavy, and after 2 years I finally figured out that using 20% less butter would solve the problem while keeping the inside moist.  For the rugalach, it started as a solution to re-using the leftover dough. It took 8 tries to get the perfect result, using dark chocolate and Nutella.   Did any recipes from your childhood or family influence the way you baked at Breads, and the way you’re baking at Michaeli? Not really recipes, but memories. When I was a kid I was in love with burikitas and rugalach. I remember eating 8 rugalach straight, just not being able to stop…even till this day can’t help it. 

Breads has consistently won “best of” spots for its babka, including on our lists. Will you be competing with them? Breads was part of me and I’m not competing with anyone, just doing what I like to do. It’s satisfying to hear their products are still high quality. 

****Can you tell us about the design of the bakery? From the pictures, looks like you took a very classic approach, with white tiles and clear display cases.** I actually wanted all the space look like a factory, without any tiles or nice lighting. Anat, my partner said “over my dead body…” since she really likes plants and wood accents. 

For the Jewish holidays, can we expect a Michaeli Bakery twist on, say, hamentaschen or sufganiyot? Sure, tradition is important for me. Since the bakery is classic Israeli-style making these holidays items will be an integral part. We will also make festive chocolate products for American holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Also, I’m planning to launch a brand new product this fall. I can’t say much about it at this moment, but I promise it will be one of the most delicious items you ever tasted. 

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