The promise of a bakery that sold both alfajores (the South American sweet filled with dulce de leche) and fruity-nutty Jewish staple rugelach sounded too good to be true. So we recently stopped by Zucker Bakery (433 East 9th Street, 646-559-8425), which opened a few weeks ago. Needless to say, we got our cookie on.
The bakery, which is kosher, takes up a small storefront in the East Village, with a couple of chairs and small tables for a country-living-room vibe (similar to the nearby Podunk). A counter overlooking the kitchen in the back displays the cookies available for purchase. Never one to shy away from cookie options, we went for a sampling of the goods.
Up first was the rugelach. Filled with dates and nuts and lightly sprinkled with sugar, this cookie was good, if slightly less sweet than the rugelach we’re used to — not that that’s a bad thing. Nicely spiced; we could see this accompanying a warm cuppa tea (or Stumptown coffee, which Zucker sells).
Also on the lower end of the sweetness scale was the chocolate bun. Soft and squishy with just a touch of sugar coating on top, this is sort of like a mini babka.
We also tried the “love cake,” which was chock-full of dried apricots, hazelnuts, and almonds. It was probably our least favorite, but if you like fruitcake, you might be into it.
The cookie that took our top honors was the alfajor because, really, how can you do wrong with dulce de leche and coconut? Right, you can’t. It’s on the small side, but makes up for it in sweetness and all-around deliciousness.
Zucker also offers a selection of savory cookie-crackers. We were taken with the idea of crackers filled with za’atar, the Mediterranean spice blend of hyssop, dried thyme, seasame seeds, and sumac. For $5, you can get six of the crackers along with a small container of labne (a super thick strained Middle Eastern yogurt) topped with more za’atar and a few unpitted olives. While the za’atar and labne flavor pairing is spot-on, it’s a little odd scooping the crackers into the dip, but would make for a good snack if you were searching for something healthier than, say, a bag of chips.
All the above sweets and savory crackers came to a total of $10, with individual items priced at about $1 to $2 — pretty reasonable, though it’s important to keep in mind that the cookies here are smaller than ones at other bakeries around the city. But the selection is unique and feels very personal, and, indeed, many of the cookie recipes come from owner Zohar Zohar’s friends and relatives. A portrait of a life, in cookies.