“I love cheesecake,” says Gadi Peleg, owner of Breads Bakery (18 East 16th Street; 212-633-2253). “I love it plain — classic, nothing better — but sometimes it’s good to showcase something that’s a bit more unusual, you know?”
That’s where Breads Bakery’s “Cheesecake May” comes in. Each week throughout the month, the bakery will feature a new confection. During the third week, keep an eye out for a cheesecake version of their famed chocolate babka.
Yes, that’s right. Cheesecake chocolate babka is happening.
“We started the festival last May, because of the Jewish holiday Shavuot,” explains Peleg. “We always eat cheesecake then. And we wanted to make the holiday more inclusive to everybody. Of course, this year the holiday is in June, but we thought May needed cheesecake more.”
In the first week of Cheesecake May, look for the strawberry cheesecake: a creamy no-bake classic, layered with berry compote and streusel, artfully arranged in a mason jar. Seemingly built for Instagram, this strawberry cheesecake is dominating social media like Taylor Swift holding her kittens. But the countdown is on — by Monday it will be gone.
“People like to have an individual portion, but it’s hard to make a slice look good — especially if it’s to go,” Peleg says of the strawberry cheesecake. “We thought a lot about that, and one of our bakers suggested using mason jars. We always have them around in the kitchen. I think the cheesecake looks beautiful…and it’s practical. You can control the amount of compote you want with each bite better, and if you had the willpower, you could easily screw the lid and save some for later. Still who would do that? Strong people might do that. Nobody I know!”
Meanwhile, preparations for week two of Cheesecake May are already underway. “We’re going to be doing a ‘Purple Rain’ cheesecake tribute to Prince,” says Peleg. “It’s a baked blueberry cheesecake, and it’s great. Trust me. I actually had a sample for breakfast this morning!” The Prince-themed cake will be available in individual slices and a ten-inch cake.
If anything could distract from the imminent arrival of chocolate babka cheesecake, the “Purple Rain” blueberry cheesecake would be it. And yet…we’re already thinking of May 16 when the babka gets a mini-makeover.
“Yes,” Peleg chuckles. “It tastes really good. At least, I think so! I hope people are going to like it. I’m excited to see.”
Preparations for the festival began back in January, when Breads’ team of bakers presented their ideas and did a tasting. “They collaborate with each other and try different ideas…and we all eat a lot of cheesecake!” Peleg reminisces happily.
“Obviously people think of us as a bakery, but we actually sell a lot of cheesecake year-round,” says Peleg. “It’s an important part of what we do. We have a classic New York version that — I’ll say it — I think you could put up against any cheesecake in town. We’re really proud of it. But even so, it’s fun to try new flavors sometimes.”
And if you miss one of Breads’ Cheesecake May confections, don’t fret.
“Although we’re only doing each special cheesecake for one week…to finish the festival in the first week of June, I think we’ll do all the flavors together, so people can have another chance to try one if they want to,” Peleg reassures us. “Or bring a group of friends and share them all!”
These are exciting times, fellow cheesecake and chocolate babka lovers. Very exciting times.