This cinnamon strudel ($6 per pound) was very moist despite being dairy-free, my dining buddy observed. Also available in poppy, chocolate, and one variety that appeared to be almost 50 percent raisins.
Though the name literally means "cheese bread," not every khachapuri contains cheese. Tear into a hot kubdari khachapuri ($5), for example, and you'll expose a thin layer of onion-laced pork. A minor disadvantage of such dairy-free fillings is slippage: Once you've taken a few bites, the pork tends to shimmy this way and that, and threatens to fall free.
At this tiny if well-stocked bakery and prepared-food counter, all orders are takeout orders, and yours will be carefully seated inside a pizza box that also serves as a catch basin for stray fillings. Best practice is to eat directly over the box, especially if you favor the red-bean-filled lobiani style. For the time being, Brooklyn's Georgian bakeries must make do with Italian-themed packaging, but can the day be far behind when khachapuri gets a takeout container of its own?
Looking north from Brighton Beach Ave., the green awning of Georgian Food and the little pocket of shops that surround it are barely within eyeshot. They've always seemed less enticing than the markets on the main drag; only because I was headed for the avenue, and walking south from Sheepshead Bay, did I find myself here one afternoon.
I was too late for fresh khachapuri, it seemed. Though the counterwoman's English was little better than my poor Russian (as for Georgian, fuhgeddaboudit), she managed to convey that this salad from the small display case featured beans, potato, and other tidbits, all stained by beet. She also called it a vinaigrette ($3.75, at $4.99 per pound), which perplexed me, since I could detect no such aroma. (Later I learned that in Russian-speaking communities vinaigrette is an umbrella name for chilled salads of this sort, though they contain not a drop of vinegar; etymology unclear.) And, in lieu of Georgian cheesebread, the counterwoman provided a lagniappe: half a shoti to fill out my meal.
Georgian Food (also known as Brick Oven Bread) 109 Brighton 11th St. (Oceanview-Brighton Beach Aves.), Brighton Beach, Brooklyn 718-676-0332
Turnip and water chestnut cakes (50 cents each). The first, which didn't have many add-ins (compare the superior version at Fong Inn Too), I bought mainly as a savory counterpoint to the second, which had the appearance, consistency, and sweetness of a Jell-O salad. Here and there in various Chinatowns I've come across similar items other flavors, almost always on weekend mornings. Sleep in and you'll miss them.
New Great Bakery 303 Grand St. (Eldridge-Allen Sts.), Manhattan 212-966-3318
The peanut shape is part of the charm of brand-name Nutter Butter cookies. Le Petit's namesake rendition ($3; also as a mini, $1.25) lacks those hourglass curves, but it compensates with a smoother, slightly sweeter, and much more generous filling.
Le Petit Bakery 354 Myrtle Ave. (Clinton Ave.-Adelphi St.), Fort Greene, Brooklyn 718-875-6500 www.LePetitBakery.com
The Baltimore Bomb (slice with whipped cream, $6.50) celebrates the Charm City's storied Berger cookies. These mounds of fudge frosting atop shortbread are hand-dipped, and notoriously irregular in appearance; melting the cookies and swirling them into a vanilla chess filling barely counts as deconstruction. One quibble: The crusts are made en masse for all the shop's pies, sweet and savory, vegan and not. This one wanted more pliability or less tensile strength.
Dangerously Delicious Pies 1339 H St. N.E. (14th St.-Linden Ct.), Washington, D.C. (one of several locations) 202-398-7437 www.DangerousPiesDC.com (From an Easter 2013 visit)
A pair of kolache (co-Lah-cheh, $3.85 each), in
poppy-seed and apricot. The first is a more common flavor of this Czech pastry, but the topping was scant; the second delivered a more traditional cradle of filling.
Bistro Bohem 600 Florida Ave. N.W. (at 6th St. N.W.), Washington, D.C. 202-735-5895 www.BistroBohem.com (From an Easter 2013 visit)
Everything bagels — this is not one of them — were most likely conceived independently by multiple bakers. An online search, which I leave to you, turns up several claimants to their creation and suggests the existence of many others. Common to the origin stories is a thrifty and sometimes whimsical desire to use up stray bits from batches of single-topping bagels: Poppy, sesame, onion, garlic, caraway, and salt are typical. Sometimes the everything bagel is encrusted almost completely.
Rather than a big scoop of what-have-you, East River Bread's seeded bagel ($2) owes its looks to forethought, careful selection, and balance. Onion and garlic are omitted; poppy, sesame, and caraway seeds are accompanied only by fennel and the occasional squarish flake of Maldon sea salt. Even more welcome is the banishment of bagel bloat; mine was not only firm but also possessed a discernible hole. On that score, East River's onion bagels look positively old-timey.
East River Bread www.EastRiverBread.com At Smorgasburg, 90 Kent Ave. (North 7th-North 8th Sts.), Williamsburg, Brooklyn Saturdays during the warmer months
This expansive Syrian market, bakery, cafe, and jewelry counter bakes a half-dozen personal pies to order, topped with meat, spinach, zaatar, or even the less common khishk ($2.49). Pronounced "kishk" or "kashk" and spelled with one "h" or two, the name can refer to a barley or wheat product, to yogurt and the like, or to a combination of cereal and dairy. Fattal's khishk, according to the counterman, has a yogurt base to which are added just olive oil, onion, and a little red pepper. The pepper is mainly for color, he added, not for spiciness; indeed, the overall flavor is sour.
Fattal's Bakery 977 Main St. (George St.-Gould Ave.), Paterson, New Jersey 973-742-7125
Mshabbak (muh-Sha-bagh, $2), like jalebi, are made of dough that is piped into hot oil and deep-fried, then dunked in syrup. Often the two pastries have a similar appearance, perhaps a dainty rosette, perhaps a random squiggle. Jalebi, however, are generally sticky and cloying. This Middle Eastern pastry was not tooth-achingly sweet, and in heft and crunch it resembled its New World cousin, the churro.
Nablus Sweets & Pastries 1050 Main St. (Michigan-Delaware Aves.), Paterson, New Jersey 973-881-8003
I confess to not knowing the price per pound of these Syrian date cookies; I was too busy securing a take-home sampler of the seven or eight varieties to keep proper track. The baklava were nearly as diverse, but a fellow can carry away just so many sweets.
Luna Bakery & Sweets 1071 Main St. (Delaware-Buffalo Aves.), Paterson, New Jersey 973-523-3000
Large, round, and cheese-filled is one way to make a khachapuri (Kotch-ah-Poor-ee), the best-known baked good in the country of Georgia and, perhaps, Brighton Beach. As my penovani khachapuri ($2) makes apparent, however, other sizes and shapes are possible. Indeed, at this month-old Georgian cafe, so are other fillings. More on this in future posts; many khachapuri are larger and meant to be shared, and this afternoon I had a table for four all to myself.
Also shown: nigvziani badrijani ($6.95), a cold appetizer of eggplant rolls stuffed with ground walnuts; garlic was one notable seasoning of many. I also appreciated the tartness, and occasional pop between the teeth, of whole pomegranate seeds.
Palm-sized spiral boreks ($4.50), from a baker of Turkish ancestry, forgo the usual trinity of ground meat, spinach, and brined cheese in favor of combinations such as pumpkin-spice-walnut and blue cheese-ricotta-date. This potato-almond-dill borek was freshest from the oven. Unlike one of the few other local joints than uses a potato filling, but mashes them, here the spuds are chunk-style. You might almost imagine home fries, except for the almond, the dill, and — on the tail end, at the back of your throat — roasted red pepper.
From the show-through where this black sesame and sticky rice cake ($1.75) had been sliced in two, I expected the Chinese equivalent of a marble rye. I also imagined that the sticky rice would be integrated in the crumb, not concealed as rubbery bands that, once bitten through, would slink back slowly toward the loaf. The taro cake, which promised no add-ins, might have been a less disconcerting choice.
QQ Cafe & Bakery 42-57 Main St. (Franklin-Blossom Aves.), Flushing, Queens 718-888-1990
This poppy loaf (half, $3.50), generously supplied with flavorful seeds, ventured outside the Polish pantry for a tropical tweak: shreds of coconut, within and without. Also shown: a cherry-apple crumb square (about $1.50).