The ultimate babka used to be our Holy Grail. Every one was dry or drippy, too chocolaty or not chocolaty enough, oversweet or underweight, excessively cakelike or a dolled-up loaf of bread. Then we went to Cheskie Heimishe Bakery in the old Jewish neighborhood of Montreal, known as Mile End, and found what we had been looking for.
We almost didn't notice the babka because we were so entranced by Cheskie's poppy-seed ruggelah, which we devoured as the counter girl rang up the sale and give us change. But when we saw the babka on a back shelf, even the ruggelah lost its hold. Huge and heavy, it is as intricate as a mille feuille pastry, countless microthin layers of soft dough ribboned with strata of profound chocolate. There is no place to sit and eat at Cheskie's, so we bought half a loaf and carried it around the corner to the Olimpico coffee bar, ordered cups of first-class espresso streaked with foam, and plotzed with the pleasure of an ad hoc breakfast.
"If you hate chocolate, don't get Cheskie's babka. It's veined with it to the max. A whole one is a mighty hefty brick. Even a half, which we brought to the nearby espresso shop, was more than enough to make breakfast for two."
"Gooey, sticky, moist, sweet and immensely satisfying, these fruit and poppy-seed ruggelah are one of coffee's great companions."
"Cheskie's bakery is indeed heimishe, which is a hard-to-translate Yiddish word that means friendly, kind and accommodating. "