Yeasty, buttery, tightly coiled with generous ripples of Nutella throughout, this babka might very well have stolen my heart, not to mention my stomach.
It’s the handiwork of Shuk Shuka, a San Francisco online marketplace and kitchen specializing in Middle Eastern foodstuffs.
“Shuk” means “market” in both Hebrew and Arabic. Founder Inon Tzadok, who grew up in Israel and Yemen wanted to evoke the traditional flavors of Middle Eastern market stalls in his products. His sister, baker Yael Tzadok is responsible for the wonderful baked goods.
Once a popular pop-up, it now has packaged its delicious products and made them available for delivery around San Francisco and to Oakland, Berkeley, Marin and as far south as Palo Alto. Delivery cost is $10, but free with orders over $100. Curbside pickup is also available at select locations listed on its website.
Last week, the company dropped off samples for me to try. The heart of the product line is a variety of jarred dips (each 9 ounces for $9.99). It pays to enjoy a couple of them at once so you can experience the fun of mixing and matching.
Feel the Beet Hummus boasts a vibrant fuchsia color from beets in the mix of chickpeas, tahini, sumac, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. It’s thick, creamy, a little earthy, and a touch sweet. It will brighten up anything you spread it on.
The Greenest Tahini combines the sesame seed sauce with plenty of herbs for a fresh-from-the-garden taste. It’s so flavorful that it saves you the trouble of making your own sauce from regular tahini. Drizzle it on any kind of vegetable or grain salad.
Goat Cheese Labneh sports smooth little balls of cheese made of drained goat’s milk yogurt afloat in olive oil seasoned with za’atar, chili, oregano, and green olives. Spread the cheese on grilled bread to enjoy. And save the olive oil in the jar for drizzling on all manner of things — green salads, grilled veggies, chickpeas, or a whole roasted fish. The oil, with the slightest kick of heat, adds oomph to anything it touches.
Spicy Kick Zhug is just as the name implies — a hot sauce with a good amount of heat. It’s referred to as the Yemenite chimichurri, as it’s chunky and herbaly with plenty of chopped cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, and olive oil. It would make any sandwich more special or give everyday breakfast eggs newfound personality.
I was encouraged to use the Beautiful Sister Challah ($8.99 for a small) as a canvas for all the dips. At first, that sounded eyebrow-raising since challah typically has a sweet taste. Made with vanilla and sugar, this one is no exception. But darned if it didn’t work well. The small version, round like a mini panettone, is tender and fluffy. There’s sweetness, but not too much, so it does play well with savory dips.
I actually had enough willpower to save the Yalla Chocolate Babka ($14.99 for a small) for last. It’s very layered, with an almost danish-like texture. Because it uses Nutella, this chocolate filling is not as dense and separate seeming as in other babkas. Instead, this filling is so creamy that it and the bread form a thoroughly cohesive unit, so you get some of both in every single bite without any annoying air pockets of nothingness. This babka has got the heft of a bread and the decadence of a fine pastry. It is an absolute must-try.