Uri Scheft and Or Ohana — cofounders of Boston’s newest bakery and cafe, Bakey — are obsessed with freshness: right-out-of-the-oven, almost-burn-your-mouth baked goods, gooey with melted chocolate or stretchy cheese.
“People often ask me what product I like best,” Scheft, a Danish-Israeli baker with decades of experience and countless recipes, tells Eater a couple weeks prior to the bakery’s September 14 opening. “I have two automatic answers for this: the last one that came out of the oven or the last one I created. When something comes out of the oven, I cannot hold back. I usually burn my mouth. It’s the most exciting experience to see the chocolate melt, the cheese bubble.”
Ohana, similarly, recalls going into bakeries as a kid, asking which burekas were still hot and touching the trays to make sure. “When it comes out of the oven, I feel like it’s talking to me and calling to me to have it,” he says. “Here I think we give the option to do the same — walk in and have the burekas at the right temperature, at the right time.”
And so Bakey’s ovens — convection for babkas and puff pastries; deck for challah, breads, and rolls — are on all the time, and new items are constantly coming out of the open kitchen. “Our intention is to bake all day long,” says Ohana. “You as a guest won’t need to ask, ‘Is it fresh? When did it come out of the oven?’ You can still see the vapors.” Items are taken off display as soon as they’re not at peak freshness; unsold products are donated to Women’s Lunch Place daily.
Shortly before the opening, Scheft and Ohana are hesitant to commit to a final menu. Even though Scheft has been at this for something like 30 years, including 20 running his Israeli bakery chain Lehamim, he’s tweaking and fine-tuning recipes right up through opening day, deciding what will and won’t work here and figuring out the differences between the ingredients he’s used to in Israel and the ingredients here. Just because he’s been serving his now-famous chocolate babka for 20 years doesn’t mean it’ll come out of the oven just as it did in New York, where he was the cofounder and former co-owner of Breads Bakery, or in Israel.
Customers will definitely see that chocolate babka coming out of the oven all day long, though. There are other babkas on the roster, too, such as a vanilla one; an almond one stuffed with a delicate marzipan that will even please most self-professed marzipan haters; and more of a savory babka topped with everything seasoning. Beyond babka, there are burekas, puff pastries stuffed with a variety of fillings; breads (including challah) and rolls; kubaneh, which Ohana describes as a “Yemenite brioche”; cookies; and other sweet and savory treats. There are also small deli cases in front full of salads and spreads, cold cuts, cheeses, and smoked fish.
“You can have it either alone — grab a fresh roll, put the salmon or the pate in, and take it for a picnic here in the park — or have a gathering in your office and take eight ounces of fish and a basket of rolls,” says Ohana.
The overall Bakey philosophy is the same: Scheft and Ohana emphasize the idea of just grabbing a really good baked good and a really good cup of coffee and enjoying in the cafe’s small dining area or on Boston Common right across the street. But there are full loaves of babka, cakes, and more for those who want to bring something home to entertain a group, too.
And the coffee isn’t an afterthought. “Coffee is a big thing for us,” says Scheft. Bakey features Seattle’s Caffè Umbria, which, he says, had a Boston coffee shop back in the ’90s, where the Newbury Street Thinking Cup location is now. Caffè Umbria, according to Eater Seattle, is a “well-respected company” with “blends [that] are fantastic and prepared with precision.” Bakey is Boston’s first (current) retail location for Umbria.
Anyone who has eaten their way through the incredible bakeries of Denmark will recognize the Scandinavian baking tradition in Scheft’s work — his obsession with lamination, in particular, with perfectly thin and crackly pastry layered with a Vermont-made, European-style butter. The marzipan-filled almond babka, too, is a reflection of the prevalence of almond and almond flour in northern European baking.
It all comes down to “a lot of small details,” says Scheft. He’s been tasting multiple versions of everything seasoning to find the perfect one to top the everything babka; he and Ohana are working with a vanilla startup, Vanilla Vida, to get vanilla with notes of chocolate, or lemon, or cream.
Bakey is now open at 151 Tremont St., Boston, right across from the Common, serving ultra-fresh babka, bureka, breads, and more from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends. (Watch Instagram for updates on hours.) If you try one thing, try the chocolate babka. If you try another, go for the cheese stick, a longtime Lehamim bestseller — it’s a crunchy stick of puff pastry stuffed with a very young gouda, which Scheft describes as creamier and softer than an aged gouda. As for that babka, Ohana hopes you’ll try it not by just biting into it but by slowly peeling pieces off, finding gooey pockets of chocolate inside, and accompanying it with a good cup of coffee.