Where can you get a good sort-of-Mexican babka in this town? OK, maybe that’s not a question anyone in Chicago has ever even asked, but that’s not going to stop me from giving you a very good answer: Masa Madre.
The two-year-old online-order bakery, based out of two home kitchens in Pilsen, doesn’t have a storefront, but owners Elena Vázquez Felgueres and Tamar Fasja Unikel are turning out dozens of loaves ($20 each) of the chocolaty, flaky Jewish treat each week for a devoted and growing clientele. Natives of Mexico City, the friends got their start baking sourdough bread to sell at farmers’ markets. (Hence the bakery’s name, which means “sourdough” in Spanish.) After Unikel, who is Jewish, suggested adding babkas to their repertoire, orders began pouring in.
How do the bakers bring a Mexican inflection to an übertraditional Jewish specialty? Well, for one thing, chocolate — an essential ingredient in Mexican cuisines — is already part of the equation. They also coat their cinnamon babka with spiced butter so that it takes on a lacquered, almost-fried crust that’s a nod to Mexican churros. Next on the menu will be a loaf with swirls of homemade dulce de leche, as well as a savory option made with the Israeli spice blend za’atar and cream cheese.
Are the treats kosher? Not exactly, says Unikel, but she offers a hedge: “We keep kosher in my house, though, and Elena’s a vegetarian.” Close enough? facebook.com/hellomasamadre