Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Trader Joe's Chocolate Brooklyn Babka

Most of the time when I see this item on social media, it's accompanied by some disclaimer along the lines of "I'm from the West Coast, so I've never heard of babka," or "I'm from the South, so I don't know what babka is." Well, I've lived most of my life in the Northeast and taken many trips to NYC, and although I've heard of babka, I've never actually had it—from Brooklyn or anywhere else. So this will be another fine example of my foodie-hackery at work. I've had plenty of opportunities to sample it during my time in the Big Apple, but it has always taken a back seat to pizza from Lombardi's, soft pretzels from street vendors, hot dogs from Nathan's, cannolis from Little Italy, pudding from Rice to Riches, or dim sum from Chinatown. Next time I'm there, I'll be sure to check it out.

But here are my first impressions (Brooklynites, feel free to chime in and correct my assumptions via the comments section below). This thing is heavy. And chocolatey. And rich. It's another Jewish-American treat that arrived in the states by way of European immigrants—and Trader Joe's is making it accessible to the masses. It's a $5 item here in South Jersey, but it's worth it in terms of size, density, and servings (there are 9 in the loaf).

There's something brownie-esque about both the taste and texture, although it's more bread-like than a brownie, and taste-wise, slightly more complex. It's like marble rye bread infused with brownie batter, layers of cocoa, and chocolate chips. Parts of the bread seem stiff (in a good way) but there's also a good bit of moisture, both in the "cake" part and on top, where there's a layer of chips and sweet, syrupy chocolatiness. It's almost too chocolately, if there is such a thing.

Surprisingly, there are both organic soybeans and organic tofu in the ingredients, along with a few other surprises, although, I assure you—you can't taste much of anything other than chocolate, chocolate, bread, and more chocolate. I suppose that's good for chocoholics. Me? I have to be in the mood for this kind of richness. It's delicious, but at the same time, this pastry could never be more than a once-in-a-great-while treat for me. Have a glass of milk on stand-by when you bite into that first piece. 3.5 stars from me. 3 stars from the wifey.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

24 comments:

  1. I agree with your assessment. In fact, my gf (who loves chocolate and also likes babka) thinks it is too sweet. real babka is more breadlike than brownie-like. But it is tasty, just richer than a traditional babka.

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  2. Cool. Thanks for your input. First feedback we've heard from someone who's actually familiar with babka.

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  3. There is an excellent Seinfeld babka episode. I prefer cinnamon to chocolate babka. It is a little less sweet.

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    1. Yep. That episode equals the sum of my familiarity with this item. I gotta say, the pic in this post looks GOOD, and I'm not one to think that 'brownie like' is a disparaging description. I can see why Elaine was disappointed! I'm gonna try it.

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    2. Absolutely. If brownies are your thing, this product might be right up your alley.

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  4. Trader joe's babka is way more sweet and chocolatey than most other nyc babka. Best here in nyc would be at Breads bakery near union sq (they also ship now), more bread than chocolate and really delicious. Zabar's also makes a good one. But for the price TJs version is great, just more like dessert- and best warmed or toasted.
    Ttrockwood

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    1. Thanks for the tip. Breads Bakery here I come!

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  5. Usually Trader Joe does a good job replicating European breads and baked goods. Their ciabatta is a hands-down favorite. I've had many a babka in my day; this time they went too far. I love chocolate, but this is more choc than bab. Usually babka is a sweet brunch treat, served with coffee after the bagels and lox. TJ's babka is practically a death-by-chocolate experience, better suited for dessert at dinner. Even so, the bread element (what little there is) knocks this out of the dessert category. If you must, a thin slice will do, but it doesn't slice easily. No stars.

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  6. Never had babka before nor heard of it (although I do vaguely remember the Seinfeld episode now that everyone is recalling it). I liked it a lot but have nothing to compare it to other than my insatiable chocolate cravings.
    Your description is accurate; all I could think of is 'brownie'...but not exactly. Might be better than a brownie, might not but it's definitely a good variation to throw into the mix. If I ate a whole one in a sitting I could see myself getting sick on it so I only had three 3/4 inch slices.

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    1. Yes...I think anyone would get sick if they ate the whole thing in one sitting ;)

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  7. I have eaten lots and lots of chocolate babkas and this is one of (if not the) best I have ever had. I agree that, with the ridiculous amount of chocolate, it it a better dessert than breakfast (unlike the doughy ones with one or two swirls of chocolate) but I find the taste and consistency to be incredible. I would describe it almost as a fudgy brownie crossed in baklava dough. Can't wait to have more!

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  8. This is one of those things that after finishing (perhaps before) me and my housemate agreed on never buying again. Well, it's sitting on my table again right now, half gone. I.. I really like it... But it is too sweet... but I like... did I really say I wasn't buying this?

    Just a warning to anyone as enticed by the chocolate description found here as we were.

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  9. I have never had babka and I don't like sugary things so I believe I would love the NYC style that folks are describing here. Now all of that being said I absolutely love TJ's chocolate brooklyn babka. I have to stop myself from eating the whole thing in one sitting

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  10. I think it is rather like brownie mixed with croissant. My sister and I have to stop ourselves from eating the whole thing. I don't know what regular babka is like, but taken on it's own merit, this is soooooo good!

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  11. I am not known for eating a lot of sweets. Since we got this babka, I could not stop eating! Well it took 3 days among us but gosh they are so good.

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  12. I'm typing this comment as I'm enjoying this TJ's babka. Had TJ's called this something else I would just accept as it is - a scrumptious pastry. I've never had it nor heard of it, but it is quite delicious and decadent. Reminds me of their kouigns amann. Smily face. I was googling "TJs babka" when I ran in this webpage. This is my second ever loaf and I won't be happy if TJ's discontinues this product. It eats more like a dessert but I've also had it for breakfast.

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  13. Really good, found it by accident. Glad I found it.

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  14. Rich, but I liked it, especially for the price! You get the whole loaf for almost what Dean and Deluca charge for a slice!

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  15. I've eaten the whole thing in three days. By myself... It took me three days because I was trying to slow down- this intense chocolatey gooey mess is not a bread, more like a pastry! This is way better than a brownie! Brownies are usually way too sweet. Aaaand it is amazing with a cuppa joe, like the label says.

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  16. Clearly some of you people are insane. There is no such thing as too chocolatey or too sweet when we're talkin' deep dark chocolate. I was in love from the first bite. I had to slice it, wrap it in foil, and stick it in the freezer to stop myself from eating the whole loaf at once.

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  17. I agree with Artybecca--"no such thing as too chocolatey or too sweet when we're talkin' deep dark chocolate". I find it better than the babka at Cheskie's in Montreal (on Bernard St.) where I have always gone when I have cravings. But don't mistake me... Cheskie's makes great babka!

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  18. Ok, maybe it is a decadent American interpretation of a Jewish favorite. The amount and strength of the chocolate almost gives me a buzz. Heat a slice in the toaster oven (not a microwave), and have a cup of coffee or glass of ice-cold milk ready; there's no going back.

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  19. I love this more than cake cookies and brownies combined right now. Where I am, the mango babka may have seasonally replaced it but boy, I love this... I finished it in 2 days.

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