During the coronavirus era, bakers tend to be more chatty. That’s perhaps why David – the man behind the eponymous David’s Bakery – immediately launches into a conversation as only a man who has seen his business half in size in the space of nine months can do. Thus, we get a detailed lesson on Georgian baking, including the taste of Georgian cheese, and efforts to fill in those gaps in his broken Hebrew.
As we were speaking, though, it was hard to keep my eyes averted from what was going on behind David, where his wife and daughter were making what can only be described as art.
Without any tasteless shortcuts, the two create all of the baked goods on sale here. Whole trays of khinkali (Georgian dumplings) alongside a bubbling pot of oil, in front of which are long lines of various versions of khachapuri (traditional filled bread). Who knew that paradise had a branch in Bat Yam?
David persuaded us to take a khachapuri filled with cheese and eggs, another with two different cheeses, and a third with chopped meat and onions. Each khachapuri has a name, of course, but they’ve sort of all merged into each other en route to Israel. The two-cheeses version was wrapped in a square of puff pastry; the cheese and egg variety sat in a uniform and shiny flaky dough, while the meat version filled a yeast dough. Each looks different, but each is perfect in its own way.
The three handmade items (45 shekels combined, or $14) succeed in evoking the open miracle of the Georgian carbohydrate – rich in oil, but not laden with it. The bottom of the box remains dry, one’s fingers get only a bit oily while eating these bourekas-like creations and there’s no heartburn a few minutes after eating. Truly, a miracle.
We started with the two-cheese khachapuri, which turned out to be interesting from dual perspectives: the magical combination of the mozzarella and Georgian cheeses (the closest parallel to a familiar cheese David would agree to was Bryndza), which created a uniform saltiness; and the way it all crumbled nicely in every corner of the portion. The puff pastry in which the cheeses were wrapped was closed into a square, which added another layer of crispiness (as if it were even missing).
We continued with the cheese-egg combination, which turned out to be truly sublime. The gently sliced egg rests on the cheese packed into the bottom of the khachapuri, and together they create a bite that only the love affair between egg and cheese could possibly create. Here, the flaky dough was more stable, almost firm, but at the first touch it surrendered (without crumbling) and became pleasingly malleable. It was also accompanied by a cinnamon-like sweetness that was surprising and delightful.
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The third part of this khachapuri series was the most intense. OK, ground beef and onion is a winning combination anywhere on this planet, but when stuffed into an oh-so-delicate dough that’s crispy on the outside, it’s even more fun to eat. David also slipped in a spicy-ish tomato and peppers sauce that took each bite to another level. The dough soaks up the sauce, the ground beef flirts with it and highlights its tanginess, and the onion blissfully ties it all together.
The pandemic has probably caused many folk to finally announce that carbs are now out – after months of going carb-crazy and having the belly to prove it. We, too, had sworn off carbs, but David did us in. So think carefully before stopping by this bakery, because once you’ve tasted David’s magnificent handiwork, believe me, you won’t be able to turn your back on these almighty Georgian carbs.
David’s Bakery, 63 Balfour St., Bat Yam. Sun.-Thur. 9 A.M.-8 P.M.; Fri. 9 A.M.-4 P.M.