Babka Bakers, a charming Polish bakery, opened five years ago in Maspeth — specifically on Dec. 13, 2014.
“It’s the last time it’ll ever be sequential dates: 12/13/14,” its founder, Tom Madalinski, pointed out.
The family-run bakery, located at 60-45 Maspeth Ave., prides itself on a menu full of fresh and non-GMO ingredients — which are mostly imported from Poland — to provide customers with the healthiest and tastiest experience possible.
“I’d say 95 percent of our recipes are either from my great-grandfather, or of anybody else from our family that was German and Polish,” Madalinski said.
You can find all sorts of traditional Polish and German fare at Babka’s, including poppy seed strudels, apple cake (or “szarlotka”), fluffy cheesecakes (or “krakowski”) and, of course, their namesake, babkas, a braided bread full of sweet fillings.
But it’s their variety of breads that take center stage.
Among their most popular items is their spelt (or “chleb orkiszowy”) bread, which is covered in sunflower seeds and has great nutritional value, such as higher protein and lower gluten count than traditional wheat flour.
They even added a “just seeds” bread for those with gluten allergies or sensitivities, which is completely flourless and made up of seeds that are held together with honey. When you have a bite of it, it’s easy to believe it’s bread due to its coarse consistency.
Madalinski only uses unbleached, non-GMO flour from Poland in his bread, not only because it gave them the taste and consistency they needed for their family recipes, but also because the simple, yet vital ingredient gives customers a healthier food option.
“When we opened up, a lot of the [Maspeth] people were saying, ‘Finally, we’ve been getting sick of this white bread, we want a different option,’” Madalinski said. “It warms my heart to know that I’m able to give the next generation a healthier product.”
Madalinski didn’t know that he’d become a full-time baker, even though the profession ran in his family — his father was a pastry chef in Poland before moving to the United States.
But after attending St. John’s University and earning a master’s degree in English, he thought he’d see what baking on a larger scale would entail. Luckily, his father’s friend happened to own a bakery in Australia, where he worked at and learned about the business.
“I liked it, and came back and started looking for a space,” Madalisnki said. “The thing that drew me in most, especially with the bread, is that it’s a really holistic type of career. I feel like it’s very wholesome just to make bread for people.”
For the 29-year-old, who went to elementary school right next door at St. Stanislaus Kostka School, it feels full circle to have his storefront in a neighborhood where he spent so much time in as a kid.
“It’s funny how things align,” he said.
Babka Bakers also specializes in wholesales that span from Brooklyn to Connecticut. The idea came about “one cold night in January,” as Madalinski remembered, after they ended up getting way more loaves of bread than anticipated.
“I started going around stores that were open, I had a good ol’ reliable Subaru, so I was zipping around in the snow and I was like, ‘I have this bakery and I have fresh bread,’ and they said, ‘We’ll take it,’” he said.
In the end, though, Babka Bakers prefers quality over quantity.
“There’s a Polish saying that goes, ‘Always eat with a smaller spoon,’” Madalinski said.
He explained that it means more than just resisting gluttonous tendencies.
“Always be patient and eat with a smaller spoon, and, eventually, you’ll be full and get to where you need to be,” he added. “So we believe in keeping it nice and slow, keeping it more personal, and giving more attention to our products.”