Baker Michal Prevor, the founder and owner of Babka Bailout, makes hamantaschen at her Jersey City bakery all year long, not just for Purim. Her inventive fillings of the triangular-shaped cookie include guava jam, dulce de leche and date nut.
Ahead of the festive holiday of Purim this year, which begins on the evening of March 6, Prevor decided to kick the creativity up a notch: She’s gone a bit wild, offering a collection of hamantaschen that are decorated to look like animals.
“When I was a little girl I ate with my eyes,” Prevor, 47, told the New York Jewish Week. “I always wanted to buy anything that looked like a character.”
Inspired by some googly eyes that she had leftover in her kitchen from Halloween, Prevor created the fanciful cookies, which sell for $6 each. Decorated as bunnies, kittens, giraffes and bears, the hamantaschen are almost too cute to eat. But make no mistake: Iced with white chocolate or dark chocolate and filled with a choice of Nutella, dulce de leche or cookie butter — fillings she feels kids would like — the cookies are meant to be consumed and enjoyed.
As both her animal-themed hamantaschen and the unusual name of her bakery business might suggest, Prevor is not one to do the expected: The mom of two founded Babka Bailout in May 2020 at the height of the pandemic — despite the fact that she had never baked a babka before. Rather, her motivation was to help a friend who had fallen on hard times during lockdown and was having trouble feeding her family of five.
The plan, said Prevor, was to make and sell homemade babka and give the proceeds to their friend. Prevor, who lived in Hoboken at the time, went on a local moms’ Facebook group and wrote that she was selling babkas to help her friend. Within five minutes of posting, she sold 40 Nutella or cinnamon babka at $14 each.
“The name for the company was my husband’s idea,” said Prevor. “Some people didn’t have the government to bail them out. Lots of people were left behind and not in great situations. The name was a fun spin — the babka would bail my friend out.”
Prevor’s husband, Grant, a home builder who bakes as a hobby, made that first batch of babka, while Prevor watched and learned. Their two daughters, Ariel and Amelie, who were 15 and 12 years old at time, pitched in, too. “Everyone was working,” said Prevor. “All hands on deck. It gave us a schedule, and it made my kids busy at a time when a lot of kids were very depressed.”
From there, Prevor started baking every week. “I was making hundreds of babkas a week from home,” she said. “It was quite an adventure. I had to start very early — the babkas had to rise. The oven could only fit eight babkas at a time, and it took 45 minutes to bake the babkas in the home oven at 350 degrees.”
“My oven door literally fell off from all of the opening and closing,” she added.
Two months after Babka Bailout launched, Prevor began experimenting with different babka flavors, like cereal milk and Oreos-and-Nutella (both suggested by her daughters). In March 2021, she added hamantaschen for Purim. Prevor tested more than 40 different recipes for hamantaschen until she came up with an amalgamation that she felt was best — and decided to keep what she calls her favorite cookie permanently on the menu.
For flavor inspiration, Prevor said she draws upon the diverse populations of New York and Jersey City, in particular, as well as her own multi-cultural background: Prevor spent the first six years of her life on a moshav (an agricultural cooperative) in the Sinai Peninsula where her father, Ofer Rozenfeld, grew melons and flowers.
In 1981, ahead of Israel’s impending withdrawal from the Sinai, the family moved to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, where her father continued his farming. Then, a few years later, when Prevor’s older brother turned 18, the family returned to Israel so that he, and the other four children in the family, could eventually serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
Following her service, Prevor moved to New York where she attended New York University and double majored in political science and journalism. A year after graduation, she married Grant, a fellow Spanish-speaking Jew who grew up in Puerto Rico. In 2005, when their first daughter was 10 months old, the family moved to New Jersey.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Prevor sold irrigation equipment designed by her father. She had her last business meeting via Zoom in March 2020 — and two months later, she came face-to-face with her friend’s financial problems and decided to help. “Giving back to the community and tzedakah have always been indoctrinated into my upbringing,” Prevor said. “My parents took care of anybody they came into contact with who needed help. And I think that is part of having a Jewish soul.”
Babka Bailout’s business has continued to grow — in addition to online orders via their website, Prevor’s products can be found at Butterfield Market, a gourmet grocery store on Madison Avenue and 85th Street.
Last September, Babka Bailout moved to a commercial kitchen in Jersey City, where Prevor and her family now live. She now has a storefront connected to the bakery where passersby stop in to buy treats — many Manhattanites place advance orders and make the short trip over the Hudson themselves, Prevor said.
“We are getting their hamantaschen for Purim this year,” said Joelle Obsatz, owner of Butterfield Market. “They have faces on it. I have never seen anything like it — I think it will be a hit. We will only be selling our house-made hamantaschen and Babka Bailout’s.”
As for Prevor’s previously down-on-her-luck friend, she now assists Prevor in the kitchen. These days, Prevor donates portions of Babka Bailout’s proceeds to numerous organizations, including Welcome Home Jersey City, an organization that supports refugees arriving in the area. “Whenever there is an opportunity to help, I do, either by baking or donating money,” she said. “Whenever an organization asks, my rule of thumb is to help.”
While Prevor may have never intended to become a professional baker, it’s clear she’s established a perfect niche for herself and her community. “In our little shop, people that pick up our baked goods come from all over — the Arab world, the Philippines, Latin America. Once they try them, they are hooked,” she said. “That kind of ties into all my flavors. I love diversity. I love learning from other people and taking flavors from other countries and making everybody feel welcome.”
Content distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service.