A Visit with the Miami Bread King in His Kitchen
Who: Zak H. Stern and Batsheva Wulfsohn, the husband-and-wife team behind Zak the Baker; their daughters, 2-year-old Abigail and 4-month-old Maya Maybel.
Where: Surfside, Florida
Zak Stern is better known as Zak the Baker (also the name of his bakery in the Wynwood Arts District) and, for many, he has an even higher title: He is Miami's crowned king of bread.
Together with his wife, Batsheva, he has made Miami a serious baking destination, turning out loaves of sourdough, beautiful babkas, and braided challah from inside a purposefully understated oasis. The focus here is clearly on the craft of baking; it is a gleaming, industrial counterpoint to the visually loud neighborhood of bold, colorful street art.
Since opening five years ago, the bakery has grown from a one-man show out of a garage to a full-blown operation that is tended to 24 hours a day (since bread never sleeps). And just recently, the duo expanded their business to include a kosher Jewish deli, where the ever-changing menu might include kugel, sour borscht, or herring tartine.
They might be demi-gods to the residents of Miami, but at home Zak and Batsheva are simply Papa and Mama. And the house they rent in the beachy town of Surfside — with its terrazzo flooring, midcentury modern furniture, and brown-and-white palette — feels less South Beach and more Palm Springs throwback.
The kitchen is tidy and organized, but clearly well-used: The countertops are home to a collection of Mason jars full of dried and preserved things like walnuts, almonds, alfalfa sprouts, and pistachios. The fridge is filled with fresh fruit, veggies, cheese, olives, a little bit of dairy, wheat beer, nut butters, and nut milks. And there's an indoor edible garden, too, with wheat grass and sunflower sprouts that Batsheva uses to make wheat grass juice and salads.
Straight ahead, the light-filled dining room is part gathering place, part play area for the kids — although it still reads uber-cool, thanks to a teepee tent, modern swing, and rug that feels like it was discovered at a faraway bazaar.
Zak will head into the bakery later in the day, but for now it's mid-morning and Batsheva is frying eggs in a cast iron skillet that she'll serve as a Middle Eastern-inspired snack alongside a platter of fennel, carrots, olives, and some of the alfalfa sprouts from one of the Mason jars. She's just toasted cashew nuts on a baking sheet in the oven, and there's an azuki bean spread made for what else but a loaf of freshly baked whole-wheat bread.
A Visit with Zak Stern and His Kitchen
Tell us about your kitchen. How long have you lived (and cooked) here?
We've lived in Surfside for two-and-a-half years now, having lived on a farm in Little Haiti for about two years before that. Surfside is a sweet little community hugged by the bay and the beach. Our kitchen is open to both the living room and the dining room and is often a mess when active, and tidy when at rest.
When you walk into your kitchen, what makes you really happy?
Batsheva and I both get excited by things like gas ranges and accessible electric outlets. Sounds silly, but these little mechanical details make the cooking process smooth. The Vitamix is pretty holy in our house since it grinds all sorts of nut butters and milks, smoothies, sauces, and dressings. Beyond that, we both really enjoy cooking with a seasoned cast iron skillet.
What are some of your smartest kitchen tricks?
We use leftover citrus peels mixed with white vinegar to make our all-purpose cleaner. We also have little techniques that help us whip up tasty things quickly without cutting corners: All of our beans and legumes are sprouted, cooked, and frozen in little bags to make cooking dinner easy. Fish, vegetables, and meat stocks are made with trimmings and frozen in individual containers as well.
What do you like to cook in your kitchen?
I can make pasta for dinner every single night and be satisfied. We have a house sauce with garlic, capers, anchovies, tomatoes, white wine, and chili flakes. We also eat a lot of salads with our house dressing, which is made of tahini, olive oil, lemon, garlic, parsley, Bragg Liquid Aminos, and apple cider vinegar.
What's your very favorite place to eat out?
I like the B & M Market & Roti Shop in Little Haiti on 79th Street and Northeast 2nd Avenue. They have daily lunch specials with curried goat, chicken, brown stew, or ox tail. This place is as soulful as it gets.
Thank you for the visit, Zak and Batsheva! Enjoy a sweet or savory pastry with coffee or tea at the bakery and a full breakfast or lunch with eggs, gravlax, and a corned beef sandwich at the deli. Zak the Baker is open Sunday through Friday at 295 + 405 NW 26th Street in Miami.