Liv-ing on bread
At Liv Breads in Millburn, bread is a visceral, sensory experience.
Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News
There’s a luxurious earthy scent that hovers over Liv Breads: Artisan Bakery and Coffee Bar.
Fresh whole grain sourdough bread, the original slow food, with a crust full of seeds and ready to yield with a lusty crack revealing a soft fluffy interior that still retains some texture, lines the shelves above the counter. Mingling with it, the unmistakable odor of flaky pastry redolent of butter offers a clue that this bread bakery also showcases croissants, rugelach, and bourekas, as well as quiches and warm cookies. If you come at lunchtime, you’ll find sandwiches, too. And on a recent Friday morning, baker and co-owner Bary Yogev was pulling the latest batch of golden challah from the oven.
As customers trailed in one after the other just three days after its Aug. 7 opening, Elana and Yaniv Livneh and Yogev, three of the four co-owners of the kosher bread bakery in Millburn (under the supervision of Rabbi Jesse Olitzky of Congregation Beth El in South Orange), sat down with NJJN to discuss their new venture and share their vision. The fourth co-owner, Rogev Livneh (Yaniv’s brother), was busy prepping the day’s sandwiches.
For Yogev, bread is a visceral, sensory experience.
“This is the real food,” said Yogev, who, in his heavy Israeli accent, describes bread the way sommeliers discuss wine. He rushes into a discourse on how bread took a wrong turn into heavy processing with chemicals and additives during the industrial revolution, but has slowly returned to its proper place since the 1960s. He sings the praises of whole grains, sourdough, and slow food, and then he will tell you that “Bread is everything.” It certainly is to him — in addition to consulting with bread bakeries mostly around Tel Aviv, developing recipes and training bakers, he has taught bread baking at the Danon Culinary Center in Tel Aviv.
By contrast, South Orange residents Yaniv and his wife Elana come to bread from the business side, with their respect and
enthusiasm for bread slowly rising, pun intended. A graduate of Brandeis University, Elana has spent much of her career as a software project manager. Yaniv is a graduate of New York University and spent 25 years running his own start-up tech company, T3 Telecom Software. But he also dabbled in baking his own bread at home before he and Elana had three children.
Yaniv loves that people smile when he starts talking about this new venture. “It’s something that brings so much happiness,” he said. “It’s so basic.”
Together with Yogev and Rogev, the four co-owners have created a sleek space where a portion of the kitchen is open, so customers can watch the bakers fold loaves or remove finished breads from the oven. As the hours pass, the scent in the shop changes depending on what is in the oven.
The breads, all baked with sourdough starter and whole grain flour, include a round country loaf, seeded country (with seeds inside and outside), whole wheat, raisin pecan whole wheat, rye, walnut cranberry rye, baguettes, and what they are calling “Liv bread,” a Scandinavian-style bread they describe as “dense, full of seeds and flavors.”
By contrast, the pastries are anything but dense, especially the whole-wheat croissants, practically a miraculous creation for those who understand the science of croissants, which Yogev calls the “most delicate” pastry because of the preparation, which requires exacting temperatures and techniques. The bakery has temperature-controlled rooms and machinery, along with high-end ovens according to their specifications.
With its Ashkenazi and Middle Eastern palate (alongside bakery favorites like muffins and Danish), it wasn’t a big step to go kosher — at least after the partners had decided they would not sell meat, based more on personal ethics than laws of kashrut. “When you eat meat in a restaurant, obviously the impact is much larger than if you eat meat, you know, once or twice a week at home,” said Yaniv.
Once they knew it would be strictly dairy, they decided to leverage the opportunity to include customers who would require kashrut. “Obviously kosher has an appeal in the community because there’s a very large Conservative, and to some extent Orthodox, community that would like to see a product like this, and the hechsher is important,” he said. Yaniv never considered any other supervising rabbi beyond that of Olitzky, his own rabbi. “We’re good friends,” he said.
As Yogev left the table to return to the bread, he said he believes the bakery is “fulfilling a need” in the community. In Israel, he pointed out, “Every little town has a beautiful bakery.” He also promises to offer hands-on workshops in the bakery once a month after the High Holy Days. In the meantime, there were pastries to fold, babkas to twist, and bread to proof.