Gold International Bakery Crafts Russian Pastries

By Nan Bauer / Photography By Chris Stranad | March 01, 2016
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Alfira Kinney
Alfira Kinney

Crowned with roses and bunches of grapes, the golden half dome rises from a base wrapped in a fat braid. The finishing touch: a perfectly tied bow, into which are tucked wheat stalks, every kernel rendered with a sculptor’s care. The medium? Bread dough.

It won’t last the day. Karavai is meant to be shared by brides and grooms with their wedding guests. There are regional differences. Couples from the Ukraine prefer flowers; Russian couples opt for leaves, birds and a special compartment that holds a small glass of salt. They contact Gold International Deli & Bakery in Southfield from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago because it’s one of the few places that turn out custom karavais, in addition to an array of nourishing breads, traditional Russian treats and pastries inspired by classic techniques from France, the U.S. and elsewhere.

In business since 2014, the current Gold International Deli & Bakery is owned and operated by Alfira Kinney, who took over the space of the previous Gold. She and the head baker—her mother, who prefers to be known simply as “Mom”—decided to keep the name and focus on product. “Mom’s a great cook, and she always wanted to be in the food business. So when she moved back to the U.S. from Eastern Europe, I decided to help her out,” says Kinney.

Gold International Bakery

Rather than invest time and money in a rebranding, Kinney and her mom kept the Gold name and signage, putting all their energy into their product. First and foremost are the hearty, preservative-free breads, made without sugar, dairy or eggs. Mom recalls some advice from a professional food supplier early on, that products should have a 30-day shelf life. She was horrified.

"I can’t feed people chemistry,” she says. Instead, she uses recipes learned during childhood from her mother and her grandmother, who lived to be 104 years old and baked until she was 90.

The bakery uses local resources as much as possible, including Michigan-based Dawn Flours. Different types of bread include dark rye, light rye, pumpernickels, white and whole wheat. No sugar is used, not even to proof the yeast; loaves are also egg- and dairy-free unless otherwise noted. Full-bodied without feeling heavy, Gold bread may be the closest you can get to home baking without going elbow-deep in flour and hits just the right savory spot whether you serve it plain, with a little butter or as a sandwich base. The breads are diabetic friendly, and whoever is in the shop will be happy to guide you to exactly the right loaf if you want to cut back on your sugar intake.

Red borscht
Poppy seed butter rolls
Farmer Cheese Danish with Jam
Photo 1: Red borscht
Photo 2: Poppy seed butter rolls
Photo 3: Farmer Cheese Danish with Jam

If you don’t, be sure to try one of Mom’s cheese danishes. The squares of puff pastry erupt into multiple layers of flaky dough framing a healthy dollop of farmers’ cheese, a luscious filling somewhere between a full-fat cottage cheese and cream cheese. A standard ingredient throughout eastern Europe, it’s become rare in the U.S., and since there isn’t a local source for a fresh version, Kinney and Mom get their supply from Chicago.

The cheese may stand on its own, sweetened with a little sugar or served as a base for a fruit filling like apple or apricot. If a “Seinfeld” rerun brings on a babka craving, stop at Gold: Mom’s chocolate version is anything but yadda yadda yadda. Celebrate Easter with paska, the rich yet light cylinder of brioche-based sweet bread, topped with a cloud of white icing, sprinkled with confetti-colored candy beads. Or be on the lookout for napoleons, meringues, brownies, crepes, cookies and gorgeous cakes and cupcakes.

"I have no favorites,” says Mom. “I just love to cook.”

That love goes beyond baking. Gold also stocks a case full of homemade ravioli, including vegetarian and vegan versions, as well as soups and salads. You can test the classic proverb “Borscht and bread makes your cheeks red” with Mom’s excellent version of the classic beet soup, with some earthy pumpernickel for dunking and perhaps a side of tangy, crunchy coleslaw flecked with carrots. What else you might find depends on the day and whatever ingredients are freshest. The business is strictly takeout—there’s no eating area in the store—and has all you need to create a superb picnic or a last-minute dinner when you don’t feel like cooking.

Gold is not visible from the street. In the New Orleans Shopping Center next to the One Stop Kosher market in Southfield, it’s in the center group of shops a few steps behind those facing Greenfield Road at the corner of 10 Mile. It feels tucked away, a hidden little pocket of goodness where Mom can make whatever she feels inspired to make.

It’s well worth the effort. Thank Alfira Kinney, who, in providing her mother a place to do what she does so well, shares a wealth of love and flavor with Southeast Michigan.

Find out more at Gold International Deli & Bakery

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