Time to make the challah
Cheryl Ann’s Bakery in Brookline’s Putterham Circle will celebrate 25 years in business next year. Owners Ann Moore, her sister, Cheryl, and their mother, Joan, bought the bakery after Ann returned from baking school in Minnesota. She was 22; Cheryl was 27. They had grown up in the baking business. The women, who are not Jewish, are well versed in Jewish culture. They’re known all over for their superb, moist, cakey challah, the traditional braided bread served on the Sabbath table and baked in a round (for continuity in life) at the Jewish New Year. The challahs are sold in many independent markets, Shaw’s, Roche Bros., and BJ’s Wholesale Club. This week, Ann, who bakes all night, will work 18-to-20-hour days until the holiday.
Q. How do you and Cheryl and your mother split the work?
A. My sister makes the cakes and does the bookkeeping and the business end. I’m the bread maker. My mother is retired but goes in a couple times a week; she works with sales and keeps us in line. My other sister, Joanne, is part of it. She’s the manager and she makes the pastries during the day.
Q. How did you come up with your version of challah?
A. When I bought the business, it was a kosher bakery and I kind of revised the formula for the challah. I came up with it myself and improved it over the years and tried to make it the best I could, use the best ingredients.
Q. Yours is sweeter and denser than most.
A. When you put a lot of sugar in things, it has a tendency to keep it softer.
Q. How about the delicious dark crust?
A. I wash the top with egg and that gives it the golden color.
Q. Do all Jewish customers want rounds for the New Year?
A. My customers will buy 20 loaves at a time. They give them as gifts to their neighbors. People come in and get 50 and 100 and they give them as gifts. I don’t take reservations. It’s basically first come first served.
Q. If I came to your store on Friday, how long would the wait be for a challah?
A. There’s a line out the door, it will go all the way to the Chinese restaurant, which is several doors down. It will be like that for a long time. People come in about 6 a.m. and it will be like that all day until sundown. I have people come and knock at the door at 2 in the morning but I don’t stop making them or I won’t have enough.
Q. How many people are working with you?
A. I have five or six bakers, then a lot of family that comes in and helps - friends who have been coming in for years.
Q. How many do you make?
A. A lot. Thousands and thousands. I just keep making them, I don’t really have a figure.