Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown on Sunday, September 13, is a two-day celebration that marks a ten-day period of prayer, self-examination and repentance. For those that celebrate, it is a time replete with customs, such as the sounding of the shofar (aka a ram’s horn) at synagogue and the eating of certain foods with family, such as apples dipped in honey. The latter symbolizes the wish for a sweet new year – and for Sheryl Blackwell and Susan Friedburg, owners of Small Batch Baking Company, it also evokes memories of their respective childhoods and their shared love for the sweet leavened bread, known as babka, which often appeared on their holiday tables.
Babka is a traditional Jewish sweet loaf, made with yeast dough and rolled with spiraling layer of cinnamon or chocolate and crumbly streusel. It originates with the Jewish populations of Eastern Europe, but has become very popular in American cities with large Jewish communities. The rest of us probably know it best from Seinfeld!
Sheryl baked Susan a loaf of babka a few months after they met, and as they enjoyed it, they both felt instantly nostalgic for their respective childhoods. They wanted to share that feeling with others, and also introduce it to those folks who only know it from popular culture (i.e. that episode from Seinfeld). The problem was that babka as a full-sized loaf is limiting. Sheryl points out, “It was a loaf, which meant you probably didn’t buy one unless you were dining with plenty of other people. And once the loaf was cut, you had to eat all of it pretty quickly because it is a bread after all.” Their solution was to reinterpret the traditional babka loaf, both in size and variety. Just as importantly, they wanted their product to appeal to modern day palates and to on-the-go lifestyles – something to be enjoyed not just at holiday times and special occasions, but daily as well.
The result: a bite-sized version of babka, which they currently offer in Traditional Chocolate, Chocolate Cappuccino, Chocolate Raspberry and Blueberry Cinnamon flavors. In effect, just a bite or two of Small Batch Baking Company’s babka invokes a bit of nostalgia for the childhood years, respect for centuries of tradition, while looking forward in the spirit of a “sweet” new year.