By Ava Stryker-Robbins
I have always loved Silver Moon Bakery. From their baguettes to their meringues and cupcakes, every one of their baked delicacies is delicious. But perhaps more than anything else, Silver Moon’s challahs have always been important to me—I grew up eating them on many Shabbat nights, as well as on Rosh Hashanah alongside apples and honey.
This bread is perhaps the very definition of perfection. It is sweet, soft, and has a flakey exterior. It is tasty on its own, but also serves as the perfect complement to any home-cooked meal, especially ones with sauces that the challah can absorb.
Typically, challah is baked in a braid, but during the High Holidays—Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—it is baked in a round shape to symbolize continuity and a completed cycle, as Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish year. However, as Silver Moon’s owner and founder Judith Norell told the West Side Rag in an interview, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love challah!”
Norell, whose mother baked challah and other types of bread with her when she was a child, shares that challah is an essential part of the bakery. “It’s a very important part of our production and of our whole sense of community around here.” During a typical week, the bakery sells between 100 and 200 challahs, but during the High Holidays they sell close to 1,000.
Though the original challah recipe has not changed during the bakery’s 23-year history, Norell has added a number of varieties, including whole wheat, raisin, multiseed, chocolate orange, and a Spanish version made with olive oil, vanilla, and anise seeds.
“We make the best products we can and we don’t skimp on the quality,” she said.
Norell opened Silver Moon after she retired from her career as a professional harpsichordist. Though she said that baking and playing instruments are similar in that you use your hands and have to understand timing, she was also drawn to the differences between the two. “Music is very ephemeral. The sound disappears into the air, so it’s very nice to be able to make something that is earthy and that nourishes people.”
Norell loves experimenting and creating different breads and pastries for different holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Epiphany, Dia de los Muertos, and more. She personally prefers sourdoughs over sweet breads, but admits that both challah and other sweet breads are integral to the bakery.
Though it is too late to pre-order challah for Rosh Hashanah, they might have some available for walk-in customers, and challah can be pre-ordered at least two days in advance for Yom Kippur. During the year, challahs are sold Thursdays through Saturdays.
Shana Tova to those celebrating!
The Dish: Challah
The Restaurant: Silver Moon Bakery (2740 Broadway at 105th Street)
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