The Hippo


May 24, 2020








Students show off freshly baked babka in Cheryl Holbert’s baking class. Courtesy photo

Treats for Hanukkah

Check out the following New Hampshire bakeries and locations where you can find and order babka, rugelach and other traditional Jewish sweets.
• Blackberry Bakery (44 Nashua Road, Londonderry, 434-8110, has cinnamon sugar and fruit-filled rugelach.
Concord Food Co-op (24 S. Main St., Concord, 225-6840, has apricot and raspberry rugelach in the bakery.
The Good Loaf (75 Mont Vernon Road, Milford, 672-1500) has babka and rugelach.
Nomad Bakery, place an order for bread and babka by emailing or visit to see what Cheryl Holbert is baking this week.
• Shaws Supermarket, most locations are carrying rugelach. Call ahead to see if it is available in the bakery department.
Small Batch Baking Co., order packages of bite-size babka (in chocolate, chocolate cappuccino, raspberry cinnamon and chocolate raspberry) online at
The Fresh Market (79 S. River Road, Bedford, 626-3420, call the barkery department to place an order for raspberry cinnamon rugelach.
Whole Foods (255 Amherst St., Nashua, 318-7550, has rugelach, babka and other treats in the bakery department.

Sweet Hanukkah
Place your orders for babka and rugelach


This year, the Festival of Lights begins at sunset on Tuesday, Dec. 16, and ends the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 24. Traditionally, latkes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) are the most popular eats for the holiday because both are cooked using oil, symbolizing the miracle of Hanukkah. But if you’re looking for other sweets to celebrate the holiday, you don’t have to drive all the way to Brookline, Mass., known by the local Jewish community as the closest hub for Jewish foods. While southern New Hampshire isn’t known for its Jewish bakeries or delis, there are still a few bakers offering traditional Jewish pastries and breads to tempt your sweet tooth.

Cheryl Holbert, who owns Nomad Bakery, a cottage bakery businesses based in her home in Derry, recommends babka for any holiday celebration, including Christmas. Babka is an eastern European bread made with eggs, butter and milk and a sweet filling, which can be cinnamon or chocolate. In her family, the latkes are popular (and she enjoys looking at all the variations like sweet potato or with chiles), but babka is particularly special for Holbert. 
“Babka is the … treat of choice in my family,” she said. “I just have this recollection of all these treats that we could have in any given holiday season.”
Holbert’s Polish grandmother’s babka recipe with golden raisins is what comes to her mind this time of year. 
“When I taste the babka, it just immediately transports me to the kitchen table with my grandmother,” she said. “I knew it came from her hands, and I knew that it was very time-consuming. … For us, babka was more of a bread than a cake. Babka can be a wide range of things. Her crumb and breadlike qualities of the babka were so fantastic I never developed an affection for the cake-like babka.” 
Holbert looks for a flaky, caramelized crust when making her babka. She also bakes challah and levain breads for Nomad Bakery, and recently, she began holding a monthly baking class. Earlier this month, it was a unanimous request that the bread of the month be babka.
“Cinnamon babka turned out to be the bread of Thanksgiving,” she said. “I’m getting insane requests for babka.”
For the class, she prepared the dough in advance so that it would rise to the desired shape by the time students arrived. Holbert then showed students how to make the twists and braids and demonstrated the methods of adding the filling. While the babka baked, she explained to students how she made the dough.
Bedford-based Small Batch Baking Company began making bite-size babka treats last year after owners Susan Friedburg and Sheryl Blackwell came up with the idea of having a more accessible babka product. Because it’s labor-intensive, babka is usually reserved for special occasions and holidays. It’s also made in large loaves, so Blackwell and Friedburg created a babka product for an anytime snack or treat.
“That’s what we were trying to introduce to the area. ‘We remember this, and we’re bringing it back to you,’” Friedburg said.
Latkes and doughnuts were popular during Friedburg’s childhood too.
“We didn’t have traditional sweets,” she said. “We had more sort of ‘family treats.’ My grandmother made thumbprint cookies with jelly in the center.”
Small Batch Baking Company also takes orders online, and its babka bites come in some non-traditional flavors, like blueberry cinnamon and chocolate raspberry.
Looking for some rugelach? It’s not easy to find, but some bakeries, like Blackberry Bakery in Londonderry, make it year-round. The traditional rugelach found anytime of year at Blackberry Bakery is rolled and sliced, with a cinnamon, sugar and walnut spiral in the center. During the holidays, Blackberry Bakery also offers miniature rugelach baked into square pieces with apricot or raspberry filling. The rugelach is usually included in holiday cookie platters, too. 
As seen in the December 11, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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