original catchphrase. Yes, we mean Honey Boo Boo child.
But the history of challah goes back way beyond a TLC show that debuted in 2009.
Challah is a special bread in Jewish cuisines, usually made up of braided dough and typically eaten on ceremonial occasions such as Shabbat or Rosh Hashanah. Rugelach are small cookies typically made with cream-cheese dough rolled around a filling of nuts, chocolate, or jam. Likewise, challah can also be filled with jam or chocolate—especially to celebrate Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah, which takes place this year from September 18 to 20.
“It [baking] was a thing that I’ve always loved doing and during COVID was doing a lot more of it and a lot of my friends were asking ‘when can I buy this from you?’” says Clarke.
Clarke started her new Instagram page on August 31, with plans of making products available for purchase by September 12. But to her surprise, she was immediately flooded with pre-order requests. “I had orders the next day,” she says.
Clarke comes from a sales background and says starting her own business seemed like the next natural choice, although it hasn’t been easy. “I’m very much still in the getting all my ducks in a row phase,” she tells The Coast. “It’s really really hard right now to file business licenses and all of that.”
But for Clarke, her passion lies not strictly in sales, but in the art and care that goes into making traditional Jewish baked goods.
“You’ll find a lot of times especially in Russian Jewish cooking you’ll use things like sweet goods or fats in times of celebration because that’s when you want to show they’re abundant. So there’s always such a connection between celebration and this family-centric element to Jewish cooking that’s always been there,” says Clarke.
Clarke grew up in a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish household, always in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother, watching and learning. Plus, she says it doesn’t hurt to be a bit of a perfectionist.
“My family is more traditional than religious but we grew up in a community that taught me some of the ways,” she says.
As a child, Clarke also went to Hebrew school at Shaar Shalom Synagogue on Oxford Street, where she learned more about the art of challah bread braiding.
Clarke says she there’s a void in the Halifax community when it comes to traditional Jewish desserts. And she’s hoping to fill that void with her warm, crispy, fruit-filled creations.
“It’s about family recipes and really feeling the love inside the cuisine, so for me it really came down to, there’s this massive gap in the market,” says Clarke. “It’s one of those things where if you want to make it right, you have to do it yourself.”
Clarke uses fresh fruits from local farms like Noggins Corner Farm in Greenwich, and says she’s all about using Nova Scotian ingredients. “So far all of my suppliers are local so [I’m] trying to keep it as Halifax centric as possible,” says Clarke.
She’s also working on a website where people can view and order her products, but for now, orders can be made Monday through Wednesday by sending Clarke a DM on Instagram.
Items are then available for pick up on Fridays at Clarke’s home near the Armdale rotary. Clarke says the pick-up model is still working great, but if there’s demand, delivery may be in her future. But she’s also not ruling out opening a formal location.
“In a perfect world I’d have a cafe where bakery goods are available all the time, and Jewish bakers are the key thing,” says Clarke.
For the time being, Clarke says she’s happy to bring a little Jewish culture to the mainstream in Halifax.
“You taste love when you eat it and that’s just really what I want to do for Halifax, have everyone taste some love,” she says.