Local Baker Concocts Special Treats, Blending Challah And Doughnuts
For people deliberating between a crusty slice of gourmet challah or a jelly doughnut this Chanukah, the solution is simple: Check out Naomi Elberg of Southfield’s two-in-one sufganiya-challah.
The creator of home-based TGIS (which, depending on the season, stands for Thank God Its Shabbos, summer or sufganiyot-time) first became interested in baking challah during her volunteer hours for the weekly challah sale that benefits the Early Childhood Center at Farber (Akiva) Hebrew Day School in Southfield. Elberg rolled out the dough Friday mornings at 7 a.m. from 2011 to 2013 and, during that time, learned from her fellow volunteers, who had extensive baking experience.
Around the same time, the Montreal transplant began reading blogs, watching YouTube clips and experimenting with online challah recipes. Her first unsuccessful attempts were nixed immediately by her taste-testers, husband, Josh, and sons Jonathan, now 11, Jordan, now 9, and Noah, now 6. Eventually, she discovered what worked and even ventured into atypical gourmet-flavored challahs.
“I look through fancy dessert cookbooks and, if a topping looks good, I think ‘How can I get that in a challah?’” said Elberg, who created an unusual, highly popular American Barbeque challah topped with barbeque sauce, French-fried onions, seasoning salt and smoked paprika for July 4.
In May 2011, after enrolling their boys in summer camps, Naomi hesitantly posted the idea of selling challahs on Facebook and was pleasantly surprised to immediately receive orders, which she started filling on the last day of school. She’s been busy baking ever since.
Word spread, aided by her adoring sons who assure everyone their mother’s challah “is the best thing you’ll ever eat.” In September 2016, TGIS was featured on food blogger Melinda Strauss’ Instagram after which Elberg received feedback from as far as California.
Inspired by the mouthwatering selection of sufganiyot available in Israel during Chanukah, Elberg began dabbling in the world of doughnuts in 2014. After emailing several Hebrew Pinterest recipes to an Israeli friend to translate, the friend offered her own family recipe, with confusing measurements such as “a spoonful of this” and “a bit of that.” Elberg managed to nail down exact quantities, loved the recipe and began to experiment with toppings again.
“The topping is always the best part,” she said. “Which kid doesn’t eat it first? I remember being excited about the topping drippings on the parchment paper! I wanted my toppings to be that good. I went through tons of trial-and-error until I had the exact chocolate glaze I wanted.”
When Elberg saw a jam-stuffed challah online made by a fellow challah enthusiast, she was inspired to invent her sufganiyot-challot: a buttery-tasting challah with custard filling and sprinkle topping, and a second, jam-filled, crumb-topped challah with a confectioners’ sugar base.
Challah flavors, available weekly for $7.50, include regular, whole wheat, vegan whole wheat, cinnamon sugar, vanilla crumb, vanilla crumble, Funfetti sprinkle, cookies ‘n’ cream, Java chip, cinnamon dolce, caramelized onion and dill, roasted garlic and onion bialy. Elberg also sells frozen challah dough for $5 and babka for $11 to $14.
Special-for-Chanukah gourmet doughnuts are $2 each. Flavors include Boston cream, chocolate-filled s’more, rainbow sprinkle with vanilla whipped cream, Rosemarie chocolate filling, black & white and halva cream. Advance orders are recommended, but Elberg also announces flavors of the day on Facebook. All her baked goods are kosher and parve (except at Shavuot).
Naomi Elberg can be reached via Facebook at TGIS Challah, Instagram at tgis_naomi, email at Tgis.email@example.com or through her website www.squareup.com/store/tgis.