Almost five years in, Baked by Yael is now selling the holy grail of Jewish baked goods: challah.
Famous for her colorful rainbow of cake pops and the bagels rolled by the dozens for markets across the city, owner Yael Krigman was hesitant to start crafting challah. But after what seemed like 40 years of wandering in the challah-free desert for the DC Jewish community, Krigman decided it was time.
Krigman says that it was a challenging process. “I don’t make any baked goods unless the recipe is perfect, and it took me a while to develop the perfect challah. My staff and I finally nailed it this summer, and I’m delighted to make our delicious challah available to everyone who’s been searching for fresh, kosher challah in DC.”
Having finally found her challah mojo, Krigman says that early testers have been pleased, too—though she admits that the Jewish community is opinionated and passionate about its challah.
“Our customers have been absolutely thrilled with it so far,” she said. “As with all Jewish food, people have very strong opinions about how challah should look, feel, taste, smell and probably even sound. That makes it all the more gratifying that our challah has been almost universally praised. And it’s why I waited so many years to sell challah—I wanted to make sure I got it just right.”
Before there was challah, there were cake pops. Krigman founded Baked by Yael in 2010 while an attorney at an international law firm. In 2011, she converted from lawyer to baker to focus on Baked by Yael full time. By 2013, she raised nearly $75,000 from a Kickstarter campaign. In January 2015, she opened, according to Krigman, “DC’s first cakepoppery.”
Baked by Yael is the only local kosher bakery located within the confines of Washington, DC—meaning this shop’s bread is the only kosher challah made by a local bakery in the District.
All of Baked by Yael’s ingredients are hechshered. Its kitchen is certified kosher, supervised by Rabbi Aaron Alexander of Adas Israel Congregation, who is certified as a mashgiach by the Conservative Movement.
Today, Baked by Yael has expanded beyond its original store across from the National Zoo. It has stands at the Old Town, Del Ray and Four Mile Run farmers’ markets in Alexandria and the Palisades farmers’ market in DC.
Back to the bread.
“We’ve done an embarrassing amount of taste-testing to make sure our challah is as good as it can possibly be,” Krigman said.
Fiercely protective of her exact recipe, Krigman won’t elaborate on the proprietary particulars that make her challah appealing. However, she permits that Baked by Yael “adds honey to the challah, which gives it a nice, smooth sweetness that’s not overpowering. But the key ingredient is patience. Challah baking is a labor of love. It’s a multi-day, multi-faceted process that includes three proofs [periods of time for the dough to rise].”
For now, the six-braided classic is keeping the staff’s hands full. For the upcoming High Holidays, however, the shop will offer both round and raisin-studded loaves.
Otherwise, the loaves come in two sizes; regular is just under a foot long. Jumbo-size challah is 15 inches long and comes out to about twice the overall size of a regular.
When people pop in for their weekly bread (samples sit out for tasting on Fridays), “we’re hoping people will come for the challah and stay for the bagels and cake pops,” she said. Krigman also expressed hope that her challah will become part of the area community’s routines.
Customers can purchase the bread at bakedbyyael.com or by stopping by the bakery, but once the shop is out, it’s out. Ordering in advance is highly recommended. Even easier, the shop offers curbside pickup, local delivery and nationwide shipping.
Starting this fall, customers can also find Baked by Yael’s challah, hand-rolled bagels, cake pops and other kosher and nut-free baked goods at the new EDJCC café.
Baked by Yael, 202.234.9235 (YAEL), 3000 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC, Sunday–Thursday 8 am–7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 8 am–8 pm. Kosher.