Challah a tradition at Houston’s Three Brothers Bakery

September 27, 2011 • Houston Chronicle

It’s a mitzvah – a worthy deed – to make your own challah at home for Rosh Hashanah, said Janice Jucker, who runs Three Brothers Bakery with her husband, Bobby, a fifth-generation baker.

But not everyone has the time, patience or perfect recipe to create the yeasty egg bread that for many Jewish families is integral to Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish year. And that is why Three Brothers Bakery has been busy baking thousands of coiled loaves of challah for the holiday which begins Wednesday at sundown.

“Spiritually, it’s supposed to be very good to make your own. And we never mind losing to homemade – you can’t beat that,” Jucker said. “But if you’re going to buy it, we don’t think anyone else’s store-bought is as good as ours.”

Plenty of Houstonians would have to agree. Purchasing challah from Three Brothers has become a local tradition. “For people here, part of their holiday tradition is to stand in line for their challah,” Jucker said, adding that Rosh Hashanah is one of the three busiest holidays for the bakery (next to Thanksgiving and Christmas). “Some people dip it in honey for a sweet year.”

Jucker estimates that Three Brothers will bake about 4,000 loaves of the rich, non-dairy bread. And baked into each challah is Jucker history. “It’s part of our identity. When you think about it, this family recipe dates back 200 years. To think that we’re doing something that the first generation of this family did in the 1800s for their community (in Poland), that’s cool,” she said.

“The key to making good bread is being able to feel the dough and know when it’s ready. And that’s something you can’t teach people. You either have it or you don’t; it’s genetic. That ability to make that bread is a gift from God.”

There’s no time for the Juckers to bake their own home-made breads and pastries for their own celebrations. The Three Brothers Bakery staff is so busy with Rosh Hashanah that it will work up to sundown to provide challah to their customers. And if that’s not a mitzvah, what is?