For years, conventional wisdom had it the best bakery challah in town came from It Takes The Cake – until the bakery abruptly closed in June 2016.
What happened to the legendary challah recipe?
“There was a rumor that Crossroads Deli had it,” said Ann Hendrickx. “But it wasn’t quite it.”
The recipes whereabouts were unknown. Until now.
Chef Jonathan Kaye, the owner of Heritage Breads, which moved into the space occupied by It Takes The Cake in Minnetonka, said they are baking challah from that recipe every week for Shabbat. And he would know the recipe is legit — it was handed to him by Jack Laboe, whom along with his wife, Doll, opened It Takes The Cake in 1998.
“Mine is the exact recipe,” Kaye said. The one difference, he pointed out, is that his bread uses organic ingredients, right down to the Heritage Wheat Flour from Sunrise Mill in North Branch, Minn. – and he’s the only baker using that kind of flour in Minnesota.
Kaye has one other full-time baker working with him – Hendrickx, who recently graduated from Le Cordon Bleu’s baking program. Heritage Breads shares the space with Sweet Jules Gifts, which makes handmade caramels and other sweets.
Hendrickx said the flour is the key ingredient that differentiates his products. She explained that in the 1940s and 50s, farmers started hybridizing wheat to increase the yield, which introduced GMOs to the products.
“Because its flour is from an ancient grain and it’s organic, it’s easier to digest,” Hendrickx said. “People with a gluten intolerance and some people with celiac can eat it and not have a problem.”
Kaye is a trained chef and former Le Cordon Bleu instructor who taught himself how to bake.
“I had taught international cuisine courses, and every year I would take on a project – one year it was baking,” he said. “I went to the Mill City Farmer’s Market and started talking to the guys at Sunrise and got involved with them.”
After falling short in the market’s bread baking competition the first year he entered, he won it the second. The bakery continues to sell at the Mill City Farmer’s Market.
Kaye acknowledges that they aren’t a Jewish bakery – although the Australian born chef is Jewish and the son of two Israelis. He’s been in the United States since 1989 as a 20-year-old, where he’s worked around the country. (“Ask any chef in Minnesota what brought them here and it’s one of two things: an ex or Hazelden for rehab,” he said. It was the former for him).
Kaye said his chocolate babka is the best in town – it’s on their Thanksgiving menu – and had round, raisin challah on the special order menu for Rosh Hashanah. There are also an array of cookies and cakes available.
What also sets Heritage apart is the process; the loaves are handmade and takes three days to make from start to finish, which helps explain why it’s open Wednesday-Saturday. Kaye also uses a 100-year-old sourdough starter in the products.
The price of the loaves –despite their large sizes – may catch people off-guard. And Kaye understands that.
“The first year the price was more of a shock,” he said. “Once people buy they realize it’s worth it.”