The High Holidays are just around the corner, and we’ve been dreaming about all of the amazing treats that accompany the new year.
Our intern, Talia, caught up with one of our community members, Irit, who has actually made her business out of baking the Jewish delicacies many of us grew up with, inspired by her background in Israeli cooking. Her online bakery, Shipped From Scratch, is run out of her home kitchen in the Sterling, VA area.
Talia: Tell me a little bit about Shipped From Scratch and how you got started with your business/your experience with baking!
ID: Delicious looking chocolate Babka, three loaves on cooling racks
Irit: My mom has been a stay-at-home mom for most of her life, and so I really modeled after her. I also spent a lot of time with my grandma and learned from her as well and then it became us three in the kitchen making things together. When you reach an older age, you realize that all the things that you’ve observed over the years have had this kind of imprint on you.
In Israel, people are very comfortable with the kitchen, and cooking and baking and especially for holidays and things like that. So I started experimenting about 15 years ago, I found that I like it and it was interesting and I just learned that way. And then from that, I started adding my own changes and ideas and tweaking recipes and things like that to make it to my preference.
This whole endeavor with Etsy started with me making cake pops for a friend’s son’s birthday. I shipped the cake pops and he loved them! After that, I showed it to other people and they said, oh, you should sell these. So it was the first product in the shop! And from there, I naturally added the Jewish and Israeli-influenced products.
Talia: How are you feeling about the High Holidays? What’s on your menu coming up?
Irit: Round challah, of course. You can have plain honey, or add raisins or apples. I am offering pomegranate-shaped red challah rolls and I also have vegan options with different replacements for the honey. In Israel, honey cakes (lekach) are very, very popular so I’m doing them here, too. I also make honey crinkle cookies, and spiced cake in different forms, like giant muffins or a mini-Bundt, or just a plain loaf. My husband gets mad at me for making all these things and I’m like, well, you are the only tester I have here!
Talia: How has your connection to Jewishness played a role in creating your brand and menu?
Irit: I went to the Jewish influences because it was a unique offering to the people on Etsy. Same with the farmer’s market around here, so I started immediately with the Babka [Editor’s Note: a loaf-shaped coffee cake made with sweet yeast dough to which raisins, chocolate, or nuts may be added.] all the things that people immediately know. It’s just fun for me because I’ve been away from home for so long that making these makes me feel like I’m home for a little bit.
Talia: What has been the hardest/the most rewarding part of what you do?
Irit: I have more ideas for new products, but it’s harder to find ways to ship them. I can’t ship quick perishable items like items that include something like cheese. Some things I ship with ice packs are included because they’re more prone to melting. Also, these are homemade baked goods, there are no preservatives in them. It’s been an experience to adjust the way I bake and package things.
That’s another reason I’m trying to be more available locally, and because I’d like to meet people and have that connection. I’ve also started offering classes in person and on Zoom, where I teach recipes from my shop so people can learn to make them for themselves. I spent my summer teaching at a culinary school in the area, which was a very wonderful and rewarding experience.
Talia: What do you love most about running Shipped From Scratch?
Irit: I love that I can just be creative with everything and try to put my own twist on things. A lot of times you see different recipes, things are repetitive, but I can put in something that’s mine and get this unique flavor that no one else has. Each order is personalized. I enjoy making special requested items because it makes me feel like I’m trusted by the customer which builds on that personal connection. I want to make people feel like the person who made it, didn’t just make it and ship it, but actually put effort into it and thought and care.
You can find Irit’s products online in her Etsy store or in person very soon at the Eat Loco Farmer’s Market!
ID: A round Challah roll that looks like a seashell, baked a perfect golden brown