A Taste of America
What is Herby’s Bakeshop?
Herby’s is an authentic American bakery located in Beit El. Our products are available in many Anglo areas in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Gush Etzion.
How did you get into the baking industry?
When I was in college I was a guest in someone’s home and had the best challah I had ever tasted. I took the recipe from her and during my school vacation I tried it out. During the next vacation, I got another recipe and made caraway seed bread, baked in a coffee can. My brother worked at St. Jude’s Children’s Cancer Research Hospital at the time and I took the bread to a staff meeting there. When they tasted it, they suggested that I should start selling bread. So I did.
I was accepted to law school and when I was there I sold bread to about half the faculty. During senior year, we were discussing the business side of law and I kept talking about customers. The dean said, “In the legal profession we call them clients, not customers.” I guess customers are for bakeries. I even had a sticker made up that said “Herby Dan Baker at Law.”
Where did you gain your experience?
After I finished law school, I worked for a year in law. But then I decided to open a bakery. I conferred with some other bakeries and went to New York where I worked in quite a few bakeries and bagel stores, gaining a lot of hands-on experience. I also signed up for a course in a baking school after I got married, but in the end, I didn’t go. I did receive a set of reference books for the course and they were very helpful.
When did the original Herby’s bakeshop open?
I opened Herby’s Bakeshop in the basement of a pharmacy in Memphis in 1979. I was mainly baking challahs and doing home delivery. In January 1980 I took over the kosher bakery in Memphis and learned a lot there. They passed on their recipes for rye bread, donuts, brownies, etc., so we kept up our bakery until we left Memphis in 1986 to make aliyah.
How did you bring your dream with you to Israel?
For the first few months we were here, I worked in a few different bakeries including Angel’s. I kept baking independently, but didn’t have my own space, so I had to rent facilities from other people.
In 1989 we opened in Beit El, starting mostly with challahs, brownies, and cookies.
What items do you currently sell?
Assorted challahs, cookies, cakes, donuts and regular and wholewheat pies. We also started selling Yerushalmi kugel recently and hope to add potato kugel to our repertoire as well.
What hechsher do you have?
Besides our local hechsher we have the OU Israel Mehadrin hechser and are currently in the process of being certified by the Chatam Sofer Bnei Brak hechsher.
What’s your most loved item?
Our donuts are always popular. Americans miss real American donuts, and the sufganiyot that come out only for Chanukah don’t cut it. We currently deliver donuts to stores three times a week. There was a survey in Jerusalem a few years ago asking people where to get the best sufganiyot/donuts. Herby’s came in second out of all the available donuts in the city. When it came time for the Purim hamantaschen survey, ours were first! Our hamantaschen dough is so good that we actually sell it to the local girls’ school so they can shape their hamantachen in school and bring them home to bake. Parents came raving to me for weeks after about how good the hamantaschen were, and I even got some customers who came just to buy dough.
Can people do special orders with you?
Since we are a relatively small establishment we have the flexibility to make smaller custom batches to suit our customers’ requests. I like experimenting with making recipes healthier and can make cookies with less sugar, for example. Obviously a special order is still somewhat of a bulk order, so although I can do a special order for a simcha, we don’t take orders for something like a single cake.
Any advice for our readers on how to make the perfect challah at home?
The best way to achieve a perfect challah is to pick one recipe and keep tweaking it until it comes out perfect for your tastes. Try increasing or decreasing sugar to control sweetness, eggs and oil to control richness. If you want to use honey, either instead of or in addition to sugar, you will need to use additional yeast. Also play with the oven temperature and baking time. It might take a few weeks of trying, or it might take six months, but once you have the perfect formula you should have the perfect challah.
What makes your baked goods more authentic than others?
We try to use only high-quality ingredients. Also, I offer specialty cookies made with whole wheat or even spelt flour, which has become more popular nowadays. I work hard to make sure I don’t compromise the taste when increasing the nutritional benefits.