Cheryl Holbert isn’t a classically trained baker. In fact, she didn’t even grow up Jewish. But the unique and intricate challah she bakes week after week from her New Hampshire cottage bakery, Nomad Bakery, is unlike anything I have ever seen. And I’d like to think I have seen my fair share of beautiful challah.
I began following Cheryl’s creations on Instagram nearly a year ago, and have become entranced by her swirled breads, flavored with carefully chosen ingredients like matcha, saffron and even Persian cardamom tea. The eggs she uses in her challah are sourced from a local farmer, with whom she barters the eggs for a loaf of her artisanal sourdough. The honey in her challah is sourced from a local beekeeper, and like me, she uses only King Arthur flour.
Cheryl approaches challah from the unique perspective of an artist, and as an American with a diverse background. Her mother’s family came from Poland originally and her father came from Iran after its 1979 revolution. She later discovered, through family stories and DNA testing, that her mother’s family had Jewish ancestry, and she has connected deeply to her identity through baking challah. She began baking bread in college and later ran an arts program at the Currier Museum in Manchester, New Hampshire. When the funding ran out for her program, she switched gears and began selling bread from her home.
You can see the care and passion Cheryl has for bread baking and art through every swirl and strand. And I cannot stop staring. In addition to selling her breads at local markets and stores, she teaches challah decorating classes. Learn more about her on her website or follow her Instagram.