Holla for Challah With Sweets Melissa

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Purim.jpg
For the Jewish holiday of Purim (taking place this weekend), bakers painstakingly make hamentashen, triangular filled cookies that resemble the three-cornered hat that Haman, the villain in the Purim story, wore. Each cookie is hand-filled and hand-shaped.

Last week Missy Sostrin made 10 dozen of these time-intensive triangular masterpieces. Sostrin is the owner of Sweets Melissa, a Franklin-based business that sells traditional Jewish baked goods, as well as cakes, gluten-free sweets, vegan cupcakes, truffles and other desserts. But since last spring, when the beloved Bellevue-based Alpha Bakery closed, what Sweets Melissa has become known for is its challah, the traditional braided egg bread.

When Sostrin lived in New York, she bought challah for her Friday night family dinners. Or, she did until one year during a wheat shortage when prices skyrocketed. She figured it had to be cheaper to make it on her own, and learned that she found the process of baking bread therapeutic. Sostrin started braiding and baking every week. When she moved to Franklin she kept on baking, and later started Sweets Melissa, which cooks out of the kosher kitchen at the Thyme Cafe at the Genesis Campus for Jewish Life in Bellevue.

After Alpha shuttered its doors, demand for Sweets Melissa’s challah grew, both in the local Jewish community but also among customers who just wanted a loaf to make tasty French toast on the weekends. Sostrin bought 1,000 bread bags, enlisted her son to help with deliveries and started baking. Customers order the braided bread by e-mail (melsostrin@gmail.com) or phone (752-0639). She bakes on Thursday nights and delivers the $6 loaves on Friday (before the Sabbath) and for Jewish holidays. Sweets Melissa is in the market for a used industrial mixer. When Sostrin finds one in her budget, she’ll expand her offerings and capacity.

Until then, she’s sticking to the basics: “I think in this 24-7 kind of world, it is nice to stop and have a tradition you can look forward to,” Sostrin says. “There’s something about the magic of bread. It is flour and yeast and salt and becomes something else.”

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