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The Challah Fairy

Food and prop styling by Shiri Feldman
Food prep and styling by Chef Suzie Gornish
Photography by Felicia Perretti

Who: The Challah Fairy
What: Amazing sourdoughs, pizzas, and other goodies
Where: New City, NY
When: Since 1990
Why: To enhance her customers’ Shabbos with delicious challah and baked goods


Once again, my dear cousin Simi directed me to our next Like a Local destination — Chanalee, of Challah Fairy fame. Simi (and her friends) make a biweekly trip to Chanalee’s home to stock up on her deliciously over-the-top jalapeño-garlic sourdough breads. I immediately called her to hear all about it.

Chanalee was generous, friendly, and more than happy to share her story and her recipe.

Chanalee moved to Wesley Hills as a stay-at-home mother when her daughter was three months old. When she had two young children, she started baking challah every Friday. She would always bring one loaf of challah to her friend and place it in her mailbox, which was situated at the end of a long driveway. Each Friday, her friend would call her and say, “Ooooh, the challah fairy was here!” This triggered the name of her business, which has stuck until today.

Local friends began to purchase her delicious challah and urged her to sell to the public. So began a hectic and taxing stage in her life. Chanalee would bake large amounts of challah and deliver throughout Monsey, Teaneck, Englewood, the Upper East and Upper West Side, and even to New Rochelle and Scarsdale. She made deliveries every Thursday night, schlepping all over in a rented van (and in those days, with no GPS, it wasn’t so easy!).

She recalled how she went to Manhattan to deliver to some of the wealthiest Jews in America, not even knowing how they’d heard about her. With a chuckle, Chanalee told me that she used to leave an envelope with the doorman and picked up her money the next week. There was no Zelle option then!

Back in those days, Chanalee worked like crazy, purchasing a second Bosch and then a third to be able to meet her orders. She then switched to a small commercial machine, a 30-quart Hobart, which she still uses today. After she moved to New City, Rockland Journal News contacted her and wrote up her story, publishing the article before Rosh Hashanah. The day after it came out, her phone started ringing off the hook. She baked around the clock for five days straight!

Chanalee hired two girls to help her in her tiny workspace, and that’s how she operated for almost four years. At that point, she started selling to a broader public.

Chanalee owned and operated a beautiful bakery and café for about 10 years. When Covid hit, she closed down and moved her business home. After two years of operating at a slower pace, she went back full force, taking on new projects, such as sourdough, focaccia, personal pizza pies, dips, and many other goodies. She also does brachos parties and challah bakes and sells challah to Jewish camps.

One week, when Chanalee had extra dough, someone suggested that she make pizza with it. She tried it, and it sold out within a few minutes. “Hey, this is my new thing!” she realized. Thus began her signature pizza, with a sourdough crust and gourmet pizza sauce that she literally makes from scratch. Fresh onions, crushed tomatoes, her own herbs and spices, fresh garlic…it doesn’t get better than that!

Her variety of crusts include regular, spelt, cauliflower, and gluten-free. With loads of toppings options, she also does pizza parties and sells par-baked pizzas that people buy for their own pizza parties.

At this point, the “Challah Fairy” sells out of her house, and she’s planning to open an online store soon. She sells challah to caterers as well as to schools and day camps, including kiruv ones. (Chanalee preps 600 boxes of challos for kids to take home for Shabbos every week!) She makes breadboards, huge, gorgeous seudah challos (each one equivalent to nine medium challos!), and many other scrumptious items. I’m flabbergasted at how she manages to produce such high quantities while also being involved in chesed, bringing soups, salads, and the like to people in need whenever she can.

Currently under the Tarnipol hechsher, the Challah Fairy is going strong. Chanalee delivers challah every Friday morning at about 6:30 a.m. “I love what I do, and I love to make people happy” is her refrain. It sure sounds like she puts her heart and soul into her work, making people happy with the fruits of her labor!

Challah Fairy Garlic-Jalapeño Board

I had so much fun trying out this amazing recipe. I’m sure you’ll love being creative with the toppings just as I was!


  • 1 recipe focaccia dough (see note)
  • 2–3 handfuls peeled garlic cloves
  • olive oil, for smearing
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, very finely sliced (you can use a mandolin or food processor for paper-thin slices)
  • ½ red pepper, diced
  • handful grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced green olives
  • 4–5 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2–3 Tbsp caramelized onions
  • herbs of choice, such as fresh parsley or dill, for sprinkling
  • salt, to taste

To prepare the dough, you can choose the slow-rise method or the quick-bake method. For the slow-rise method, spread out dough onto greased and floured parchment paper and refrigerate overnight, covered. For the quick-bake method, allow dough to rise for 45 minutes and knead until smooth, then spread out the dough onto greased and floured parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 275°F (135°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place garlic onto baking sheet and roast for 45–60 minutes, until golden-brown and soft. Remove from oven to cool.

Raise oven temperature to 425°F (220°C). Create indents with your fingertips all over the dough.

Smear the surface of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with toppings of your choice and a bit of salt. You can either divide the toppings and use some for each quarter of the dough or use any combination of toppings all over.

Cover the pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 7–10 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: I used the onion-board dough recipe I found in my Dining In Again cookbook. It worked great with these toppings.

Tip: You can prep a lot of garlic and keep it refrigerated until ready to use. Chanalee says they keep for a few weeks. They’re sweet and delicious and can be paired with many foods.


(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 894)

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