Buttery babka. Fluffy challah. Delicious black and white cookies. This is what Austin’s perhaps first dedicated Jewish bakery service Top Nosh Bakery has been slinging for the past year, concocted by owner and baker Lauren Brink.
Brink’s made-to-order Jewish baked goods and desserts are created based on recipes from her husband David’s great-grandmother. Before starting the service, she had been baking on her own anyway, figuring out and practicing those processes. “My first challah loaf was a true nightmare,” she shares.
In 2019, Brink had been gearing up for the holiday baking season when her husband suggested that she try to sell her baked goods to the public. She was up for it, since she felt like she’d be able to help fill what she saw as a gap in the Jewish baked goods scene in Austin. She certified through the Texas Cottage Food Law, and launched Top Nosh that December, then called Better Than Bubbe’s; she renamed it in the late summer.
Top Nosh’s menu includes Jewish breads, including sweet and savory challah (typically served during holidays), such as plain, poppy seed, garlic and herb. There’s also an array of challah’s sweeter cousin — babka — from chocolate to strawberry to apple-cinnamon, as well as bagels (everything, cinnamon-raisin, sesame, etc.).
Top Nosh’s desserts include cakes (honey, peach, and Jewish apple), doughnuts (apple cider and blueberry), and cupcakes. The cookie spread is strong as well, offering everything from black and whites, hamantaschens (triangular cookies with fillings), and rugelach (rolled, filled cookies).
Brink wanted to make sure she catered to various diets and allergies, and modified the recipes in order to offer vegan and gluten-free items. “Developing vegan bagels and challah really was a process of guesswork, along with a ton of trial-and-error,” she says. She ended up using various coconut products, “because the flavor isn’t overwhelming, and it’s light enough that the dough tends to rise really well and stay soft after baking,” she describes.
Since Hanukkah begins this week, Brink is offering several specials, including the go-to holiday dessert sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts). There are also apple fritters, thumbprint sprinkle cookies, and holiday cookie packages featuring items like apple-spice snickerdoodles and red velvet white chocolate.
When Brink originally launched Top Nosh last winter, her baked goods were available at various markets across Austin, and sometimes, she’d fulfill direct orders placed via email or messaging. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she halted that market service, since foot traffic hasn’t been that great and she wanted to stay home more for virus mitigation. She switched to direct pickups and deliveries placed online.
Brink helms from southern New Jersey; she and her husband relocated to Austin after graduate school. Eventually, Brink, who has a full-time day job too, wants to open her own physical bakery, or at least be able to operate a kitchen space within a cafe.