Baker turns her passion for challah into business
Photo: Courtesy Debbie Rajunov
University of Texas-themed challah

By Deb Silverthorn

Debbie Rajunov, the baker behind Deb’s Dough, creates edible artistry in the form of challahs, babkas and more from her home kitchen in Frisco.  

“From when I was very young, my grandmother ‘Omi,’ of blessed memory, was my mentor of Jewish cooking,” said Rajunov, reminiscing about latkes, chicken soup and more.

Five years ago, Rajunov was late to order challah for the High Holidays, and found no prepared ones locally. Deciding to bake one herself, she pulled up a recipe on Google. That first challah was a success and her family voted never to have store-bought again. Flash forward and it seemed the whole world was baking. During the pandemic, Rajunov began creating more ornamental designs. 

She watched dozens of YouTube videos, and began following challah influencers and taking online classes. Tweaking her recipe all along, Rajunov was encouraged to take the next step by her daughter Abby, who said her work was “too pretty not to sell.”

“I love taking the braids and turning them into something, sometimes creating my own designs and at times building on the work I’ve seen of others,” she said. “The creative freedom is something I really enjoy.”

Rajunov bakes challah topped with choices of poppy or sesame seeds, everything seasoning and cinnamon sugar which can be filled with raisins, chocolate, Nutella, churro chocolate chips or caramel. She’s added pull-apart challah rolls and babkas to her repertoire, those of cinnamon apple, chocolate and a flavor-of-the-month — Oreo a sweet favorite.

Her customer base began with friends and family but it has quickly grown to 90, many of them regular orders. She remains connected to them with a weekly newsletter that features the dates she’s baking, upcoming specialties and how many slots are available for each item.

“It’s just me in the kitchen, from start to finish,” said Rajunov. “It’s a lot of fun and a great creative outlet. I love coming up with new ideas and really, anyone’s suggestion is a possibility.”

She is now taking orders for Thanksgiving turkey-shaped and Hanukkah dreidel pull-apart challahs. Rajunov has also baked in the shapes of numerals for recent 100- and 80-year birthdays, hearts, stars and even “U” and “T” and longhorn creations for University of Texas at Austin ZBT fraternity sophomores. 

“I had been ordering and Debbie had been sending challahs to the boys at UT, and I thought it would be fun to do something special for the weekend,” said Yvette Stayman, the mother of UT business student Jacob. “She absolutely went overboard and it was incredible. Delicious and just so special.”

Baking for Marcy Kahn, who has made her own challahs for 30 years, put a little stress on Rajunov but she lived up to the promise. 

“I had the privilege of trying one of Debbie’s challahs and, forsaking my own, it was literally the best challah I’ve ever had. One week, she only had frozen ones left, I opted to try one and there was absolutely no difference,” said Marcy. “Once heated, the frozen challah was as delicious as the fresh one. Deb adds a little magic into her dough so that each challah is perfect.”

The daughter of Israel natives Gideon and Ilana Kishony, and sister of David, Karen and Ron, Rajunov was born in New York and grew up in Schaumburg, Illinois, where the family attended Beth Tikvah Congregation.

Married since 1999, Rajunov and her husband, Manuel, are also parents of Josh. They are longtime members of Congregation Anshai Torah. Rajunov serves on the executive board and Building Committee, is a leader of the synagogue’s Illustrated Torah and Menorah Project programs and previously served on the Religious School Committee. The family is passionate about their collective involvement in AIPAC, and Manuel, who is a member of its National Council, is a former chair of the Dallas chapter and vice-chair of its New Leadership Network.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture, Rajunov finds “building” her challahs fulfills her design spirit. 

“I love creating foods that have families connecting over something delicious and fun,” she said.

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