Roling's Bakery: Heaven on Earth

Every tasty tidbit at Roling’s Bakery is kosher, a fact that makes their pastries, cookies and breads perfect choices, no matter what sort of menu (dairy or meat) they’re meant to accompany or follow. But Sam Roling emphasized that their patrons are an ecumenical crowd. Besides stocking the shop, across the street from the Elkins Park train station, Roling’s supplies different religious congregations and community markets across the region.

For over 30 years, Roling’s Bakery has established its reputation for the most flavorful challah this side of heaven. Whether you prefer the large or small size, whole wheat or traditional white, raisin or plain, the secret, Sam Roling claims, is his wife. “My challenge,” Rita Roling noted, “is to make everything better each time I make it.”

Back in the day, Rita Roling graduated from college in library science and was supporting her Ph.D. studies in philosophy by baking. Sam Roling was known in those days through Sam’s Felafels, drawing hungry scholars at Temple, Penn and Drexel to his popular food trucks. Yet the popularity of the Rolings’ bakery goods soon overpowered their other pursuits.

Each autumn, in order to efficiently serve their lines of loyal followers with special round challahs, the Rolings set up a large, tented stand in front of the bakery (quite an epic scene, especially during a downpour). At such times, you’re glad for lots of street parking, fast turnaround, and a quick block to circle.

Sam Roling’s expertise with breads, especially pumpernickel, rye, bagels and French bread, also includes what he calls “slow rise” techniques, controlling the temperature over a period of two days. He’s pleased with the results of his steam oven from Canada and the recipes the couple has developed and tweaked over decades of work.

Besides their breads, Roling’s best sellers include cookies and apple cake. Particularly noteworthy are also the Hungarian-style kumisch brot, rugelach and schnecken. And try not to drool over the croissants, raspberry twists and elephant ears, while you devour your big black and white cookie.

The almond horns, tipped at both ends in chocolate, are nothing less than divine. Sam Roling explains, “Most bakers don’t want to spend the money for real almond paste.” Then the man who’d earlier declared he has no favorites, added, “The apple strudel is better than in Vienna.”

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