The story of Pekarnya — Yana’s Bakery

Meet Chana Miriam Opert. Mother of seven, Hebrew teacher, Karate black belt, birth doula, singer songwriter, polylinguist, and most recently, professional baker and owner of Pekarnya —Yana’s Bakery.

When South Africa went into hard lockdown almost two years ago, Chana’s work as a birth doula was forced onto the backburner, as hospitals allowed only the doctor/obstetrician and hospital staff into the delivery room.

Like so many of us, while hiding from the dreaded Covid, she caught that other ‘bug’ sweeping Cape Town (and the world??) — the BREAD-BAKING bug! So when a friend shared her recipe for sourdough, Chana rolled up her sleeves, and although she didn’t know it at the time, Pekarnya — Yana’s Bakery was conceived!

Water, salt, flour, magic! The results were delicious, and those who tried it commented that it was good enough to sell. Chana notes that although sourdough was being made and sold all over Cape Town, kosher sourdough was nowhere to be had.

Another friend — a successful businessman — had been encouraging her to sell her home-made challahs for a while. Chana thought sourdough would sell better as it was more of a novelty, and challah was readily available. She gave him a sourdough loaf to try. He immediately asked her how many she could make at once, how long it would take, and what it would cost her. From this information she worked out a selling price, and he surprised her by buying 100 loaves upfront. She was to make them and hand them out to everyone that she thought might be interested. The 100-loaf challenge took about two months of hard work and meticulous record-keeping, and Pekarnya – yana’s bakery was born!

Chana began to receive orders and the business slowly grew. Requests came in for challah, then babke and cinnamon buns. Each time, Chana rose to the challenge, allowing the business to grow on a manageable scale. Her menu now boasts a large variety of sourdough and rye loaves, bagels, babkes, rugelach, cinnamon buns, doughnuts (sufganiyot), pizza bases and ‘Hamentaschen pockets’.

“What,” one might ask, “are hamentaschen pockets?” When Chana made hamentaschen for Purim last year, they proved so popular that requests continued to come in after Purim — from the Jewish community and beyond.

She decided to continue supplying them, but changed their shape to rectangular ‘pockets’, reverting to the traditional triangle shape only during Purim, so that they retained their special Purim association.

Chana’s hamentaschen

In honour of Purim that falls on 17 March this year, the CJC asked Chana to share her hamentaschen recipe with us. Try it out yourself! Or if you prefer, you can order directly from her.

200g water
2 tsp dry active yeast
3 tbsp sugar
400g all-purpose flour (cake flour)
6 tbsp vegetable oil

Gradually combine ingredients, starting with yeast, sugar and water, adding the flour slowly. Mix either by hand or in a stand mixer using a dough hook. Cover in an airtight container, allow to rise for two hours.

Poppy seed/mon
80g poppy seeds soaked overnight, drained and crushed in a blender
100ml water
2,5 tbsp sugar
1tsp parev margarine
2 tsp apricot or strawberry jam
1 plain parev biscuit (eg Marie biscuit) pulverised to crumbs
Place the poppy seeds and water into saucepan and bring to boil, combine the rest of the ingredients in a different bowl, then add them into the boiling mixture. Reduce heat and keep stirring, cover and leave to simmer for about ten minutes. Allow to cool.
Cream cheese
250g cream cheese
1large egg
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp cream
1 tsp vanilla
Parev chocolate nibs

Streusel topping
1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
Combine all ingredients and mix well with a fork. If mixture is still too sticky, add sugar and flour.

Roll out the dough
Cut out circles 12 cm in diameter
Place about 2 tbsp of desired filling in the middle,
Wet the edge of the circle and connect the edges together, to form a triangle. Turn the triangles upside down onto the baking tray, lined with floured non-stick baking sheet, brush with water and a touch of vegetable oil, and sprinkle streusel liberally.
Bake in preheated oven at 180°C for 15 — 20 minutes

Mon and chocolate are parev.

• Published in the PDF edition of the March 2022 issue – Click here to get it.

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  1. Hi
    I would very much like to contact Chana Opert.
    Do you have her email address and cell number please.
    Many thanks
    Bev Moss-Reilly


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