In the past year, I have fully embraced baking my own challah. There is absolutely no comparison to warm, homemade challah, fresh from the oven so we haven’t had store-bought challah in our house for quite a while. My current favorite recipe (the Beigel Family Challah from Joan Nathan’s The Foods of Israel Today) goes through three rises and it’s not a short endeavor. So, I was really excited and curious when my sister-in-law (of the awesome site Mock-Off) said she’d read about a company that had developed challah mixes.
But could challah from a mix really be as good as from-scratch? I contacted them to see if they’d be willing to send me some mixes to try out and share with you. Tribes-A-Dozen‘s clever motto is “Break bread, not tradition.” The whole idea is that by using the Voila! Hallah mixes, you can make a traditional challah in under two hours. I love the idea of making it more accessible to the modern family! They offer three varieties: Traditional, Wholey Wheat and Spelt, all available on Amazon and some East Coast supermarkets.
Definitely an “A” for packaging; I think the cute boxes would be great for gift baskets. Inside, the boxes include a yeast packet and mix while the back of the box has detailed instructions. I decided to start with the Traditional. For this one, you need eggs, oil, and, water. Sesame or poppy seeds (for the top) and sugar (for the egg wash) are optional. The preferred method for mixing is with a stand mixer although it does say it can be done with a bread machine or by hand. My Kitchen-Aid is my challah making friend for sure! After following the mixing directions, the dough appeared as in photo 2 below. It was definitely much stickier than my go-to challah recipe. The first rise is only 10 minutes and it did not rise all that much. After the 10 minute rise, I braided the challah and applied the egg wash (which I did add a little sugar to). It was definitely much stickier dough than I am used to working with but I didn’t have any trouble rolling it out on my silicone mat.
After 45 minutes of rising on the parchment-lined baking sheet (again little visible size increase), it then baked for about 25 minutes and came out this lovely golden color (picture 4 sitting atop my awesome bread warmer stone). I do have to say that he beautiful color is thanks in part to the yummy farm fresh eggs from my friend Andie’s Farm. Now that we’ve switched to farm fresh eggs, we won’t go back. The difference is amazing. Andie’s even done a comparison on her blog if you need further evidence of the merits of farm fresh.
As the Traditional was rising/baking, I set to work on the Wholey Wheat and Spelt. Both call for the same additional ingredients as the Traditional along with some honey. The directions vary from the Traditional and call for longer rise times, so be sure to follow them carefully.
Even after the longer rise, both were quite sticky but again manageable on the silicone mat with some flour for forming the loaves. Now I’m not sure if I didn’t braid them tightly enough or what but as you can see in the photos below, the braids lost their definition after baking. I looked through the tips on Tribes-A-Dozen’s page and couldn’t find anything that might explain this.
Here are all three nice and toasty in the bread basket with my warming stone:
I’d note that each box says it makes one large or two small loaves or 8 rolls. My experience was more like 1 medium loaf per box (at least in comparison to the recipe I usually use which makes three small loaves). With the rising and baking all done, it was time for the biggest test of all: TASTE. Here are all three sliced:
They were all good but definitely not as good as scratch. I told my husband and our friends doing the taste testing (on Christmas of course!) that the comparison should be whether they are better than store-bought. The consensus was they are better than your average grocery store challah but probably not better than a decent bakery. The texture on the Traditional just wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for and look for in a challah. Although you do get the added benefit of getting them warm from the oven which is a big plus. The stand-out was the Wholey Wheat, which despite it’s undefined braids, had a really yummy wheat flavor and great texture – much better than the whole wheat challahs I’ve made before. So, if you are not a challah purist, I think the wheat is definitely worth a try. As for the others, I’m on the fence. I think that if you are new to baking bread and/or challah, they are a good way to ease in on a smaller scale. They also do simplify the process and shorten it time-wise which is a selling point too. Like I mentioned before, I also think they’d be sweet in a housewarming gift basket along with some dish towels and measuring cups or other kitchen essentials.
What do you think? Would you try challah from a mix?
HAPPY NEW YEAR! L’Chaim!
P.S. In case you missed the post on Facebook, Heidi was the winner of the Michael’s gift card. Remember to follow Mamaleh on FB for more fun posts and tips in between blog updates. Just be sure to click show in News Feed under the like button so that you don’t miss any posts.
Note: I was not financially compensated for this post. I received Tribes-A-Dozen mixes free for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.