Monday, May 6, 2013

Box Mix Challah (Oy Vey!)

Or, "why I really don't think bread should come from a box".

Let me back it up a little.

As my abilities in the kitchen have grown, I've learned to have a love/hate relationship with box mix anythings - cakes, brownies, you name it. 

I love them for the same reasons that everyone else does.  I mean, let's be honest: there's something to be said when it takes you five minutes and minimal effort to put together a cake or batch of brownies before you pop them in the oven.  There's also the consistency factor.  Every box of yellow cake mix tastes the same way the last one did.  Plus, you hardly need any ingredients to whip up your box mix delight and even if you don't have you need (usually a combination of eggs, oil and water), you can find enough ways around it to still make it come out okay.

Alas, these are also the reasons I pretty much hate box mixes.  Opening something from a box, adding a few things and putting it in the oven hardly counts as "baking" or "cooking", and sometimes, that consistency is annoying - what if I want my chocolate cake to be MORE chocolatey? Or my brownies to be more or less fudgy?  Also, I feel like something from scratch just tastes better.

I'll be honest and say that I like to use box mixes when I'm experimenting with flavors (twinkie cupcakes) or trying something new that I'm not sure will work (brownie bottom cupcakes).  Sometimes, it's easier to experiment with something I know I can count on and trying to work backwards from there.

So, that's my rant about box cake mixes.  Now, let's talk about this boxed Challah mix I got as a sample from Joe's boss.

First, what it is: quite simply, Challah is just braided bread that represents the manna that fell from the heavens when the Jews were wandering the dessert for 40 years.  Cultural significance aside, Challah is really just a bread dough, made with egg, that's braided instead of put in a loaf pan.

So, seems easy enough.  I haven't yet made any from scratch, but I did get a chance to try out this sample over the weekend.
Photo from

Like most box mixes, the instructions were really easy.  For this one, the only additional ingredients you need are minimal amount of flour and sugar and a couple of eggs.  Everything else, including the yeast, is inside the box.

The box claims that this will get you challah in less than 2 hours, and it does.  However, getting "a" challah and getting a "good" challah are two entirely different things.  After you combine the ingredients, you're supposed to cover your dough and let it rise for 10 minutes.  I did, but nothing happened and it looked exactly the same.

Then, after you braid your dough, you're supposed to let it rise for 45 minutes.  I did - I even covered it with a warm, damp towel - and it didn't really get any bigger.  It got a little bigger in the oven, but still nothing like the big and fluffy challahs that I'm accustomed to.
To be fair, it came out looking amazing!

Like all bread, it smelled delicious while it was in the oven.  Once I took it out of the oven and transferred it to a rack to cool, I knew I was probably in trouble - the challah was really heavy and felt like it weighed a million pounds.  Slicing it, I was pretty positive it wasn't going to be any good - it felt really thick and not as light and fluffy as any other bread I've ever made.  I served some with dinner and was really unimpressed with the results - dense, chewy, bland.  Even plain, store-bought challah has more flavor than this one did.

Overall, while this WAS really easy to make, it leaves much to be desired.  The challah was way too dense with very little flavor - for me, too big of a sacrifice to make for the added convenience.

What's the last kind of box mix that you used? 

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