James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

The Great Dallas Challah Hunt

The Great Dallas Challah Hunt

Challah in Dallas

I love challah. I eat it as often as I can, and for many years, I made it myself—but I recently ran into a problem. I no longer had time to do that every week.

I’m part Jewish, and first started to bake challah out of curiosity; I wondered if I had it in me to make challah and kugel. (I quickly discovered that the challah I made tasted much better than my kugel.) The bread’s slight sweetness and soft interior had me hooked. But with less time to bake, I knew I had to find an alternative source somewhere in Dallas.

My home city might not immediately come to mind as a place for good challah; Mexican food, Tex-Mex, or barbecue, sure. But Dallas’ Jewish community is one of the largest in Texas. German Jews settled in the city in the mid-19th century, and were hugely important to the city’s development. The Jewish community has only grown since then, but still, as I discovered, finding Jewish or kosher food here can still be a challenge. (Some stores even tried to convince me that brioche was the same thing as challah.) The first few weekends, I bought challah from bigger and well-known stores, and found their versions to be just OK.

Then I started to hit a few smaller bakeries, which did better, but I found that something was still missing. What I had been buying was either too sweet, slightly burnt on the outside, or a bit too tough on the inside. I was starting to wonder if I would ever find what I was looking for: soft on the inside, a slightly sweet taste, not too tough.

One Saturday morning, I went to a bakery that had been recommended to me through word-of-mouth: Empire Baking Company, a family-owned bakery that’s been open for more than 20 years. While waiting my turn in line, I was excited to see that they sold challah rolls in addition to loaves, which seemed like a promising start.

Once I got my hands on the loaf, I gave it the usual once-over: I looked at the coloring of the bread on top and bottom. It was a rich brown, which is what I prefer. Then I gave the bottom of the loaf a good thump. (I was taught that if it sounds hollow, then it’s done well.)

Satisfied with the early results, I sat down outside the bakery and pulled out a chunk. It was soft to the touch. I took a bite. It was everything I had hoped to find. A slightly sweet flavor, the bread soft on the inside. The outside not too tough.

I had found my bakery, and a new source of challah.

Empire Baking Company
5450 West Lovers Ln.
Dallas, TX 75209

Up Next

A Bread‑Lover’s Guide to Japan

Featured City Guides