Let’s talk about sweet breads. No, not the fleishig kind, a meaty kosher delicacy that actually is neither sweet nor bread. No, no no. I’m talking about the “sweet bread” that challah has become. You know, those new hip challahs loaded with enough gooey chocolate to instantly induce a hyperglycemic seizure.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too!
When exactly did challah start turning into dessert? When I was growing up, challah was boring and disappointing, just like my bar mitzvah performance. In my day, a sesame- or poppy-seed coating was a big deal. Raisin challah was an even bigger deal, reserved for holidays or as a consolation prize when the bakery had nothing else.
Nowadays, however, challahs come loaded with chocolate chips, cinnamon swirls and a myriad of other treats. Basically, challah has become cake. It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing Red Velvet challah, Devil’s Food challah and Strawberry Short challah. These new sweet challahs are so filled with cavity-causing ingredients that they’ve become a dentist’s dream. In fact, four out of five dentists recommend that you eat only sweet challah. The fifth dentist feels differently but due to threats from the others, is currently in the DPP, Dentist Protection Program. (In the 1990s, the same crooked dentists were indicted for incisor trading.)
Back to sweet bread. We all have heard the story about the former Queen of France, Marie-Antoinette, who allegedly declared: “Let them eat cake.” But the Queen was not talking about sweet challah and she certainly did not say “Lechem be cake.” Speaking of Lechem, how can one make “Hamotzi” on something that looks like it should be served with candles on someone’s birthday?
And guess who I blame for this “sweet challah” syndrome? I blame the matza ball, and being unleavened is no excuse. The moment someone had the half-baked idea of dropping a matza ball into a cup of consommé, it literally destroyed the critical line between bread and soup. (As one politician might say, a meal without borders is not a meal.) I wonder what other sacred food barriers will be broken? Gefilte fish – flavored wine? Cholent salad? Chopped liver – flavored after-dinner mint (to be paired with TamTam – flavored gum)?
I also hold others accountable for these new “sweet challah” creations. For example, I blame the cronut, a Frankenstein-ish combo of a croissant and a donut. Why are bakers creating these crazy concoctions? It’s like our baked goods are having an identity crisis. What’s next, the buffin (bagel/muffin), scita (scone/pita) and, of course, the labatta (laffa/ciabatta)? I can already hear the commercial jingle for the labatta, sung to the tune of the 1950s hit “La Bamba.” (La, La, La, La... Labatta!)
If this “sweet challah” cross-dishing craziness continues and if dessert keeps encroaching on other dishes, I’ll tell you who should be very nervous: the kugel. Yes, the kugel should be shaking in its tins because it’s only a matter time until someone starts drowning it in chocolate too. For the record, I really don’t want to start gossiping about the demise of the kugel, because that would be like speaking “lokshen” hara. But kugels really need to be on high alert.
And do you know who should be even more furious and frightened by the challah-cake insanity? Our dear friend, the babka. It should be livid because the sweet challah is literally killing the babka! (There, I said it. Someone had to. Bravest thing I’ve ever done.) Yes, the sweet challah is rendering the babka completely obsolete. And it’s totally unfair because the homely babka was never meant to compete with the handsome challah. Just the other day, I saw a child in a bakery point to an innocent chocolate babka and exclaim:
“Hey Mom, look at that ugly, disgusting chocolate challah wannabe. Why do they even make those stupid babka things? They’re hideous. Hold me, Mommy, I’m scared. Can we please go look at the beautiful challahs? Please, Mommy, please.”
Suffice it to say, it’s this kind of ignorance and baseless hatred that easily can lead to generational babka bigotry. I hate to say it but because of sweet challah, babka extinction may be fast approaching. So I say, run for your lives, babkas! Run now! And tell your rugelach pals not to get too comfortable.
Bottom-line: As the famous proverb warns, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” But if sweet challah is here to stay then perhaps we all should heed the prophetic lyrics of the 1970s soft rock band Bread (that’s really their name), who aptly sang: “No more retreat, only sweet... surrender.”