How Dolly Meckler turned her challah-baking hobby into a fast-rising business

New York Jewish Week — Dolly Meckler didn't develop up making challah, the candy, pillowy bread that's the centerpiece for a lot of Jewish holidays, together with Shabbat.

Truly, Meckler wasn’t even a lot of a baker earlier than COVID-19 lockdowns compelled her, and just about everybody on the earth, to grow to be prisoners of the house. Like many millennials on the time, Meckler, 30, began baking her loaves to maintain herself busy by means of the lengthy hours and weeks of isolation. She documented her course of on Instagram and was stunned when individuals began asking to buy her loaves.

Now, after a transfer again dwelling to New York Metropolis in the summertime of 2020 and into her third industrial kitchen area, her one-time interest — Challah Dolly — is a full-fledged challah-making enterprise. Meckler presents three totally different varieties — authentic, honey cinnamon sugar and every thing seed — that are at present out there at 5 markets throughout New York and Connecticut, in addition to for sale directly from her website.

One among Meckler’s major objectives is to make Jewish meals extra accessible — even “fashionable,” she stated.

“I'm making an attempt to make it accessible to individuals that may really feel intimidated, and that may not know what challah bread is,” Meckler instructed the New York Jewish Week. “I feel that I’m an entry level for individuals who have by no means had challah earlier than.”

In fact, over the course of the pandemic, there was no scarcity of meals — and Jewish meals — entrepreneurs. Meckler joins the likes of Kayla Kaye, Blake Hunter of Hella Bagels and Mandy Silverman, who're creating baked items and displaying them off on social media. However Meckler has damaged forward of the pack, with profiles in Forbes, The New Yorker and Time Out New York, amongst others. She’s additionally acquired shout-outs from the likes of Lena Dunham, handbag designer Susan Alexandra and well-liked meals Instagram @foodbabyny.

Within the very starting, Meckler adopted a recipe from the New York Occasions. She then determined to experiment with a recipe that was handed on to her from a household pal, which is what she makes use of now. Not a lot of a “kitchen woman” earlier than this all started, she stated, Meckler’s background is in leisure: She had moved to Los Angeles about six months earlier than the pandemic to do some freelance social and digital advertising and marketing after working comparable roles at HBO and YouTube.

That social media ability gave Meckler a leg up when it got here to launching Challah Dolly. She was in a position to mix her innate understanding of what works on Instagram to point out off the challah and the model. Meckler stated she additionally loves to decorate up in “excessive style” outfits and {photograph} herself alongside the challah, making it enjoyable and playful for customers.

“I take a look at my enterprise by means of this lens of storytelling,” she stated. “That’s simply naturally the place my mind goes. Whereas, you understand, Tate’s Cookies — she was a baker. I’m not a meals artist, I’m not recipe testing. I’m not doing that form of factor. I’m pondering: How do I unfold the story? I really like the individuals element, so how do I construct neighborhood? How do I join with different individuals? What does this imply to different individuals?”

Meckler began off by taking orders on her Instagram web page, waking up at 5:30 every Friday morning and baking as many as 32 loaves for pickups that night. She opened up her on-line store in February 2021. However getting the product into brick-and-mortar shops was robust at first — that's, she stated, till she introduced them just a few slices. “What sealed the deal for lots of those locations was they instructed me, ‘You recognize, we put it out for our workers, it’s gone, everybody ate it so quick,’” Meckler stated.

Challah bread from Challah Dolly. Dolly Meckler began baking to maintain herself busy by means of the pandemic, finally turning her one-time interest right into a full-fledged challah-making enterprise. (Courtesy of Meckler/ through JTA)

Today, Challah Dolly has grown right into a (principally) full-time gig. Now that she’s transitioned to working with a wholesale bakery, Meckler primarily handles the enterprise points of Challah Dolly: placing extra loaves into shops and dealing on the e-mail advertising and marketing and social media.

“Dolly’s power and enthusiasm brings any thought to life in a particular distinctive approach,” stated Michael Hoffman, Meckler’s pal and former boss at HBO.

She additionally interviews different younger creators for a digital net collection and podcast known as “Hey Dolly!” As a part of that undertaking, Meckler additionally created a collection known as, “You Have Such a Pretty Face,” which profiles girls about their experiences with fatphobia and past. Meckler is captivated with “destigmatizing” bread, and encourages individuals to not be petrified of it and its carb contents.

Along with being scrumptious, the eggy, braided model of challah is a key piece in Ashkenazi Jewish culinary custom. The bread is the centerpiece of many Jewish celebrations, particularly Shabbat: Two loaves are historically served on Friday and pageant nights to represent the 2 parts of manna distributed to the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt in order that they might relaxation and have sufficient bread to final by means of Shabbat.

The important thing elements in a typical challah dough are yeast, flour, egg, sugar and salt. There may be, nevertheless, room for all kinds of interpretation.

“Normally while you’re shopping for challah, it’s from a really conventional place the place individuals are shopping for it for a objective, for a meal or a vacation,” stated meals author and baker Gaby Scelzo. “As a result of they’re so easy and conventional and meant to go along with different issues, I don’t assume they’re alleged to be the principle occasion. They don’t stand out as a lot as what Dolly is doing, the place the principle occasion is the challah.”

Challah Dolly presents three totally different varieties — authentic, honey cinnamon sugar and every thing seed. (Courtesy/ through JTA)

“It’s the right mixture,” Scelzo stated of Meckler’s loaves. “The braids are lovely, you narrow into it, it has like slightly little bit of a crisp shell. The within is so stretchy and fluffy, but in addition slightly candy.”

All through her challah-baking journey, Meckler stated that Challah Dolly has helped her grow to be extra in tune along with her Jewish identification. She and her household moved from New York to Connecticut when she was 10 years outdated, and he or she and her brother had been among the many few Jewish youngsters at their highschool. She made extra Jewish associates whereas attending Indiana College. Since transferring again to New York, she stated, baking challah has solely made Meckler really feel much more happy with her Jewish heritage and the town she comes from.

“There’s such a chance to attempt to make Judaism really feel fashionable and funky,” Meckler stated. “And like, not that it’s simply reserved for Friday Shabbat dinner. I need individuals to be consuming challah with their sandwiches or with any meal, prefer it’s simply actually good bread, all faith apart.” (Challah Dolly doesn't have kosher certification.)

For now, Meckler is hoping to braid her challah into the material of New York’s foodie scene. She stated she would like to do collaborations with the likes of Russ & Daughters or Ess-a-Bagel. For now, although, she’s comfortable that her challah is resonating with a large cross-section of New Yorkers.

“I’ve had lots of people say to me, ‘Wow, that is the primary time I’ve ever had challah bread,’” Meckler stated. “I really like that, as a result of it’s like, ‘Wow, I'm so honored to be the primary expertise that you've with this actually particular bread.’”

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