The Best Loaf: Challahs in the Holy Land
For bakery fiends in Israel, choosing the perfect combination of fluffy, soft, delicately sweet and lightly crispy challah for Rosh Hashanah can be a real challenge with all of the wonderful bread options available. Trying to avoid the larger, older and more industrial bakeries such as Tzvi and Viznitz bakeries in Bnei Brak or Angel in Jerusalem, we’ve compiled a list of boutique bakeries that literally take the cake. Find out where to get addicting, uniquely braided and perfectly doughy challah for this Jewish New Year.
Teler Bakery Yerushalmim (Jerusalem residents) are quick to name Teler Bread as their ultimate favorite place to buy fresh challah on a weekly basis. Avishai Teler moved his bakery from the industrial center right into the heart of Mahaneh Yehudah market on chaotic Agripas street where he also opened up a neighboring coffee shop. The store sells dozens of yeasty varieties daily and uses leavened sourdough and old-school, more traditional baking methods. Preparing its breads in a brick oven, it has already become the “house-bread” of the King David Hotel and many other top-tier hotels and restaurants.
For Rosh Hashanah, the bakery prepares round whole wheat, white and raisin challahs to keep up with the holiday spirit. The bakery boasts a rich, cakey and sweet dough. Avishai Teller, a humble and sweet man says his challahs are made to last longer, an especially important fact on long holidays. Avishai promises his challahs won’t dry up and will taste fresh throughout the long weekend. And we trust him. Prices stay between 12-15 NIS and don’t sky rocket just because of the holiday.
Uri Scheft the Denmark-bred, Israeli-born chef and owner of the popular Tel Aviv bakery has proved that not only the French know a thing or two about bread-making. With three branches in Tel Aviv and a fourth opening just this year on the Island of Manhattan, this place, where breads are made with whole grains and go through a slow proofing process, will be producing countless batches of challah for the holiday season.
Breads’ “Festive Challah”, specially prepared on Fridays and holidays is beautifully done, with a soft and airy delicate sweetness, braided in a circle and topped with a variety of sesame, poppy, fennel, flax, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. This impressive, slightly saltier piece goes for just 22 NIS ($6.15) in Israel. Their real stunner however is the “Grand Challah” which sells for 59 NIS ($16.50), it is also airy and sweet, quite enormous, topped with three types of seeds and braided in traditional style. For the more conventional challah-lovers, the bakery also spits out white-flower challah which is airy and light and spelt challah, a bit on the cakey and flakier side.
Shemo Pastry Shop
With roots in Haifa, pastry chef and TV star Miki Shemo and his brothers, Ofer and Yohai have opened seven shops across the country, with three locations in the north and four more to cater to Israel’s center. Their parents opened up the original shop in 1992 and the brothers have since taken the reigns and expanded the business gloriously.
Although Shemo is renown for its sweet and savory pastries the Challahs they turn out are no less impressive. On Rosh Hashanah, the bakery replaces sugar with honey, making their challahs sweeter than usual but still savory enough to eat with the holiday meal. For the Jewish New Year they produce a special date and English-walnut challah that is truly something to write home about. But the bakery favorite is the Marzipan Challah, which is, as its name suggests, is filled with marzipan before baking and topped with sliced almonds to give a crunchy texture. You’ll also find Brioche Challah and ‘The Circle of Life’ challah, which comes plain or with raisins. Prices range between 17-26 NIS.
Lehem Tomer (Tomer’s bread) For Tomer Ballas of Tomer’s Bread, baking requires attention, warmth, patience and, is, as he says, “just like making love.” Tomer gained his bread-baking-wisdom working and studying in Paris and London and of course, in his mother’s kitchen as a child.
With four boutique locations spread across Jerusalem, one in Maccabim and another in Kfar Oranim, this is one of the top spots to go for hand-made, high-quality, French-feeling carbs on any given day, and for Rosh Hashanah the bakery will be turning out five types of challahs: white challah, country challah with raisins (considered their best), honey challah, brioche challah and circular white or country-style challahs. All of the loaves are airy and have a gentle sweetness. Prices range between 17-32 NIS. They also offer the adorable option of personalized, smaller challahs coming in dwarf and finger sizes, (yes – literally the size of a finger) that range between 2.5-9 NIS.
Artisan Bread Shop
When you walk into any one of these four yeast-fest haven locations in central Israel, it is truly difficult to leave without gaining a few extra kilos. With a gorgeous spread on a central table, the shop, owned by brothers Haim and Guy Sadot, offer customers a unique shopping experience. Buyers are invited to taste different pastries, cakes and breads on the main table and this trick successfully lures customers into leaving with much more. In honor of the high holidays, Artisan makes round honey challahs with pure honey in a brick oven, which help give them a terrific texture and unique color. They also make a spectacular raisin challah generously topped with streusel, a sweet crumb topping of butter, flour and sugar and some other secret additions from a family recipe that has been circulated for generations. These sweet holiday treats can be yours for 16-22NIS depending on type and size.