Sampling Purim hamentashen around the city’s bakeries is a daunting task.

Hamentashen 311 (photo credit: Arcaffe)
Hamentashen 311
(photo credit: Arcaffe)
Sometimes people tell me I have the best job in the world. Occasionally I’m inclined to agree, like when I ate a path of ice cream across the city. The waffles weren’t bad either. But when I know I have to go out and eat a dozen (or more) bakery hamentashen, I’m not a happy camper.
I have a few theories as to why, but whatever way you slice it, bakery hamentashen – or, as they’re known here, oznei Haman (Haman’s ears) – are usually far from tasty. Dry, crumbly dough with toothachingly sweet fillings are the norm, except at a few locations. And the filling varieties are incredibly boring. Most bakeries have what I’ve come to think of as the Big 4: chocolate, date, poppy seed and usually halva or nut. Sorry, but even for you, dear readers, I won’t eat poppy seeds, so I sampled the other varieties available.
One of the cardinal sins that was repeated over and over at the locations I visited occurred with the chocolate-filled hamentashen. Close to 90 percent of them tasted like they came right out of a tub of store-bought chocolate spread. You’ve tasted it before, probably as a kid, spread on two slices of white bread. It’s overly sweet, lacking any genuine chocolate flavor and, if you ask me, has no place in hamentashen.
So, as I recommended last year, if you really want great hamentashen for Purim, make your own.
Locations were ranked on taste and texture of the dough, taste and texture of the fillings and variety available. All tested establishments are kosher.
Roladin always likes to experiment with its offerings, particularly around the holidays, and Purim is no exception. In addition to the traditional sweet hamentashen, this year Roladin has two savory versions, one filled with spinach and feta cheese and the other with sweet potato, squash and chili. The dough was light and crispy, though a bit overpowered by the black cumin seeds. The spinach filling was particularly tasty, while the sweet potato was a bit on the blander side (I didn’t taste much chili). Overall, they both tasted like bite-sized quiches. On the sweet side, Roladin sells the traditional poppy, chocolate and date, as well as caramelized walnut and marzipan and berry jam. The sweet dough just melted in my mouth, and the marzipan-jam was a very tasty combination, though it could have been distributed a bit more evenly. Sadly, the chocolate filling tasted like it was right out of a jar of chocolate spread. They are all dairy.
NIS 99 per kilo
12 Hillel Street and the Mamilla Mall
This American-style bakery wins points on Purim for, at the very least, having a nice variety of different fillings outside of the traditional Israeli ones. In addition, the dough had both a decent flavor and texture, though it was a bit thick, particularly in the corners. The cranberry filling was a perfect combination of tart and sweet, while the apricot jam was sweet and authentic-tasting. The chocolate filling was thick and rich, and all the varieties had a generous amount of filling. Other options for sale are poppy, date, prune and almond and raisin. The bakery sells average-sized hamentashen, as well as huge ones with the same line-up of fillings.
NIS 60 per kilo or NIS 7 each for large ones
15 Mea She’arim Street
The hamentashen at this French bakery also fell into the trap of dry, crumbly dough, though they did have a nice flavor once you were able to keep chewing.
The date filling was very sweet but had a good texture. They also sell poppy and chocolate.
NIS 60 per kilo
14 King George Avenue
The cheapest option for hamentashen I encountered, Nechama was far from the worst. The dough was a bit dry and crumbly but not entirely unpleasant.
The date filling was smooth and sweet, though I wish there had been a bit more of it so I wasn’t left with all-dough corners.
Sadly, though, the chocolate was of the ubiquitous jarred variety.
NIS 38 per kilo
Five locations in Jerusalem
The hamentashen at Burekas Ima have a cookie portion that was just slightly crumbly but rolled nice and thin, with a good balance of flavor. The nut filling was nice and genuine-tasting with real chunks of nuts, although it was a bit too sweet. The halva filling didn’t have too much of a strong halva flavor; it was mostly sugary. The chocolate variety had the texture of chocolate spread but a more chocolatey, less sugary flavor. The bakery also sells poppy hamentashen, as well as varieties without sugar, including an apple version that had dough very similar to its regular versions; but the filling was chewy and unpleasant, with no genuine apple flavor.
NIS 55 per kilo 17
Rivka Street
Last year I ranked Berman’s as the worst hamentashen in the city, but I was somewhat pleasantly surprised this year to find them… decent.
The dough, yes, was a bit dry, but it had a nice flavor – almost, dare I say, buttery (though they are parve) – and was rolled fairly thin, which I like. The date filling was too sweet but had an authentic flavor. The halva variety had a chocolate dough that was also tasty, and the halva itself had a detectable sesame taste. The chocolate-filled hamentashen came totally closed up, probably in a failed attempt to stop the chocolate-spread filling from burning. The dough on the chocolate-filled variety was also somehow drier.
NIS 42.90 per kilo 42 Agrippas Street and
24 Beit Hadfus Street
The cookie portion of English Cake’s hamentashen was a bit dry, but it had a nice crisp bite to it, though not much flavor.
While the date filling was fairly nice, the nut one was so hard it was difficult to chew and left my mouth feeling dry. The chocolate filling, sadly enough, tasted straight out of – you guessed it – a jar of chocolate spread. They also sell poppy and halva varieties.
NIS 65 per kilo
Six locations in Jerusalem
Unfortunately, Halechem Shel Tomer only sells hamentashen by the container, so I had to buy the whole thing and share it with the office, which got me a range of interesting responses. I tried the cinnamon and date flavor. I thought the dough had a nice cinnamon flavor but it was hopelessly dry and crumbly, leaving me desperate for a drink to wash it down. The date filling was tasty but was a bit overpowered by the cinnamon, though the chunks of nuts inside were a nice addition. One co-worker said they tasted like cardboard, while another said they were the best hamentashen she’d ever had.
Halechem Shel Tomer also sells poppy and chocolate varieties and whole wheat ones. They are dairy.
NIS 38 for a container of about 18 (not sold per kilo)
30 Aza Road; 2 Poalei Tzedek Street; 9 Leib Yaffe Street and 22 Halamed-Heh Street
The dough on Ne’eman’s hamentashen was incredibly dry, and I could barely choke it down.
The filling didn’t spread to the corners, which meant there were bites with no filling at all. The nut filling had a nice cinnamon flavor to it, while the date version lacked much flavor, and the chocolate tasted straight out of the jar, except with an added burnt note. Ne’eman also offers a poppy variety.
NIS 69 per kilo
20 locations in Jerusalem
I had decently high hopes for this spot in the Central Bus Station because I’d been impressed in the past with their burekas and doughnuts and because it was the only bakery I found that used a strawberry jam filling. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. The dough was dry and crumbly and much too thick, but the real downfall were the fillings. The vanilla filling had a very unpleasant chewy/gummy texture that was difficult to swallow and left a strange filmy taste in my mouth. It was probably the least appetizing thing I have eaten in the two and a half years that I’ve been writing this column. The strawberry jam also had a very unappetizing thick and gummy consistency. The chocolate filling was surprisingly decent; it had a similar texture to chocolate spread but not the familiar cloyingly sweet taste. The Bakery also sells poppy and date flavors.
NIS 70 per kilo
Central Bus Station, second floor