Blessed bread

Make your last halla before Passover worthwhile.

Halla, hallot 521 (photo credit: Amy Sprio )
Halla, hallot 521
(photo credit: Amy Sprio )
If you were to ask anyone the most symbolic food in the Jewish religion, they would likely say halla. The golden braided bread is a tradition that has survived from ancient times to modern Israel, and practically every bakery in the country is spilling over with loaves of halla on Friday morning.
I sampled nine different hallot across the city over the past few weeks, but none was the best or the worst halla I’d ever had. None of them was even terrible or amazing. Some were softer, some were sweeter, some were crustier and others were chewier.
So as you gear up to rid yourself and your house of any bread – halla or otherwise – for the week, here are some good picks for your last loaf before Passover.
Most bakeries sell halla only on Friday (and some on Thursday night), so if you have a hankering midweek, you’ll just have to wait. All loaves tested were kosher, and are ranked based on flavor, texture and shelf life.
A Berman’s loaf of halla, which can be found at its two storefronts and in many local supermarkets, was a crowd favorite. It was very soft, with a good flavor, perhaps a touch sweeter than it was salty. By day two it was still fresh, but by day three it was... already eaten. NIS 8.60-NIS 12 42
Agrippas Street and 24 Beit Hadfus Street, supermarkets across the city Ugat Chen: B+
This bakery stand in the heart of the shuk always has crowds around it, and now I know why. Its tall loaf of halla was exceptionally soft inside and dotted with sesame seeds. While it had one of the best textures of the loaves I tasted, it was lacking in salt and was better with a sweet or savory topping than plain. The loaf was still extremely soft three days later. NIS 8
On the main uncovered street of Mahaneh Yehuda
Angel: B+
Hallot from Angel are probably some of the most ubiquitous in this country, since you can buy them not only at the company’s chain of stores but also in supermarkets nationwide. Angel’s loaf was classically “halla,” with a braided shape and sesame seed topping, a tougher crust and softer inside. It had a good balance of sweet and salty that was missing in many loaves, but it went stale pretty quickly. Angel also sells semi-sweet hallot, rye hallot and other varieties. NIS 12.50 for one or NIS 14 for two, with varying prices at resellers Over a dozen locations in Jerusalem, including at many supermarkets and stands
Marzipan: B+
This little bakery – now expanded to three locations – is known more for its pastries than its bread. But like every operation in town, it offers a wide variety of halla loaves, egg-and-water halla, round and braided and even crown-shaped. In not too much of a surprise, the halla was a touch on the sweet side, more suited for French toast (in which it performed admirably) than dipping in humous. NIS 10
5 Rahel Imeinu Street, 14 Agrippas Street, and 17 Tiferet Israel Street
Nechama: B+
Nechama’s bakeries sell sesame hallot, poppy hallot, sweet hallot and water hallot – about any variety you can imagine. Their classic loaf was soft inside with a somewhat chewier crust, and a touch sweeter than it was salty. It was still fresh-tasting on day three. NIS 9
5 Tzeret Street, 5 Yehezkel Street, 3 Sonnenfeld Street, and 31 Kanfei Nesharim Street
English Cake: B+
Halla from the English Cake chain of bakeries was very soft, with a good flavor but almost nonexistent crust. The bread was a little “crumby,” leaving something of a mess on the table. The store sells poppy, sesame, wholegrain and sweeter varieties of halla. NIS 11
Six locations in Jerusalem
Teller: B
This store, known best for its wide selection of quality breads, didn’t quite deliver on the halla front. Teller’s loaf of halla had a solid crust dotted with sesame seeds, but really no flavor at all to its bready inside – sugar or salt would have been a welcome addition. Still, it was still fairly fresh several days after purchase. NIS 12
74 Agrippas Street and a stand inside Mahaneh Yehuda
Ne’eman: B
Ne’eman’s classic halla loaf was chewier and doughier than most, and slightly undersalted. My fellow taste testers enjoyed the whimsy of the store’s half-poppy, half-sesame loaf, though it didn’t have much of a crust on it; rather, it was just soft inside and out.  NIS 7
A dozen locations in Jerusalem
Pe’er: B
Calling itself Jerusalem’s oldest bakery, Magdaniat Pe’er has branched out from its original storefront in the German Colony to include not one, but two stands inside Mahaneh Yehuda. Pe’er’s loaf of halla had a good, balanced taste, with both sweet and salty flavors, but was a bit heavy in texture. It also went stale more quickly than most other loaves. NIS 11
5 Hamagid Street and two stands inside Mahaneh Yehuda