Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Challah put to the test

Want to know where to find the tastiest loaf this Shabbat? Read on…

    Our team of testers assembled in north London for a blind tasting of bread from seven bakeries
    Our team of testers assembled in north London for a blind tasting of bread from seven bakeries

    The special Friday feeling when preparing for Shabbat would not be the same without a visit to your favourite bakery - standing in line, sharing conversation with fellow shoppers and sniffing the amazing, intoxicating aroma of freshly baked challah.

    The ritual of challah not only consists of choosing from large, medium or small, with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. There is huge history and meaning behind this iconic bread.

    The word "challah" refers to the portion of dough which was set aside as a tithe for the Kohanim - an offering to the priests. However, as the Second Temple is no more, a portion of the dough used when making challah is burnt to cinders as a symbolic gesture. If you plan to make your own challah, remove a small lump of dough, wrap it in silver foil and oven–bake it until it is black, then throw it out - chalking up another mitzvah.

    There are symbolic reasons why we buy not one, but two challahs for Friday night. The two plaited loaves (lechem mishneh) represent the double helping of God's manna, the miraculous food which provided sustenance to the wandering Israelites in the desert. For Shabbat, God served up double portions. Even the plaiting of the challah reminds us of the 12 loaves of bread which were placed in the Temple on the eve of each Shabbat, representing the 12 tribes of Israel.

    Throughout the year, challah can take on different shapes and sizes depending on the Yomtov or simchah we are celebrating. At Rosh Hashanah we purchase round challahs representing the circle of life, made with honey for a sweet new year.

    At Purim, the challah grows in size. Known as keylitsh challah, it has many braids to represent the rope used to hang Haman, and it can be decorated with multicoloured sugar sprinkles to reflect the nature of the festival.

    The moment Passover ends we dive into a schlissel challah. For weddings and bar- and batmitzvahs the giant challah is big enough to feed everyone, even if you just get a tiny mouthful.

    There are many kosher bakeries vying for our dough. We decided to put challah to the test and find out which baker provides the consumer with the best value and taste on the market. We collected freshly baked challahs. Unfortunately, as there are so many bakers to choose from we could not test every kosher challah, but we chose seven well-known bakers from London and Manchester.

    Then we set up our stall on neutral territory and took the bread to the people for a blind tasting. See below to discover out who came out best.

    All our taste-testers preferred a long challah rather than a round one except Judith Cohen from NW11 who had no preference. Our testers' favourite topping was sesame seeds.

    Well bread? Our tasters' verdicts

    ● DANIEL'S BAKERY
    12-14 Halleswelle Parade, Finchley Road, London NW11
    www.danielscatering.co.uk, 020 8455 5826
    Medium challah £1.85
    Appearance 7
    Taste 6
    Lesley Woolf from Finchley loved the Daniels. She said it was "soft, tasty and sweet".

    ● M & D GRODZINSKI
    223 Golders Green Road, London NW11
    0208 458 0909
    Medium challah £1.60
    Appearance 6
    Taste 5
    Chana Weisz and Esther Kopstein, our team players from NW11, thought this challah was a great shape, and great value for money.

    ● SHARON BAKERY
    106 Brent Street, London NW4
    020 8203 6623
    Medium challah £1.85
    Appearance 7
    Taste 6
    Liz Coleman from Finchley said this was just her sort of challah.

    ● BRACKMAN'S BAKERY AND COFFEE SHOP
    45 Leicester Road, Salford, M7
    0161 7921652
    This bakery only produces a small and large challah
    Large challah £1.70
    Appearance 6
    Taste 6
    John Whiting from NW11 who is a food critic and a member of Guild of Food Writers felt that this challah was delicious but that it was let down by the cracking on its crust. However, Chana Weisz and Esther Kopstein thought it looked amazing.

    ● CARMELLI BAKERIES
    128 Golders Green Road, London NW11
    www.carmelli.co.uk, 020 8455 3063
    Medium challah £1.85
    Appearance 5
    Taste 6
    Danielle Jones from N20 pointed out that this challah was irregularly shaped but loved the eggy taste and the soft and doughy texture.

    ● PARKWAY PATTISSERIE
    326-328 Regents Park Road, Finchley, London N3
    020 8346 0344
    Medium challah £1.75
    Appearance 6
    Taste 5
    Mimi Lucas from Finchley felt the challah was a great consistency and fabulous flavour, and Ida De Groot from NW11 loved the topping.

    ● THE BAKERY
    12a The Square, Hale Barns, Cheshire
    0161 9807437
    Produce small and large challah £1.75. Are only open Thursday, Friday and Sunday so get your challahs quick
    Large challah £1.75
    Appearance 6
    Taste 6
    Lisa Mendel from N20 felt this challah had the perfect crunchy crust with a delicious doughy centre

    Results based on average scores marked from 1-10

Food

Vegan shmegan - can an animal-free diet be kosher?

Sandy Rashty

Friday, November 25, 2016

Vegan shmegan - can an animal-free diet be kosher?
Food

Big flavours from Israel's White City

Felicity Spector

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Big flavours from Israel's White City
Food

Honey Jews

Anonymous

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Honey Jews
Food

Orange hummus and kim-chi: only at Kosherfest

Dave Gordon

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Orange hummus and kim-chi: only at Kosherfest
Food

Party like it's Simchat Torah

Victoria Prever

Friday, October 21, 2016

Party like it's Simchat Torah
Food

Need Divine inspiration?

Victoria Prever

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Need Divine inspiration?
Food

An alternative manifesto

Anonymous

Thursday, November 17, 2016

An alternative manifesto
Food

Fast-breaking with tradition

Victoria Prever

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fast-breaking with tradition
Food

Rosh Hashanah honey cake round-up

Jessica Weinstein

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rosh Hashanah honey cake round-up