Growing up, baking hamantashen was an essential part of Purim preparation. Rivaled only by costume selection, there was no experience I looked forward to more than the making (and eventual eating) of this beloved classic cookie. The smell of fresh dough in the oven, the layering of fillings, the careful pinching to create that oh-so-perfect triangle… It was all a part of the holiday fun. And let’s be honest, the crumbly, blandish counterpart at the only Jewish deli in town was not exactly a winning alternative to the homemade variety. So if I wanted hamantashen, I was going to have to roll up my sleeves, don an apron and bake them myself. But then I moved to Tel Aviv. And the hamantashen game was forever changed.
There were a few things that struck me that first February in Tel Aviv. It wasn’t just the sheer abundance of hamantashen (oznei Haman, as they call them here) at every turn. It was the variety. I used to fancy myself a rule-breaker when I diverged from raspberry or prune in favor of a few chocolate chips. But in Israel, the options are endless. From sweet to savory, there is really nothing out of bounds when it comes to the flavorful fillings you can stuff inside the Purim pastry.
But as I ate my way through the countless options that first year, a realization also began to dawn on me: I missed the baking experience. It had become an essential tradition and I didn’t want to give it up. So instead of replacing one with the other, I now rely on these beloved bakeries for inspiration.
I’ve rounded up my favorite Tel Aviv bakeries in the hopes that they might also inspire you to lay off the poppy seed this year and go for something a bit more inventive.
Nestled in the heart of Tel Aviv’s idyllic Neve Tzedek neighborhood, lies Dallal Bakery. Dallal is a delicious fusion of French-meets-Ashkenazi-Jewish baking, and their hamantashen are no exception. Made with rich buttery dough and infused with foreign flavors like pistachio crème and praline, this is one French twist that is très appreciated.
Lesser-known and located in the industrial outskirts of Tel Aviv, Biscotti is truly a hidden gem for perfectly crafted pastries year-round. Poppy-citrus, pecan-halva and black sesame, and almond cream with lime are three sophisticated standouts.
I always make a pit-stop at the beloved Hungarian bakery Kiortush while strolling through the Carmel market. They keep it simple and stick to three perfect flavors: date, chocolate and halva.
Sprinkles and frosting are the name of the game at Sweet Box, an American-style bakery in the Levinsky market. Nutella and white chocolate-pecan are just a couple of hamantashen favorites that are sure to win favor with kids and adults alike.
With 76 branches nationwide, Roladin (top photo) is the largest bakery chain in Israel. But when it comes to hamantashen, they don’t rest on their laurels. In fact, rolling out new and inventive flavors each year is a part of their marketing plan. This year’s savory “Cacio e Pepe” (spelt dough with pecorino cheese and black pepper) and sweet “Isfahan” (almond dough filled with raspberry marzipan, marmalade berries and rose water) are two varieties I plan to recreate at home.