Challah falls somewhere among pizza and bagels when it comes to foods that ignite a passion in people. Everyone’s got a favorite and is willing to go to great lengths to defend it against the competition, especially around Rosh Hashanah. In Boston, we’re spoiled by our wealth of challah options, and the selection gets even bigger if you leave the city.
I couldn’t get to all of the bakeries mentioned in this Facebook post (maybe that’s grounds for a follow-up tasting!), but I rounded up as many loaves and friends as I could and held an informal tasting of eight popular challahs. Personally, I prefer my challah on the sweet side, with a sticky crust and fluffy, chewy interior, but this list includes something for everyone, no matter your taste. They’re listed below with tasting notes, in no particular order—though I will say that Cheryl Anns’ of Brookline, Rosenfeld’s Bagels and Blacker’s Bakeshop make up the top three.
Which challah is your favorite? Let us know by voting in our poll below!
This bakery’s challah is perhaps the most widely sold in the city (you can get a loaf at J.P. Licks!)—and for good reason. You know you’re going to love it from first sight, with its sticky, shiny exterior, like you could pull it apart like monkey bread. Its texture and flavor are right on point, with a light, brioche quality that all the tasters fawned over.
There’s something about a sticky-looking challah that just means good things are in store. This loaf is both dense and light, chewy and rich, in the best way. Tasters loved its slight egginess and sweetness, and pliant, pull-apart texture.
This loaf was a pleasant surprise. Only a couple of tasters had ever had a baked good from Blacker’s, and after tasting their challah, the rest of us wondered why that was. The bread has an appealingly shiny exterior, and is moist and chewy, with a white-bread fluffiness and good egg flavor.
This matte-looking challah is puffy and evenly golden-brown, with a crackly, dry crust that encloses a light interior. It reminded us a little bit of a dinner roll, and we’re sure that it would make a really good grilled cheese sandwich.
This loaf is a little chewy, with a Wonder Bread-like quality that everyone really liked. It’s soft, pillowy and springy. The sesame seeds and poppy seeds give it an appealing savory flavor and make it a great dinner loaf.
One of the tasters remarked, “This tastes like the challah we ate in temple when I was a kid!” It’s got a dryer crumb and isn’t as glossy on the outside as some other loaves. It has nice, even browning, with even braids and a light, airy interior.
This impressive-looking loaf has a dark exterior, a dense crumb and beautiful, glossy braids. It has a hint of sourness, like good homemade bread. We’d happily eat it for dinner, but we think leftovers would be perfect for next-day French toast.
There’s nothing like challah from a small-scale bakery, but we picked up a loaf from Whole Foods to determine if it’s worthy of a last-minute back-up when your favorite bakery is sold out. We determined that it is. The challah is sturdy and a bit dryer than other, stickier loaves. Even if you don’t pick up a loaf for a holiday or Shabbat, its hearty texture would make it the perfect challah for bread pudding or French toast.