After the grand success of our sufganiyot taste-testing for the Hanukkah season, we realized it may very well be our duty to continue the challenging task of doing a blind tasting competition for the Best Purim Hamentashen of 2018.
Now you may think it would be a simple thing to gather, taste and judge over 20 types of “oznei haman” (the name used in Israel for the cookies, referring to the ears of haman), but trust me, our Delicious team took the task very, very seriously.
Our Delicious Guide Ilana and I once again took to the streets to gather a variety of the specialty Purim cookies, mixing the classic shops from the 1950s, the classic flavors (poppy seed, chocolate, date jam), along with the modern/fancy/unique - think kefir lime and halva. Because there was such a wide range, we had to be very strategic about the tastings.
Here is our Delicious round-up:
Lehamim (Breads Bakery)
Flavor: Sweet potato, garlic and sesame seeds (Savory, obvs)
Huge hit! Perhaps it was the unique take on the savory version, or the fact that it tasted like a folded quiche, but most of us really were into it and wanted more. Great job Lehamim, we will come back for these.
This one was divisive. The shape of the cookie took more of a pirate hat form with a ball of marzipan in the middle. The marzipan lovers were in heaven, but the marzipan definitely masked any possibility of tasting the dough.
Flavor: Dates and seeds
The sesame seeds mixed into the classic date flavor could have been a successful addition, but most people looked at it as fig and expected a different flavor, so the ratings were not high for this one.
Flavor: “Salty Jerusalem”- Za’atar and cheese (mozzarella and ricotta) (Savory option)
This is Roladin (Israel’s largest chain bakery) marketing pizzazz at its finest. The description sounds decadent, delicious and with the Israeli twist, the za’atar and cheese one makes complete sense. Reality check though, the outcome was low on the rankings mostly because the dough and the cheese both felt stale. Perhaps if this one was fresh out of the oven, it would have been tastier. The description and result were sadly not a match.
Flavor: Apricot Cheesecake
Another divisive version, but largely rejected. The consistency of the apricot jelly was too liquid. The saving grace of this is that for most of us (North Americans) we are used to apricot flavor growing up, so there was a homey familiarity to it.
This was entered as a tester to see if anyone would take the bait and vote it as the fave, and (thankfully) did not receive high rankings. Most comments including “reminds me of the army” and “what is IN this dough?!”. Let’s just say, it was clearly commercially produced and not a specialty.
The Boutique Specialties
Flavors: Peanut Butter and Jelly, Snickers and S’mores
Again, us North Americans were thrilled with hints of childhood, albeit not Purim. The peanut butter and Snickers versions were fun varieties and we all loved the surprise taste of the graham cracker crust of the s’mores version. Huge bonus points for creativity and for bringing us back to school field trips.
Flavors: Kaffir Lime and Halva with black sesame, Pistachio with Raspberry jam, and Chocolate with Vietnamese Coffee
Although none of these were individual winners, overall these options won big time for creativity. It was clear to everyone that there was an Asian influence with the citrusy zest of the kaffir lime crust and the Vietnamese coffee essence. We were surprised not to see matcha dough in the running. For me personally, although the halva filling was too intense and did not balance well, the kaffir lime was my favorite dough of all of our tasting options.
Flavor: Nuts and Cinnamon
As our first sweet option in the tasting, our palettes were clean and we could all really feel the cinnamon-y sweetness and the walnut crunch. It was a great one to start with, and I think had it been in the middle it may have even been higher up on the winner scale. Overall, this was a general hit that wasn’t anyone’s #1, but was up in the Top 3 for most of us.
Flavors: Poppy Seed and Chocolate
I think we were all sort of rooting for this one, as it looked like it would be the closest to the dough that we are all acquainted with from making these at home. This one goes to show that doing a blind tasting is really effective for comparative purposes, since when going head to head against some of the other artisanal versions, this one just didn’t line up.
Along with Rinat’s, this bakery has been making traditional goodies for the neighborhood since the 1950s. Ilana had this one fresh from the shop and was impressed by it. The tough part of the tasting is doing it later in the day when it is no longer straight out of the oven, so the cheese got a bit too chewy for most of our liking.
As a regular visit on our Carmel Market and Eat Tel Aviv tours, everyone immediately could identify the source of this simple, and delicious date version as our “cookie guy”. They essentially took their year-round cookie dough and re-formed it to the triangle shape. Given high rankings as who doesn’t love the cookie guy’s date cookies?
Our Overall Winner
This one seemed to tick all of the boxes for a great hamentashen: balance of cookie to filling, quality chocolate that does not feel too commercial, and overall easy to eat. Most of us wanted seconds, and even thirds of this one (which says a lot in a tasting of so many). Although Tatti is borderline commercial, their recipe was a real winner for us!
Note on addition that was not in the tasting, but was on the Eat Tel Aviv Tour
Flavors: Pistachio and Amaretto Cherry and Praline
The filling-to-crust ratio of these french-influenced versions were just balanced enough to taste both the flaky, light dough at the same time as the not overly sweet center. I would be curious to see how these would have lined up against the others in the blind tasting…. For sure next year!