Breaking Bread in Tel Aviv’s Best Bakeries

Boutique bakeries have spread throughout Israel, offering tantalizing trays of sweet treats. But here we look at the measure of excellence that matters most: the bread.

Northern exposure: Bar Lehem

If there’s a bakers’ heaven, it's probably called Bar Lehem. Established in 2006 in Hadar Yosef by Dagan Shaham and Yuval Snir, the bakery is home to 160 kinds of baked goods, made with the best ingredients imported from abroad. This may well be one of the best bakeries in Israel. If we have to pick a few items to swoon over, we’ll mention the bread made of 12 different kinds of dough, the multi-grain dusted with flax seeds, sunflower seeds, oats, poppy seeds and honey.

The headline item: sunflower seed focaccia, the bakery’s best-seller ( NIS 15) since the day it opened. It's been oft-imitated by other bakeries around town but none have managed to crack the secret yet.

Prices: NIS 18–26 for bread loaves; NIS 32–38 for sandwiches.

Bar Lehem – 7 Kehillat Saloniki Street, Neot Afeka, Tel Aviv

Modest and local: Le Moulin

The appeal of Moti Haimovich's small neighborhood bakery breached the borders of Bograshov Street long ago and for good reason. From the moment you walk in and come face to face with the loaves on the back wall, the choice begins to weigh on you: which one? There are ten different breads at Le Moulin, all made of sourdough, inspired by France and San Francisco. One can also find Italian country breads, baguettes, caraway bread, health bread, dried tomato bread, wheat bread, olive bread and Toscana bread. The bonus: Haimovich also prepares excellent baguette sandwiches and croissants.

Headline item: Toscana bread. Apparently a white bread but it doesn't resemble any white bread we're accustomed to, thanks to its milky taste and restrained use of salt.

Prices: NIS 19 for all breads, NIS 14 for baguettes.

Le Moulin – Bograshov 72, Tel Aviv

From Tel Aviv to Manhattan: Lehamim

First they took Tel Aviv, now they're trying to take Manhattan. Uri Shfat's Lehamim bakery is well known for its uncompromising diversity and quality. Despite its name – meaning, simply, "breads" – the bakery also excels in sweet pastries. Its obvious advantage? The bakery is open 24 hours a day (but not on Saturday).

The menu offers more than 20 different breads, such as country French bread, 100 percent rye bread, and whole wheat bread, offered now for more than a decade at almost the same price (NIS 12).

Headline item: Northern sea rye – 90 percent rye with cooked rye seeds, hard, wet and dense. This could take the place of a full dinner.

Prices: NIS 12-23 for breads, NIS 10 for ciabatta, two focaccias for NIS 20.

Lehamim – the full list of branches:

http://www.mouse.co.il/Tags/23505.aspx

Girl Power: Lachmanina

Almost four years ago Nina Levy quit her high-tech job and began baking at her home in the Bitzaron neighborhood, without any prior knowledge or experience in baking. The wonderful smells that spread throughout the neighborhood attracted many customers. Eventually, the secret bakery grew and moved across the street. When that space too was outgrown, the bakery found its current location and added a cafe as well.

This wasn't the first major transition in Nina's life: Born a man, she continued to live with her wife and business partner after her sex change.

Headline item: Nelson bread, the best known Lahmanina bread, developed from a South American recipe of seed bread. Who'd have thought that extreme health food could be so tasty?

Prices: NIS 16-25 for breads, NIS 11 for baguettes. After 8 P.M. all baked goods are "buy one get one free."

Lachmanina – Kremnitski 14, Tel Aviv

Storytellers: Bread Story

This bread store, bakery and bread restaurant from Yaron Shneller (of the Benedict breakfast chain) offers unique breads made by both classical and modern baking methods. The result: breads that can't be found anywhere else.

Bread Story features breads like the Sicilian weed bread, nut and raisin bread and a uniquely delicious butter challah filled with almond cream and wild rye. The restaurant menu offers salami rolls, curry bread, Chuma bread and pesto brioche.

Headline item: spice bread, marjoram, sage and thyme baked into traditional Italian leaven bread.

Prices: NIS 16-24 for all breads.

Bread Story – Dizengoff 88, Tel Aviv

Other recommended bakeries in Tel Aviv:

The Bakery – Quality bakery shops and intimate cafes with excellent breads, sandwiches and light meals. We remain loyal to its baguettes.

The Bakery – full list of branches:http://www.mouse.co.il/Tags/24326.aspx

Zomer – Excellent boutique bakery, specializing in natural sourdough breads and endless varieties of focaccia. Some 20 different breads, including an amazing dried fruits bread, raisin leaven, pain de mi, full flour bread such as date bread, and more. Tip: don't miss out on the granola bread or the "buy one get one free" deal after 8 P.M.

Zomer – Frishman 39, Tel Aviv

Margoza – Established as a small family bakery three years ago, it has become a pearl in the Jaffa flea market, combining a bakery and cafe. It was hard to choose between the pastries and the breads until we tasted the parmesan bread. If you risk addiction to bread, proceed with caution.

Margoza Bakery – Yehuda Margoza 24, Flea Market, Jaffa

Moving Bakery –The bakery boasts an impressive presence of stirred cakes, old fashioned biscuit cakes, morning pastries, sauces and comfitures. Our recommendation: The tomato bread or the antipasti bread that is delicious with the pickled lemon spread prepared on demand by Anat, the confectioner.

Moving Bakery – Yermiyahu 25, Tel Aviv

Hamotzi Lechem – It's nice to find there are still bakeries in Tel Aviv that continue to do what they do best: make bread. All the breads in this bakery are handmade, based on natural sourdough. One cannot refuse the baguettes, but one should also taste the nut rye bread, a classic baked exactly as it should be.

Hamotzi Lechem – Mikve Yisrael, 5, Tel Aviv

Rotem Maimon