I made bagels from scratch! And it was easier than I thought. And I can tell you they tasted so, so, so good! I don’t think I will ever be 100% happy with store bought ones ever again! Darn. That’s how good they were!
Before I share my experience and the recipe, I want to share a bit the history of bagels. Many people think bagels are American, and more particularly from New York. And yes this is partly true. But… they started out in a different country. They come from the Ashkenazi Jewish community in Poland. When many of them came as immigrants into the United States, they settled in the Lower East Side in Manhattan and continued to make their cultural foods like challah bread, Knishes and bagels.
In New York City, during the 1800’s, the bagel began to spread as a filling inexpensive meal to produce and eat. Bagels became so popular among the Jewish community of New York, that unions were formed to represent bagel bakers in the city, such as Bagel Bakers Local 338, which by the early 1910s represented over 300 bagel craftsman in Manhattan! (1). These craftmen made their bagels by hand until the advent of automation in the 1960s, when Canadian Dan Thompson invented the Thompson Bagel Machine.
Now… What makes a bagel New York Style? The answer was surprising to me… the water of New York! Yes, in first instance it is their water which contains certain minerals which they attribute to creating a better bagel, specifically the low concentrations of calcium and magnesium, which makes the water softer. NYC municipal water also has a high level of TDS, or sediment, and this also makes the water softer which has been claimed to strengthen the gluten in the bagel dough, helping to create the chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside bagel that represents a New York style bagel. (1)
Aside the water, a New York style bagel is always boiled in water that has had barley malt added, which gives a bagel its signature taste, texture, and leathery skin. The bagels are then traditionally topped with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion or garlic, or everything bagel seasoning, or are left plain or brushed with an egg wash. These are the traditional flavors of NY style bagels, there are also newer, less traditional flavors such as cinnamon raisin, and other sweet bagels, but these originated in the 1950s and ’60s, and are not traditional and have been criticized by New Yorkers and members of the Jewish community, who do not consider them bagels. (1)
So, I guess I made Bostonian bagels then! ^ ^ I used the recipe in King’s Arthur Flour website with molasses (instead of sugar or barley malt) and well… Bostonian water! Here is the recipe:
1 tablespoon (9g) of instant yeast
4 cups (480g) unbleached bread flour ( One really important thing according to various websites with bagel recipes: one must use bread flour as it is a stronger flour than the average all purpose one.)
2 tablespoons (12g) salt
1 tablespoon (14g) non-diastatic malt powder, brown sugar or barley malt syrup (If you use Barley malt you are closer to making them New York Style.)
1 1/3 cups (303g) water, lukewarm
2 quarts (1814g) water
2 tablespoons (28g) non diastactic malt powder, or brown sugar or barley malt syrup
1 tablespoon (14g) granulated sugar
1. Start by placing the water in a medium bowl. Add the sugar (or malt powders) and the yeast. Let it sit for 10 minutes. You will notice how it bubbles after a while. It is pretty cool! Like little fireworks inside the water.
2. Place the flour on a big bowl. Add the salt and then the yeast water. I mixed it with my hands. I had to add a bit more water, if you have to do it take it slow!
3. Let the flour rest and rise for about 1 hour. It will look something like this after:
4. Punch it down to release the air. Knead and divide it into eight pieces.
5. Roll each piece into a smooth ball. Flatten them and create a hole. Make the hole about 2.5 inches. I found this to be the hardest step. You can see this video to help you:
This is what mine looked like:
5. Place them on a lightly greased baking pan. Let them rest for 20 minutes or so. While you wait prepare the bagel bath! Place the 2 quarts of water (really a ot of water in a big pot and add the brown sugar (or malts). This is supposed to make it a bit more caramel looking on the outside aside from giving it a slight sweet taste too.
6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees as soon as the water boils.
7. Take turns placing the bagels into the hot bath pot. Do each side for about 2 minutes. (I did them two by two). Use a regular spatula to remove them from the water.
8. Spread egg yolk on the top side of each bagel for a golden color!
9. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Turn the pan after 10 minutes. Watch them at one point they cook fast! Mine were done at 18 minutes.
Now what does one usually eat with bagels? Cream cheese!!! But aside from cream cheese there is a very typical way in which Jewish people from New York eat their bagels. They eat them with what they call “lox and schmear.” Meaning a fillet of brined salmon which may or may not be smoked. The schmear is the cream cheese. This is decorated with onions, tomatoes and capers.
According to Jewish culinary historian Gil Marks, the Jewish community in New York City developed the bagel with lox and schmear in the 1930s as a kosher adaption of eggs benedict, which Jewish people are unable to eat due to eggs Benedict both containing pork and mixing dairy and meat (both of which are violations of kashrut, Jewish dietary law). This was unique to the Jews of New York City, as Jewish communities in Poland had traditionally spread schmaltz on their bagels, or had eaten them with cholent, or other various soups and as a dinner roll.
I find the onion and capers a bit strong so I opted for avocado instead:
We enjoyed them so much! Just look at the beautiful texture of the bagels:
Yummm is right!
I ate my first bagel in New York in 2019. I know…I don’t understand what took me so long! I chose something very colorful at a family owned restaurant called Baz Bagel and Restaurant. Their bagels are hand rolled and made in the traditional NYC method.
Yes, It was so delicious! And colorful!
And this is the traditional “Lox and Schmear”:
I guess someday I should go for it… onions, capers and all! ^ ^
If you are ever in New York, I would say this is a classic food from there… and now I wonder… are they popular in Israel like they are here in the US?