We Make a Better Bagel

We Make a Better Bagel

Lots of places claim to have the best of something. Then people who live in those places come here and try our version, and are put to shame. Take bagels, for example. It doesn’t get much better than a warm, bakery-fresh New York City bagel. If you haven’t had one, boy are you missing out.

The Jewish people of Poland are thought to have made the first bagels, but anybody who has eaten a fresh bagel in New York City knows that we’ve perfected them. I wanted to know, why do they taste so good? Does everybody else just suck at making them?

My dad says it’s the water. Of course, my dad’s a plumber, so I’m not all that surprised that he would say that. He also tells me that New York City tap water is the best water in the world. Well, I looked into it and it turns out he is partially right.

The reason New York City bagels taste better is the way we make ‘em. If you’re baking them in an oven the same way you would bake bread, you’re doing it wrong. Sorry but you are. You’re chewing on a small round loaf of bread with a hole in it. Truth.

So how do New Yorkers make bagels?

We boil them. Sounds weird, right? Totally true. When the Eastern Europeans came here, this is how they made bagels: they cooled the dough for a few days, which inhibits yeast from making the dough rise too much. From there, they boiled the dough. That’s how you get the nice, chewy center and a delicious crust.

So what about my dad and his water theory?

New York City water is not too hard (which makes the bagels tougher) or too soft (makes you feel like you’re eating raw dough), but that perfect goldilocks of water: not too hard, not too soft. So we’re at a bit of an advantage there.

But really it is that most places are too lazy to boil their bagels. The problem is that this is not an easy or quick process. It’s hard to automate. Which means people have developed other ways to make bagels. For example, some places bake the bagels and use steam to give them a more bagel-y, less bread-y flavor. Doesn’t that feel like cheating?

You might prefer that type of bagel. You’d be wrong and I’d feel sorry for you, but you can have that (wrong) opinion. Science is on my side here, and the American Chemical Society has a video on Youtube to prove it.

If you think about it, would you rather have an authentic, small batch bagel or a mass-produced bagel made the most convenient way possible?

That’s what I thought.