Wednesday 2 Sep, 2015

The New York Bagel: Is it the Water or the Baking Process?

One of my favorite parts of traveling is trying the best food from each destination. New York City has many “bests” in its culinary repertoire. There is one food, though, that they have indisputably perfected. The city’s bagels have a reputation that precedes them. While many know about the famed bagels, not many people know why they are so tasty. This question has brought different answers from many different people.

Dough is the building block to any good bagel, but what makes them special comes from what bakers do with the dough. Once they are made and shaped, the raw bagels are put aside so all of the ingredients and flavors have time to settle and mix. After this process, called proofing, is finished they are then briefly tossed into boiling water to seal the flavor into the dough and help create the crusty outer layer. Finally the poached bagels are put into an oven to bake until they are a nice golden brown. Seems like a straightforward process, right? Then why do so many bagels fall short of tasting like a New York bagel? Brooklyn BagelsAuthentic New York Bagels from Brooklyn Water Bagels

Television and radio host Larry King grew up in Brooklyn, and is intimately acquainted with the New York bagel. He seems to believe, like many, that the city’s water is what makes their bagels so outstanding. In 2010, he invested in a unique company called Brooklyn Water Bagels. The company began opening up new shops across the country, using water imported from New York to make their bagels. The idea that New York water has an effect on bagels is not just hearsay – it’s actually based on science. New York water comes from the Catskill Mountains and is some of the softest water in the country, meaning it has lower amounts of minerals like calcium and magnesium. When the bagels are boiled before baking, minerals in hard water make a tougher crust. Soft water seals in the flavors without making the finished product too chewy.

Some people though, believe that it’s not what’s in the water that makes the difference, but the boiling process itself. Bagels made by Eastern European immigrants in New York have always been boiled, but more often today, bakers cut corners to make the process faster. Instead of boiling them, many bagel makers put them into a steam injected oven, changing the flavor and creating a puffier bagel with a thinner crust.

So next time you visit New York, chew on this information and enjoy a bagel. With dozens of shops selling handmade bagels, you can see for yourself what makes a Big Apple bagel so remarkable.

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