For the record, Citizens – I’m still smarting from my recent and very reticent confession that Chicago makes a superior hot dog to my home city of NYC.
So – it’s time to even the harsh scales of justice and tip the results back to the borough of my birth, Brooklyn!
As everyone knows, the best bagels on earth are made in New York City (Silence, Montreal – you do make a fine bagel (in its own way) but there is still no comparison!).
For a genuine NYC bagel to live up to its pedigree, you need a true “chaw” (chewiness), they must be boiled before baking and a perfected balance of malt and leavening must be present.
This bagel recipe for home bakers is truly the ultimate, as recorded by George Greenstein in his wonderful book “Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Authentic Jewish Rye and Other Breads“. This is as authentic as you can possibly get short of boarding a flight to JFK, Citizens!
The hideous, flaccidly spongy bread abomination screaming to be put out of its misery as served at Noah’s is an insult to the noble bagel and deserves no further mention by civilized, God-fearing people.
While it’s widely agreed that bagels came to the United States from the Jewish shtetls of Eastern Europe, experts can’t pinpoint the exact origin of the humble bread with the hole in the middle.
One legend has it that the first bagel was born in 1683 when a Viennese baker wanted to pay tribute to Polish King Jan III Sobieski for saving the people of Austria from Turkish invaders. Since the king was known to have a passion for riding, the baker made rolls in the shape of a stirrup, known in German as beugel.
In “The Joys of Yiddish,” however, Leo Rosten notes that the first printed mention of bagels came even earlier, in 1610, in the Community Regulations of Krakow, Poland. These stated that “bagels would be given as a gift to any woman in childbirth.” The ring shape may have been seen as a symbol of life.
Whatever its ancestry, the doughnut-shaped roll quickly caught on, becoming a staple among Eastern Europeans. In Yiddish, they were called beygel; in Russian, boobliki; in Polish, obazanki.
Bagels came to New York in the 1880s, with the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Eastern European Jews. Vendors used to thread the hole-shaped bread onto dowels and hawk them on street corners. The pronunciation of the word never changed, but the spelling was Americanized to bagel.
Create the ultimate bagel sandwich as I do – slice a bagel in half, slather it with full-fat cream cheese mixed with minced scallions and a touch of minced jalapeños. Add some capers, then a few pieces of thinly-sliced red onion, all covered by a single layer of smoked salmon liberally coated with freshly-grated black pepper.
This, Citizens, is truly heaven on Earth for this transplanted New Yorker!
Battle on, The Generalissimo
1200 g strong white bread flour, (Use 1 kg then add further 200 g.)
7 g dried yeast
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons salt
400 ml warm water
3 tablespoons malt syrup (available from King Arthur Flour and bakery supply stores)
Dehydrated onion, dehydrated garlic, Poppy seeds, sesame seeds and black sesame seeds (all optional)
In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water to soften; stir to dissolve. Add 2 tbsp. of malt syrup, flour, and salt. Mix throughly until the dough forms up and comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead, adding smal amounts of flour as necessary. Bagel dough should be stiff. Work in as much extra flour as you can comfortably knead. When using bread flour, the dough will soften slightly as the gluten develops. Knead until smooth and elastic (12-15 minutes).
Roll the dough into a ball, place it in a large oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover and let fully rise until an impression made with your finger remains and does not sink into the dough (abour 1 hour). Punch down, cut into thirds and roll each piece between your palms into a rope.
Cut each rope into 4 equal pieces and shape into balls. Roll the first ball into a rope 2 inches more than the width of your hand. Flip the rope around your fingers to form a ring, with the ends overalpping about 1/2 inch. Seal the ends by rolling with your palms on a work top. If the dough slides and resists rolling, dab on a drop of water with your fingers.
Evenly space the bagels on 2 nonstick baking pans or very lightly oiled baking sheets. I apply a thin film with my fingers. Cover and let stand until puffy (about 20 minutes).
Bagels are boiled before they are baked. While they are proofing, fill a 4 quart saucepan two-thirds full with cold water; add the remaining one tbsp malt syrup and bring to a boil.
Have ready pans or dishes containing poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt, garlic through a press, minced onion flakes or other toppings. When ready to cook the bagels, drop two or three at a time into the boiling water and wait until they rise to the top.
Cook for a total of 1 minute, turning once. If they have been proofed too long, they will float instead of sinking, but you can continue without too much difference.
Carefully lift out each bagel with a slotted spoon or skimmer. Drain momentarily, then turn them over into the dish of prepared toppings of your choice. You may prefer to leave some plain.
Evenly space the bagels on 2 baking sheets, topping side up.
Bake with steam in a preheated 500 degree oven until well-browned (15-20 minutes). Turn them over when the tops begin to brown. Continue baking until done. Baking with steam involves the following technique:
Place an empty roasting pan or other heavy pan on the floor of the oven 5-10 minutes before baking, so it gets hot. When ready to bake, place the bagels in the oven and **carefully** toss 6-8 ice cubes into the hot pan, or pour in 1 cup boiling water and immediately close the oven door. CAUTION: When using boiling water, wear a glove and keep your face away from the open oven door, since there will be a burst of live steam when the boiling water hits the hot pan. Do not open the door to peek or the steam will escape!
Remove from oven, let cool, slice, slather on a Shmear and devour!