When my April Bon Appetit magazine came in the mail, I noticed a one-page spread on bagels. It caught my eye as the featured bagels were smaller and less regular in appearance when compared to the fluffy ones usually thrust upon us at bagel stores.
The blurb on the page explained that the bagels were following the path of rediscovered old-style pickling, butchering and other lost arts. That is, the art of making bagels the old way is reviving. The old-fashioned way includes boiling the bagels in water with added barley syrup (or honey) and then baking them in a wood-fired oven. The flavor, density and texture are quite different from the average fluffy bagel.
I should know because when my husband and I were first married, we lived within walking distance of a bagel shop. These bagels were 200 percent better than those dysfunctional, bagged bagels found at most supermarkets, as they were freshly baked and preservative-free. But they were huge, fluffy things. You probably ate two whole days of calories if you had one of their bagel sandwiches (yes, they were big). While we would occasionally enjoy a bagel, my mother-in-law looked upon them as poor substitute for real bagels.
It seemed she had a friend in high school whose family owned a traditional bagel shop. These bagels were cooked following the best bagel traditions, and one time her friend brought her to the shop and gave her a bagel to enjoy. When she first bite into this chewy, smallish bagel, she knew what a bagel really should be like. That one bagel stayed with her for 40 years, reminding her what true bagels were like when ever a fluffy bagel bomb came into view.
I recently found a local source for a traditionally made bagel. While I don’t eat a lot of baked goods anymore, I was eager to try it. This bagel was probably at least half the size of my fluffy friends from the past. These were chewy, and had much more crust too. Some of my extended family really like bagels and can even eat them every day. I never understand this love. But this bagel? This bagel I could easily imagine starting my mornings with often. It really was that good.
More on bagels:
The bagel shops listed in Bon Appetit: