The New York Bagel Deli is a beloved staple of the city’s cuisine and culture. But what makes a bagel truly “New York-style”? And how can you make a New York Bagel at home?
What makes a bagel a bagel? Keep reading as we explore the history, origins and making of a New York-style bagel — as well as the ingredients, equipment, and techniques needed to enjoy your very own.
In any proper discussion about how to make a New York bagel, the Brooklyn water comes up. This comes from the natural composition of water flowing through the Catskill Mountains, located in upstate New York. It’s legend that it’s where the unique taste comes from.
I haven’t seen Brooklyn Bottled Water yet, but I hold out hope that someone will bottle it and ship it to a huge waiting market. Until then, let’s try our best with the water we have on hand.
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The History and Origins of the New York-Style Bagel
Origins of the bagel can be traced all the way back to 19th century Poland, where there was this popular food among the Ashkenazi Jews. Keep in mind that this is a very intelligent group of people. The name they came up with, “bagel“, comes from the Yiddish word “beygal,” which means a “ring” or “bracelet.”
Immigrants from Eastern Europe — particularly the Jewish immigrants originating from Poland and Russia — brought with them the traditional recipe. Being industrious, these immigrants set up bakeries in New York City. Soon fresh-baked bagels were popping up all over the local community.
Needless to say, the bagel became a popular food among New York City’s Jewish population — and it didn’t take long to catch on with the general public.
Looking at the traditional recipe for a bagel, it includes flour, water, yeast, salt, and malt, which is what gives the bagel texture characteristics.
According to many sources, the secret to the New York bagel taste is in having New York water. We’ve been able to confirm this as being valid.
Ingredients and Equipment Needed
To make a New York-style bagel, you will need a few key ingredients and some specialized equipment.
The most significant ingredient is high-gluten flour, which gives the bagel its chewy texture. You will also need yeast, sugar, salt, and malt powder (or barley malt syrup).
For equipment, you’ll need a large mixing bowl, a rolling pin, a baking sheet, and a large pot for boiling the bagels.
To make the perfect New York-style bagel, you’ll need these ingredients:
- 4 cups of bread flour
- 1 1/2 cups of warm water
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons of malt powder or syrup
- Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
You’ll also need this equipment:
- A large mixing bowl
- A dough hook attachment for your stand mixer (or your hands if you’re kneading by hand)
- A baking sheet
- A large pot
- A slotted spoon or spider strainer
- A pastry brush
Mixing and Kneading the Dough
Once you have your ingredients and equipment ready, it’s time to start mixing and kneading the dough.
Begin by mixing the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add warm water and malt powder (or barley malt syrup), and continue mixing until the dough comes together. Once the dough is formed, it’s time to knead it.
Kneading is an important step in the process, as it helps to develop the gluten in the dough and gives the bagel its characteristic chewiness. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes (either by hand or with a dough hook attachment), or until it becomes smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a towel, and let it rise for about an hour.
Forming the Bagels
Once the dough has risen, divide it into 8-12 pieces, depending on the size of bagel you want. Roll each piece of dough into a rope and then shape it into a ring, making sure to seal the ends well.
Place the formed bagels on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal or semolina flour, and let them rise for another 20 minutes.
Boiling and Baking the Bagels
The next step is to boil the bagels. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and add a couple of tablespoons of sugar (or malt powder or syrup) to the water.
Gently place the bagels into the boiling water, and boil for about 1 minute on each side.
Remove the bagels from the water using a slotted spoon, and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Brush the bagels with an egg wash (beaten egg with a little water) and sprinkle with the topping of your choice.
Bake the bagels in a preheated 425 degree (F) oven for about 20-25 minutes — or until they are golden brown.
Toppings and Variations
New York-style bagels can be topped with a variety of different ingredients. On our website here you’ll find many a NY bagel recipe.
The classic toppings are: sesame seeds, poppy seeds and coarse salt.
To serve, simply toast the bagel and add your desired toppings: such as cream cheese, butter or sandwich fillings. You can also use them for a delicious breakfast sandwich or even enjoy plain.
You could try adding other toppings such as minced onion, garlic, or even “bagel seasoning.” Another popular variation is to split the bagel open and toast it, then add cream cheese or butter, lox, garlic and herb, or even sweet toppings like cinnamon and sugar.
Storing Your Bagels
Once your bagels are fully cooled, you can store them in a plastic bag (or airtight container). They will stay fresh for up to 3 days.
Freshly made bagels are best when eaten within a day or two — but you can freeze them for up to 2 months.
Having the perfect New York Bagel Deli is not about just following a recipe — it’s about understanding the techniques and principles behind the process that satisfies the customers.
Each step from mixing and kneading the dough –to boiling and baking the bagels — plays a critical role in achieving the perfect texture and flavor. Even the water used is important.
With practice and patience, you can be a master of the art of making the perfect New York-style bagel.