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Nov 15, 2006 06:16 PM

Does local tap water matter for cooking?

There was a question on the SF boad asking if any restaurant imported NY tap water to make bagels or pizza. This one article says about why pizza dough is better in NY ...

"After meeting with several chefs, the consensus is the water. The mineral content of New York water, which comes from the Catskills has a unique effect on the rising and the flavor to the dough."

Until that quote I thought the issue was silly, but maybe there's a there, there. Could that be why the bagels are better in NY, the sourdough better in SF, etc ... the composition of the local water someone impacts the results?

Would using bottled water give different results based on the brand?

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  1. Mineral composition of the local water has a big impact on brewing and distilling, so I suppose it's not out of the question that it can similarly impact pizza dough, but I don't think I buy it.

    1. I've also heard that it can impact pizza dough--one guy I know was completely convinced that's why the pizza outside of NYC tastes totally different.

      Hadn't thought about bagels though...

      There's a marketing idea for someone--bottled NYC tap water for authentic pizza dough and bagels... Ship it all over the country. heehee...

      I don't rule it out, but I think we're talking about differences that would be only noticed by a seriously discerning palate.

      1. And using bottled italian water to boil my pasta will make it better?

        It's kind of the same thing as wine, don't cook with it id you wouldn't drink it.

        As far as the whole NY thing goes, it's just as likely the pollution in the air.

        1. I find it hard to believe that the small amount of minerals in tap water would make that much difference in a product that isn't water-based (like beer). Not saying it's impossible, just that it's improbable.

          The reason SF sourdough is unique is because of the native yeast and has nothing to do with the water. I've been told that if you take SF sourdough starter out of the area, in a few "generations" of the starter it will lose its SF character, as the yeasts native to the new locale eventually take over the original ones.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Right, SF sourdough is unique based on the native yeast, similar to why Belgian lambics made the same way taste different in two different towns.

            I've always believed what I heard about NY water. Being from NY and then going to school out west, the pizza and bagels just don't taste the same as they do back east. It has nothing to do with the recipe because a NY pizzaola opened up a pizzeria in Michigan but it just didn't taste the same. The texture, the thickness, etc. just wasn't right. it was the closest of any of the pizzas in the surrounding area but it was still off.

            1. re: ESNY

              There was a short-lived Famiglia Pizza in Ann Arbor, MI that claimed to actually ship hundreds of gallons of water from NYC in order to recreate NY pizza. I kid you not.

          2. I dont know why it would be improbable, those small ammounts of minerals cause water to taste drastically different in various areas of the country. Furthermore my psoriasis reacts completely differently to the different waters i have showered with. Why wouldnt it effect another biological organism like yeast in a simliar vein.

            All i know from my experiences is that i have never had a bagel, pizza or even rye bread for that matter that taste like they do in NYC. There are other factors involved such as tradition in their respective crafts. However when people who are well versed in one style of food leave the NY area to make the food they love, it just doesnt quite come out right. My parents always said how Thomas' English Muffins went downhill when they moved their plant to Jersey(whose water is undrinkable). I think the case can be made.

            3 Replies
            1. re: MVNYC

              It's just as likely -- if not more likely -- that the yeasts are different.

              One reason I doubt it is that the mineral content of tap water is not a constant. It changes during the course of a year, and of course it has changed over the years. Not to mention the fact that it's affected by the pipes it flows through. Water that comes out of taps in adjacent buildings can have different mineral profiles. Therefore, it doesn't seem reasonable to attribute a distinct quality to bread baked in a wide range of locations over a period of many years to something as variable as the mineral content of the water.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I may be wrong on this, but unlike in sour dough pizza and bagels do get their yeasts from the same sources respectively and are not dependant on wild airborne yeasts.

                1. re: MVNYC

                  Pizza and bagels are made with either dry or wet, packaged yeast. Besides Fleishmanns, I'm sure there are other brands.