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Bagels

Has anyone noticed a general deterioration in the quality of bagels? I more or less expect that here in the South. Even with many northern transplants here people seem to prefer bagel-shaped soft rolls with assorted toppings. It seems even when I visit Brooklyn and Queens it's tough to find a real bagel.

When I was a teenager in Brooklyn I couldn't even consider eating a bagel sandwich because the properly baked crust made it too difficult to bite into something that thick and (desirably) tough. Now bagels are so soft that a bagel sandwich is a reasonable lunch choice.

Any thoughts on whatever happened to real bagels?

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  1. You are not alone! The last bagel I bought was soft, sweet & squishy...like cake...disgusting! See this story in today's NYTimes...

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/07/nyr...

    Actually, just remembered that Eli's makes decent bagels...you can get them at any of his shops....EAT, the Vinegar Factory, Eli's Manhattan....

    1. I'm back on the East Coast for a little while and I made sure to stop at H&H for a "real" bagel.

      1. It's true! Bagels just keep getting bigger and more like bread. It's close to impossible to find the crunchy crust, even in NY. I used to go to Ess-a-Bagel when I lived there because I liked the chewy dough, but even that didn't have a true bagel crust.

        Now that I live in LA, it's even tougher to find a satisfying bagel. They tend to be pretty dry and flavorless out here (requires quite a bit of cream cheese to get one down). Sometimes I even go to Barney's cafe because they FedEx H&H bagels from NY everyday.

        1. H &H is a great bagel . But there are alot of small bagels shop in the boro's that are far superior. Try the Bagel man in Willamsburg. Line out the door on Metro Ave this morning to get a few bagels.

          1. I call those things sold at the Einstein's chain 'air bagels.' Likewise the cream cheese they sell to put on them is 'air cheese.' So unsatisfying.

            1. I hate to say it but if you want a real bagel, you really have to have a Montreal bagel. Never, ever a disappointment... In fact, many have made pilgrimages to eat some and they are often requested by friends that I visit abroad.

              1. I've taken to making my own bagels, similar to the ones I remember from my NY youth (in the `70's). They're small, with a thick, crunchy crust that has a crispy outermost skin from thousands of tiny blisters. Thy're baked darker than the ones commonly seen these days, too.

                From my research, I think mine are more like the bagels of the 1950's, but I wouldn't know since that's before I was born. Can someone who remembers `50's bagels comment on how things have changed through the decades?

                4 Replies
                1. re: Professor Salt

                  Wow, Professor Salt, your bagels are GORGEOUS: http://professorsalt.com/category/hom...

                  I was poking around on the home cooking board, and didn't see a recipe there. Could you show us the way?

                  1. re: rose water

                    Hi rose,

                    It's not quite ready to post just yet. I'm reluctant to put up my formula because I've learned there's a TON of variables to twiddle, and all of them matter. My process isn't friendly to casual bakers, or to professionals for that matter, because it takes 3 days and hogs lots of space in the fridge.

                    For me, learning those variables by trial and error (lots of error, as photographed) was more important than the eureka moment when the mistakes finally paid off.

                    1. re: Professor Salt

                      Fair enough. I wish my kitchen mistakes would look as amazing as yours. Twiddle on.

                      1. re: Professor Salt

                        the Berenbaum one looks much like a montreal bagel. Must be the boiling. Gorgeous!

                  2. :::applause:::

                    I'm so glad to hear someone else raise this. I'm in BROOKLYN, and I can't find a decent bagel. They're HUGE. The texture of the interior is sort of dry-gluey-chewy (from dough conditioners?). It takes a tremendous amount of cream cheese to make it edible.

                    I've been buying MINI BAGELS because the crust to soft interior ratio is more palatable.

                    2 Replies
                    1. I'll second Montreal bagels. They are unapologetically traditional and never fail to please. Fairmount is easily number one. I'd suggest a special trip to stock up, but they only rate average as far as freezing goes.
                      Good luck on the U.S. bagel quest.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pouletsecret

                        Montreal bagels are a different beast from the New York variety. The former are sweeter and lack the crunchy crust of the latter. My favorite bagel place in NYC is actually Murray's...

                      2. I hear you. Moishe's bagels on Essex (right by Gus' Pickles) used to be very good, but it's gone. Can't find anyone with a really hard, tough crust and chewy interior. And they all seem underbaked. H&H to me is too sweet (I realize that slightly sweet is a style of bagel, but I prefer the less sweet). Slim's Bagels off Exit 31 of the LIE is pretty good. But haven't had any "perfect" bagels in 10 years.

                        1. Best bagels ..Montague St. Bagels in Brooklyn Heights.....unreal....and then take a walk around the beautiful neighborhood and check out the "carriage houses" and other such architectural ephemera from a long lost era....

                          I live in Orange County and its not even worth talking about bagels or pizza ,for that matter, due to the inability to fathom anything like that created with NYC water and the hands of a craftsman.....

                          also there's a Russian bagel shop a couple of doors down from Katz'a Deli on Houston that is not half bad....but i don't know if its still there, haven't been back to NYC for 2 yrs......

                          1. I agree with you. The bagels we get in the SF Bay Area are nothing like the bagels I had growing up in Brooklyn. But when I got back to New York, the bagels seem bigger and fluffier to me than I remember. Bagels have gone mainstream pretty much everywhere, so I guess it's inevitable that they would change to meet a broader spectrum of taste. And that usually doesn't mean a change for the better.

                            1. Try a search of the Outer Boroughs Board and discover the magic of "Bagel Spot" in Borough Park (Brooklyn)...for true believers only!

                              Words of Wisdom: Bite down carefully.

                              2 Replies
                                1. re: Produce Addict

                                  As Kosher as Kosher can be. Was there today and took home 1&1/2 dozen.

                              1. And I thought it was me. Alas, it seems that good bagels are a thing if the past. I'm a Brooklyn girl, born and bred, but live in Queens now. I remember when all bagel bakeries were open 24/7--now, if you want a fresh bagel, it's got to be before 4 PM. I've tried the bagels at all the Queens locations recommended here on CH, and I'm not impressed by any of them. So, I travel to Brooklyn to buy bagels--usually in Mill Basin, on Veterans Ave and Ave N. Maybe not the best, but at least edible.

                                1. Just got back from visiting my parents in Middle Village. Was sure to pack an extra suitcase so I could bring home 2 dozen Bagelette bagels :) The bagels here in the Midwest are squishier than donuts!

                                  1. I have had excellent bagels from both Montreal and NYC, and they are still the standard by which others are graded against. We used to have a local bakery(Woogles)that made a classic NYC bagels that was both very dense and chewy, but they were only available in the store and the price point was a bit higher than what many people were willing to pay.

                                    I would be very interested in knowing the location of a good bagel in the Ohio-Penn-Michigan area.

                                    1. I live in Louisville, KY--a city not known for its bagel prowess. That said, Nancy's Bagel grounds makes a damn fine bagel. She's the only baker in town who makes her own dough.

                                      In October, we're rewarded with pumpkin bagels. I like mine slathered with honey-walnut cream cheese.

                                      1. I make water bagels when I have the time. Small size. Other than that, I scoop the bagel with a melon baller and then toast. Asked for a scooped and toasted bagel down South and had to explain the procedure. Manager later asked me didn't I want more butter and jam since they had taken out all the bread.

                                        1. Bagel Hole in Park Slope, dense, not airy, tasty. Oh yeah. But the whitefish salad is better at Terrace Bagels.

                                          1. Sadly, my son summed it all up when he announced that "these bagels taste just like the pretzels at the mall - without the salt."

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: greenstate

                                              LOL. That's odd. I tried to introduce my daughter to the joys of a salt bagel and we ended up with something that looked and tasted "just like the pretzels at the mall - without the salt." Needless to say, she has no idea why I think salt bagels are a treat.

                                            2. montreal bagels (we call them "Montregals" when we visit) are the big brother to the pretzel, in my opinion, not really bagels at all.
                                              but they taste pretty damn good.

                                              1. Bagel enthusiasts would more than likely agree that the creation of the blueberry bagel and other such nonsense is perhaps the highest form of mockery. Sweet items clearly have no place in a bagel.. BLUEBERRIES!!? It might as well be a donut!!!!
                                                One thing most can agree on is that in order for a rusk of bread to be called a bagel it first needs to be boiled in water for a minimum of thirty seconds. This is what makes the exterior so crisp and satisfying, as the outer rim of dough is cooked while the interior remains uncooked. There are some who skip this step and simply brush the bagels with an egg wash before baking, which is fine although it produces a softer texture. Some would prefer it, though traditionalists balk at the idea.
                                                Any Jewish Bakery would point out that the only acceptable additions to the dough are savory, and usually consist of sesame or poppy seeds, grated onion or minced garlic. Some bakers include a hard grating cheese such as asiago for a different flavor experience, though it is not very popular among most locale.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: CuzinVinny

                                                  Come off it, raisin bagels are delish!

                                                2. I was born and raised in Brooklyn. There used to be a bialy/bagel joint on Coney Island Ave near Avenue U, way back in the late 60's. My dad was a cop in the 61 and he knew that area well. Great stuff - still there?? Didn't think so.

                                                  Can't get real WATER bagels in St Louis - and around St Patrick's Day they sell GREEN bagels - YUCKA-BOO!