Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
May 11, 2007 10:21 AM

Bread urban legend?

So last night I was out with a guy (originally from Philly) who operates a sandwich shop in the greater Seattle area, and he claims that the reason you cannot get bagels, hoagie rolls, etc. here (or anywhere west of the Mississippi) that taste like the ones back east is because of the alkaline levels in the water and how that works with the yeast.

Is this a load of crap or is there some truth to this?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It's certainly a commonly-held belief in Phillyland that there's something magic in the Schuylkill River water that makes the rolls special, but I have never seen anything remotely scientific to back that up.

    1 Reply
    1. you can check out this website and see that it is somewhat true. I just know that different types of water cause bread to react differently. I don't know what water types are found regionally though.

      1 Reply
      1. I've heard similar regional water supply claims in accounting for the singularity of NYC pizza dough.

        4 Replies
        1. re: equinoise

          I've also heard (and, I admit, perpetuated) this claim about NY bagels. It's gotta be something...

          1. re: seattledebs

            I've heard this a few places about particular food .. in Hoi An, Vietnam there is a dish called Kao Lao (sp) and it's noodles are made with water from a single well ..

            I guess cooking is a bunch of chemical reactions specific water qualities could impact the end result ..

            1. re: oliveoyl

              I really liked the hoi an kao lao. thick yellowish noodles. made only from well water in hoi an. and not too much broth of a full soup, just like a quarter bown to wet the noodles, and some dried pork or something on top, something crunchy, can't remember, but all very good.

            2. re: seattledebs

              I've also heard this about NY bagels. NYC has one of the best public water supplies in the country. That stuff tastes great, so I wouldn't be surprised if it is true.

          2. Since bread is made up of so few ingredients and water being a key one, I'm sure it does make a difference. As far as taste goes, there's plenty of things that don't taste the same east of the Mississippi and it has nothing to do with the water. Ask him about Chinese or Mexican food in Philly...things tend to even out.

            1. Many years ago, I knew someone who opened a second NJ pizzaria, and who found that the dough was not turning out properly at his new location. As an experiment, he brought a container of water from his first store, and used it to prepare the pizza dough at the new location. Sure enough, using the water from store #1 resulted in much better dough.

              As a result, he began transporting very large containers of water from Bayonne to Woodbridge every few days, and never had any more problems with his dough. The Bayonne water was undoubtedly not any more pure than the water in Woodbridge, but there was apparently a difference in the mineral composition/hardness that made a difference. In a similar fashion, I am sure that bread makers encounter variations in their dough from one location to another.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Ted in Central NJ

                Water and elevation are two culprits in the world of baking.............................