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How to Make NYC-Style Bagels: A Baking Trick

Ask a New Yorker where the best bagels in the world are, and they’ll tell you with gusto: New York and nowhere else. It may come off as just an opinion — leave it to a New Yorker to tell you why New York is home to so many “best of” food items — but this time, there’s science to back it up. The reason that’s most often deployed as why New York bagels are the best is the water. According to a video produced by the American Chemical Society, the lower concentration of calcium and magnesium in New York tap water makes it softer, and softer water impacts how the gluten acts in the dough. However, that’s not the only reason why New York bagels reign supreme.

There are two steps that set a New York bagel apart: boiling and baking. Boiling is non-negotiable — boiling the bagels gelatinizes the starches in the dough, resulting in the texture you’re accustomed to, which is thick and glossy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Additionally, barley malt syrup in the water provides that signature golden hue.

Now, we bake. New York bagels are often baked on water-soaked, burlap-lined cedar or pine boards, which keep the bagels moist. The moisture keeps the bagels cool throughout the baking process while also adding a cross-section to the bottom. The bagels are then flipped off the boards and onto the hot oven floor midway through baking to allow the bottom to crisp up.

Mimic the New York bagel shops with a perforated pan and high heat

bagel board from russ & daughters

While nobody makes a bagel quite like a New York bagel shop, it’s entirely possible to get close to the real thing in your own kitchen. To mimic that cross-section on the bottom from the water-soaked wood boards, reach for a perforated pan or a rack-lined sheet pan (like what you use to cool cookies or muffins after they come out of the oven) to get a similar effect.

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Next, you need that high heat to get that crisp, glossy top and chewy, springy interior. New York bagels are typically baked in a 450 to 600 degree Fahrenheit oven, which may not be possible for the standard home oven. Crank your oven as high as you can — push it to 500 degrees Fahrenheit if you can — and keep an eye on your bagels as they bake. Alternatively, if you own any kind of home pizza oven that can get to the 600 degree mark, use that instead.

Now that you’ve achieved that perfectly golden, chewy New York bagel at home, finish it in true New York fashion. There are endless ways you can top your bagel, all of which come with controversy and opinions. We recommend the classic: a healthy schmear of cream cheese, a layer of thinly-sliced lox, capers, a slice of tomato, and sliced red onion. Pair with an ice cold Dr. Brown’s soda or freshly brewed coffee, and enjoy.

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