Friday, March 8, 2019

Rosenfeld's Bagels

Benchwarmer's Bagels has recently opened in Raleigh.  This is an audacious thing.  Bagelries are more likely to be closing rather than opening these days.  Like Melissa Weller of Sadelle's, you need to have a perverse love for bread and a background in the highest echelons of baking, plus significant capitalist backing to open a bagelry in 2019.  They are just too hard to make, too hard to get consistently right, and people expect that they should be cheap despite being labor intensive (Benchwarmer's sells a dozen for $19, and they are bready).  Each bagel at a place like Benchwarmer's is hand rolled, itself a skill that takes months or years to master.  Beyond that, if any of the following criteria are not in a defined range, a "real New Yorker" will insult you (trust me, it's happened to me):

Flavor: Reasonably plain, slightly sweet, with a hint (but no more) of sour.
Texture: Tight crumb, never fluffy, overproofed, or bready.
Crust: Shiny, caramelized, some discernable "crack" upon tearing.
Size: Medium-small
Chew: Toothsome

The archetype for me for an old-school bagel will always be Rosenfeld's Bagels of Newton Center, Mass. It's not the best bagel, and not the flashiest, but as far as they come, it's pretty darn good.  Walking up to the counter, you can see the aged bagel man still using the wood boards in the oven, kettle steaming.  Like Dom DeMarco of DiFara's, he continues to bake bagels for no good reason other than that it breathes life into him through his work.  I told him I was a baker and he told me the secrets to his success:

1. Use All-Trumps Hi-Gluten Flour
2. Include 3% malt syrup by weight of the water in the boil kettle.
3. Develop the gluten (it's going to be a stiff dough, of 48-52% hydration), but don't overmix it.



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