When I began to write this post, it was going to be just about bagels. It will still be about bagels, dear reader, however, I've added something very special to the end. It's worth the wait, I promise!
The Brooklyn Collection must be thinking about food lately -- specifically round breads with a hole in the middle. Tara wrote a fantastic post about the doughnut and now I'm writing about the bagel. While the bagel was not an original Brooklyn creation, we're close enough to the Lower East Side to practically have a mirrored history. Immigrants who moved across the East River to Brooklyn brought the recipe and lore of this delicious style of bread with them.
According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, few people outside of New York City knew what bagels were, at least during the mid 20th century. Bagels have definitely changed since 1953, when an article described them as a "... gustatory delight, ... large doughnut-shaped rolls with the consistency of battleship armor." Purists consider the water-boiled then baked bagel to be the only true bagel, but a new process involving steam-injection, producing a fluffier dough, is now used in the mass-produced product.
"All kinds of bread are included in international array of Brooklyn-baked products as Miss Ovenkrust, Irmgard Paul, Queen of International Bread Week, smiles."
In 1948, and then again in 1951 and 1953, Brooklyn suffered bagel deprivation. Strikes kept bagels out of the city as the Teamsters Union and the Bagel Bakers Association failed to reach an agreement about pay raises. A similar strike took place in 1951, in which a slow-down and then a strike were initiated by the bagel bakers. Ten bagel bakeries in Brooklyn closed and Brooklynites were left to eat mass-produced bagels--not the water-boiled bagels they knew and loved.
In an article written in 1954, an Eagle writer profiles Israel Hershman, owner of the Coney Island Bagel Bakery. Mr. Hersman's bagels were works of art, perfect circles created in dough.
Interested in making bagels? Here is a great step by step recipe - with Photos!
Or even better--and this is the new step--a film, transfered from our 16mm film collection, entitled Hot Bagels:
Your blogger today has personal experience of the bagel trade as a worker in a bagel shop on Long Beach Island. The shop was called Begeleddie's and to make the bagels, Eddie, the owner, would drop hand rolled bagels in boiling water and then bake them. How many times did I burn my hands reaching in the metal baskets to get a bagel for a customer? Too many. Now my hands barely feel heat. But I remember the smell: warm, yeasty bread, rich, earthy onions and garlic, warm cinnamon, sweet rasins. There is nothing quite like the smell of slightly overtoasted seeds on the everything bagel.