New York Bagels Are the Best, And Here’s the Reason Why

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It’s long been claimed that the reason New York bagels are better than every other bagel out there is because of the softness of the city’s water. But is it really true? Well, it’s true that New York bagels really are the best — but it might not be for the reason everyone claims.

Part of the Travel Channel’s “Travel 911: Fact or Fiction” series, this short and sweet little video examines whether or not New York bagels really get their distinctive texture from the water. If you’ve never had a New York bagel … oh man. You’re missing out. They’re the perfect combination of crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, with a chewiness that’s incredibly satisfying (and all the more so if it’s slathered with a schmear of cream cheese first). But according to host Rob Pralgo, the mineral content of New York’s water only has a teeny, tiny effect on how your bagels turn out.

In actuality, it’s the fermentation process. New York bagel dough is traditionally fermented overnight. From there, you boil ‘em, bake ‘em, and bam — best bagel ever. Happily, this process has since spread from NYC to bagel bakeries all over the country; accordingly, getting a New York bagel doesn’t actually require being in New York anymore. Bagels for all!

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I love to bake, but I’m (perhaps a little unjustifiably) terrified of making yeasted goods; it’s just so easy for them to go so very, very wrong. As such, I’ve never tried to make bagels before, so I had no idea that the dough even had to ferment, let alone that it had to do it overnight. But I suspect the boiling process also has something to do with bagel texture, so there might be more than just one reason New York bagels taste the way they do. According to The Kitchn, boiling bagels before baking them helps to set the dough, which means they don’t rise nearly as much as they would otherwise — and the texture of the bagel ultimately depends on the length of the boil. A quick boil keeps the crust “thin and fairly elastic,” which allows the bagels to rise more, thus giving them a softer interior; a longer boil results in a thicker crust and less rising, giving them a super dense interior.

Hmmm. I didn’t have a bagel for breakfast today, but now I really want one. Bagel sandwich for lunch it is!