Bigger, Chewable, Tangier: How Britain Fell for New York’s Baking Gram | bread

“Msays Maya Black, co-founder of bagel bakery Breadflower in Manchester, with a laugh. Nothing personal, it seems; It’s just that Black’s New York-style bagels are a different beast from the bagels—or, as they’re historically called, bagels—her grandmother grew up buying from a local Jewish deli. There’s no corned beef, and instead of sandwich fillings, the New York City bagels come with “schmerz”—different types of cream cheese mixed with anything from herbs, olives, and horseradish to honey and berries. Covered with seeds, they are larger, chewier, and crunchier. Some would even say it is tastier, although this seems sacrilegious given the sacred place traditional bread holds in the hearts of the Jewish community.

What can be said with some certainty is that New York-style bagels have become something of a trend in Manchester, London, Leicester and Edinburgh – cities that have long been home to Jewish diaspora communities. It’s a trend that, in London at least, seems to be starting to close, when many who could have been baking. New Yorkers expats, or those who lived in New York and fell in love with bagels there, lost their distinctive flavor and texture and decided to recreate it.

“I used to come back to New York every six weeks and eat bagels”… Dan Martensen. Photo: bread

“I used to come back to New York every six weeks and eat bagels,” says Dan Martensen, The New Yorker, com, London. “I was going to bring back a bag for the kids, because they love them too, and when I couldn’t do that, we lost them. I’m a photographer by profession, so I had time to experiment during lockdown.” Now he’s a photographer and co-founder of It’s Bagels! , which sells cakes and marmalade outside Caravan Coffee Roasters in King’s Cross and online. He hopes to open a brick-and-mortar location next year.

It’s an anecdote echoed by Gabriel “Papu” Gomez, a chef who lived in London for four years but spent most of his life in New York. Baking in New York, he says, is a culture. Each area has dozens of bagel shops, and New Yorkers have favorites in every area. “During lockdown, I wanted something that tasted right at home. I researched a lot of recipes and techniques from New York and tried to make them as close to the way it’s done there as possible,” says Gomez. This involved adding malt to water, using kosher salt imported from the US, and proofing the dough for between 24 and 36 hours to get the exact texture and taste.

“Our neighbor who lived upstairs was also from New York, so we dropped a bag of Babu’s cookies and she was like, ‘Oh my God—they taste like home!'” “This is how it all began,” says Gomez’s wife and business partner, Georgia Fenwick-Gomez, of Papo Bagels in east London. It’s an interesting choice of location, given that the East End is home to two of the city’s oldest and most popular bakeries: Beigel Shop and Beigel Bake, both on Brick Lane. “We had no idea!” Says. “We were looking for a good community to raise our family in and we loved East London. We didn’t realize until months after we opened, when all these old-school Londoners came over and shared how baking London is part of their family tradition.”

Beigel's store in Brick Lane, East London.
Old school… Beigel’s shop on Brick Lane, East London. Photo: BuildAgent Online/Goku/Belgium

Given how regional people can be about the foods they grew up with, especially those of cultural significance, these conversations can be tense. That it was not a testament to the history of bread, and its travels around the world. Although the exact origin of the bagel is unclear, by the 19th century it was a staple food for Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. From there she traveled with Jewish immigrants across the United States and Canada, and developed as she did. Montreal bread with honey is boiled in water and not proofed overnight. Set the New York bagel overnight and boil it with the malt extract in water. West Coast bagels are similar to New York ones, but a little softer, and made with local flours and yeasts. However, the ubiquitous bread continued to represent the idea of ​​home.

“It’s great how a baked item has such nostalgia in it. That’s how this business was created: out of our New York nostalgia,” says Fenwick-Gomez. “Even if people sometimes doubt that our bread will ever be as good as London bread, it comes from a pretty curious place.” Besides, this new wave of baking bakers explains, they don’t think their cakes are better, just different. “I don’t want to replace or replicate the muffins from the Jewish takeaway in Manchester,” Black says. “They’re doing it amazing and they have this amazing culture that I’m a part of.”

Martinsen agrees, “My cake is no better or worse.” “At two o’clock in the morning after a night out in London, I might still want a piece of corned beef from Brick Lane. I just wanted to make the bread I was so familiar with in New York City here.”

Gomez points out that’s part of the fun. “In New York you go to different bagel shops because each one has a certain thing that they do really well. Now it looks like this could happen in London — and that’s pretty cool.”

Back on Brick Lane, the Beigel Shop and Beigel Bake show just how wide the bagel (or bagel) appeal has become. Both shops are open 24/7, catering to builders, bankers, and carb eaters. It’s just the kind of culture Lara Bruce wanted to evoke when she created Bross Bagels in Edinburgh, whose products reflect the years she spent in Montreal and New York: “I wanted a shop that, no matter who you were or what was going on, brought people together.”

‘It’s not just food’… Lara Bruce at Bross Bagels in Edinburgh. Photography: Mark Millar Photography

“It’s not just food,” she says. When something has traveled so far, developed so much yet still been home to so many people, it is “a way of life; a cure for all. Bread cures everything. It’s true.”

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