L.A.'s Brooklyn Bagel Bakery owner tells how to spot the real deal

"When I taste a competitor's bagel," says Richard Friedman, owner of Brooklyn Bagel Bakery in Los Angeles, "I taste a plain, water, hearth-baked. That is the best test."

But he adds that, at least in theory, he has nothing against a sun-dried tomato or a chocolate chip bagel. He is a bagel purist, but only in the sense that he insists that a bagel has good texture, good flavor and good baking. And certain ingredients and processes get him the bagel he wants.

Friedman's recipe for a superior bagel requires that the dough be firm, necessitating high-gluten flour, and be made with fresh yeast and a touch of barley malt syrup for additional flavor and a hint of sweetness. He then uses controlled humidifying chambers to replicate that "special New York weather" (not New York water), which he says is essential to a real New York bagel. And, he insists, as do other top manufacturers, that a good bagel must be "boiled and baked." Boiling arrests the proofing process, giving the bagel texture and shine. He never adds oil or shortening.

A bad bagel for Friedman is "soft, with no texture, not baked completely, pale, flavorless -- just bread with a hole." And please, he urges, "never microwave a bagel; toast only when absolutely necessary [fresh is best]; or better, heat whole in an oven and eat immediately or it gets hard."

-- Judith Kane Jeanson

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