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

richard friedman
TOP TIER: Brooklyn Bagel Bakery’s Richard Friedman.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

“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

Eat your way across L.A.

Get our weekly Tasting Notes newsletter for reviews, news and more from critics Bill Addison and Patricia Escárcega.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.