How can we honestly call ourselves New Yorkers if we don't know the fine art and science that goes into making the classic bagel?
Catherine Calabro, lead baker at Power City Eatery in downtown Niagara Falls, who makes fresh bagels nearly every day, is happy to explain everything bagel-lovers need to know about what it takes to make bagels at home.
So read on, because with a pack of yeast and a few simple steps, you won't have to pull a frozen bagel from the freezer to satisfy your morning craving for the crusty, chewy, warm doughy goodness so many love to enjoy with their morning cup of Joe.
Calabro says getting the right ratio of crusty, crunchy exterior to soft, doughy, air pocket-full interior is a sort of science, but don’t be scared off by science. Calabro says waiting is the hardest part of the bagel making process.
At the Third Street eatery on a recent weekday, as the usual morning crowd of police officers, firefighters, downtown workers and tourists begin to die down, Calabro explained how to make bagel dough.
She says it is simply high gluten flour, yeast, and water. Yes, that's all.
While her recipe for the restaurant is in a very large quantities for the 186 bagels Calabro makes every morning, getting the exact measurement for a homemade batch is right on the back of a store-bought package of yeast.
The flour, yeast and water are mixed together and given a 24 hour rise.
Once that waiting period is up, the dough is cut into pieces and weighed into 4.5 ounce portions.
If you don’t have a scale at home you can eyeball it.
Once you have your dough mixed and portioned off, you can begin the next step.
You take each piece of dough and roll it into a log and then loop it around your hand and close it where the ends meet.
You will now have a classic bagel shaped dough and once you complete that with all the pieces, you lay them on a greased sheet pan and allow them to rise overnight refrigerated.
In the morning, you can bring them out and allow them to come to room temperature. Then, Calabro grabs a large sheet pan, oils it up and shakes semolina over the bottom. Semolina is a flour like substance similar to cornmeal but not as thick and Calabro says using semolina helps keep the bagels from sticking to the pan while allowing them to cook evenly and resist burning.
As she finishes prepping her semolina sheet pan, a large pot of water has come to boil and she drops the room temperature bagels in the boiling water for 30 seconds on each side. Once the bagels have boiled on both sides, she removes them from the water and places them on the semolina sheet pan.
She makes three types of bagels: plain, sesame and everything. Topping the bagels requires what Calabro calls “glue,” which is simply a mixture of flour and water. The bagel glue is only brushed on the bagels that receive toppings.
For the everything bagel, she quickly minces up some fresh garlic and chopped onion. She adds it to the top of the brushed bagel glue. With the shake of some poppy seeds and sesame seeds on top of the fresh ingredients, the everything bagels are ready for the oven.
In a 475 degree Farenheit oven, the bagels are placed for 10 minutes. Then, the pan gets turned around and they are baked for an additional six minutes.
Out of the oven will come the most amazing aroma of caramelized onion and garlic combined with the smell of freshly baked bread.
When you smell them cooking in your own oven, you will understand why nearly 200 bagels are sold-out nearly everyday before lunch at the Power City Eatery.
Thanks to Catherine Calabro, the Power City breads and bagel baker, we can all create the perfect bagel in the comfort of our homes. If you want to save yourself the kitchen time, head on down to the Power City Eatery at 444 Third St., Niagara Falls, and try theirs for yourself. But, go early or you will be disappointed.
THIS STORY APPEARED IN THE SEPTEMBER 23, 2019 EDITION OF DELISH MAGAZINE, DISTRIBUTED BI-MONTHLY TO SUBSCRIBERS OF THE NIAGARA GAZETTE AND THE LOCKPORT UNION-SUN & JOURNAL.