In the comments on last week’s post, Tom noted how annoying some people can be about New York bagels. I don’t think I’m too bad, but I do have strong opinions on them. In any case, this led me to hang a post off bread this week.
I grew up eating bagels, along with bialys and onion sticks, all from small, family owned bakeries mostly on streets in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in NYC before this area became fancy.
Saturday breakfast was one or more of these with butter, cream cheese and smoked salmon in some form (frequently the cheap, salty and delicious belly lox).
And Friday evening meant challah with dinner, an egg-based bread almost any fairly religious Jewish household will eat.
I love bagels in particular and if I can’t find proper ones I will sometimes still even eat the really pedestrian, card-boardy ones that come in plastic bags in supermarkets (the ones that last for weeks – no self-respecting bagel should last more than a couple of days). They can be made bearable via toasting and a load of cream cheese.
You can get decent bagels in London, but as I noted last week, the really stellar place in Northwest London I used to go to closed during Covid.
There are a number of famous bagel places, most notably the Brick Lane Beigel Bake, in the east end, near loads of great Indian restaurants. I am however not that impressed by the BLBB.
However, I recently read about a New York transplant to London who started a NY-style bagel place and it is on my list for visiting.
When I visited my father in Brooklyn, an everything bagel with cream cheese and an iced coffee with half-and-half was a morning ritual. Even his local bakery, just a deli on 7th Ave, had more than adequate bagels.
But onward – because bread isn’t only about bagels, is it.
Over time I have found that I prefer rolls, baguettes, hogies, etc, to sliced bread. I think they make better eating whether you’re just having something toasted in the morning with butter or are wanting a sandwich of simple to complex proportions.
And one always needs a roll etc rather than sliced bread with soup.
Over time the things I recall bread being a great vehicle for include meatball heroes and Philly cheese steaks during the period we lived in Pennsylvania; crusty Italian loaves for smoked mozzarella and tomatoes, and soft rolls for Panelle (fried chickpea fritters served with home-made ricotta) sandwiches at the local foccaceria when I lived in Brooklyn.
Then, there’s pizza dough. What would pizza be without its base of thin, chewy/crispy loveliness?
I realise in the past few years there’s been a big thing about sourdough – and that being better for you and the starter being fairly easy to get going. But, for reasons I don’t understand, I sometimes find sourdough bread doesn’t sit well with me.
I’m not a consistent baker, but I have had periods during which I’ve done bagels, soft pretzels (both take time but aren’t terribly complex); I’ve tried challah (baked it 5 minutes too long), regular white and white rolls (wasn’t impressed with former; I tried to upload a pic of my challah from the iPhone but it decided I couldn’t transfer it over to the laptop — so no pic of my challah).
I think if pushed to the wall on this, I’d choose savoury baked goods over sweet – no matter how much I love the Saturday treats from Sara’s Petite Cuisine. Bagels, lox, cream cheese, a bit of tomato and some lettuce and you have a relatively healthy meal.
And needless to say, the kitchen smells amazing during baking.
So, where do you stand on bread? Obsessed, meh? Do you need things to be gluten free and how have you managed that? Are you a regular baker?