As with so many ‘New York’ things, the famous chewy bagel did not originate in the city; its origin dates back to the 17th century jewish communities In Kraków, Poland. From there, it journeyed through a peculiar series of cultural integrations and found itself in the middle of Manhattan. In the 1900s, the ‘bagel brunch’ — a bagel topped with lox, cream cheese, capers, tomato, and red onions — became widely popular among New Yorkers.
Fascinated with the bagels’ long and delicious history, I took the train uptown to tour the city’s largest bagel manufacturing facility.
Just Bagels, once a small shop in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx has become the largest bagel manufacturer in New York City.
Bagel is considered a type of bread and is made of yeasted wheat dough, roughly the size of a hand. It is then boiled for a short time before its sent to the oven to bake. A typical loaf of bread goes straight to the oven.
First, the dough is shaped into the form of a ring by a special machine.
The dough rings then undergo a proofing process (in a hot and humid space) for the yeast to rise.
20 minutes later, the bagels are taken out of the proofer for a quick chill to stop the yeast from rising too much.
Time to boil and (almost immediately) bake.
As the baked bagels are cooling down, a long and intertwined carousel is carrying all them through the building.
Bagels are then placed in boxes and shipped fresh to local restaurants and delis or bagged in packs of 6 to supply food chains and supermarkets all over. Just Bagels sells bagels to all 50 states as well as France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Israel, and other countries.
Equipment used in bagel manufacturing, like this puncher to create the ring shape is not commonly used in the industry. A group of technicians and a special workshop at the far end of the the Just Bagels facility are available to finagle those one-of-a-kind situations.