Since the dawn of civilization, humanity has accomplished many great things. The pyramids. The moon landing. The discovery of the Higgs boson. The very existence of Beyoncé. And yet for all that we’ve learned, there remains the cruel reality that no one outside of a 50-mile radius of Manhattan can make a good bagel. An oft-repeated urban legend contends that this is because of “the water.” Peter Shelsky, who just opened Shelsky’s Brooklyn Bagels at the borderland of Gowanus and Park Slope, wants you to know the truth. “It is absolutely not the water. Full stop,” he declares. “New Jersey and New York have very different water qualities, and they are producing some fantastic, ‘New York style’ bagels, if you want to call it that. It’s ridiculous to think that it might be the water.”
自从文明诞生，人类完成了许多壮举。例如金字塔、地月发射、希格斯玻色子的发现、碧昂斯的超级生活方式，以及我们现在所了解的一切。但有一个残酷的现实是，曼哈顿50英里半径之外没有人可以做好一个面包圈。一位时常被提起的都市传奇人物将此现象硬性归结为是水的原因。但刚刚打开Shelsky’s Brooklyn面包圈市场边地的Peter Shelsky，想要让人们知道真相。“绝对与水无关，快停止这种说法吧，”他声明，“新泽西州和纽约的水质不同，它们生产了一些很棒的你可以称之为”纽约风格“面包圈。认为是水的原因这种想法实在是很荒谬。”
The water myth is, of course, an easy out for every person who has tried and failed to make a delicious, New York–style bagel. As Shelsky himself recently learned, making a New York bagel is a ridiculously hard blend of art and science, a feat of culinary engineering and passion that takes years of study and months of trial and error. But before we get into the nitty-gritty of how he did it: What is a New York bagel, you ask? Shelsky describes it simply: “A New York bagel is defined by its competing textures: a profound crust that shatters when you bite into it and its dense, chewy interior.” If that sounds easy enough, making one from scratch proved to be anything but.
“I thought I knew, but I didn’t know,” the chef says of what it took to design his own New York bagel. “I knew the bagel I wanted. I knew how I wanted it to be, how I wanted it to look, and how I wanted it to taste, and how I wanted it to feel on my mouth. I didn’t know how to achieve that. I thought I would figure it out because I’m a chef and I take pride in figuring those things out, but until I really got the ball rolling I didn’t really know what I was in for.”
The quest for the perfect bagel began in mid-2018 with a recipe received from Mill Basin Café, which provides the bagels for Shelsky’s other enterprise, Shelsky’s of Brooklyn, cofounded with Lewis Spada in Cobble Hill. After months of testing, working well into the fall, Shelsky had yet to strike the perfect balance. That’s when he called Matthew Tilden of Scratch Bread. To a layperson, Tilden will seem like a bread wizard; he describes himself as a bread artisan. “I’m not a traditional bread baker, but I have obviously been doing bread for over a decade,” he says. “My brain just looks at it a little bit differently. As soon as I saw the recipe they were using, it didn’t make sense to me. When I interpreted the recipe, I thought if he made a couple tweaks here or there . . . . That’s when it really got into scientific stuff.”
在2018年中期，Mill Basin Café收到了一份食谱，这份食谱为Shelsky在科布勒山同Lewis Spada共同创办的副公司，Shelsky’s of Brooklyn, 供给了面包圈，由此，寻找完美面包圈活动开展。在数月的测试后，一直到秋天， Shelsky仍然没有发现最完美的。此时，他请来了 Matthew Tilden?。作为外行人，Tilden看起来像是面包专家；他也称自己像是一位面包艺术家。“我不是传统意义上的面包烘焙家，但显而易见我做面包这一行已经十几年了，”他说，“我的大脑看着它有点不同。一看到他们使用菜谱，就觉得这对我没有意义。当我解释起菜谱来，想着如果他在这里或者那里做一点调整……它就真的变成了科学性的东西。”
Tilden estimates he messed around with about 12 different styles of bagel recipe before landing on something even close to what Shelsky had described as the quintessential New York taste. “My aha moment in this was one night I was like, Wait a minute, bagels aren’t this unicorn in the bread world, they’re just loaves of bread shaped with a hole in the middle,” says Tilden earnestly. “Once I applied that thought process, all the recipes started to finalize pretty quick after that.”
If you’ve read this far to learn exact recipes, well, sorry to disappoint. Once you’ve cracked the code of a bagel as delicious as this, you don’t just give it away to carbo-loading reporters and the entire Internet by proxy. But Shelsky and Tilden will reveal some secrets, the most important of which might be unexpected to us lay-eaters: “cold-fermented dough.” The Shelsky’s dough, made from a “yogurt-y, sweet” sourdough starter married with old dough, sits in the refrigerator at Shelsky’s for anywhere from two to five days before being taken out and rolled into bagels, a process Tilden calls “cold fermenting,” but could also be called aging or retarding the dough.
如果你读了这么久是想要得到精确的食物配方，那么，要说声抱歉了。一旦你破解了面包圈的美味密钥，你不会以代理人的身份将它告知给网络报道者。但是Shelsky 和 Tilden得到了一些秘密，最重要的那部分可能我们这些吃瓜群众并不感兴趣：冷发酵面团。Shelsky的生面团由酵母与老面团混合而成的“甜酸乳酪”制成，在被取走和揉进面包圈的前2-5天，通常放在Shelsky的冷藏库里。这个过程被Tilden称为“冷发酵”，也可以称作阻力面团。
“When you retard the dough, you’re just slowing everything down in a colder environment. What yeast thrives off of is lots of sugar and warmth. If you give them a different environment, they can only eat slower and yeast, typically, just really slows down in the cold,” explains Tilden. “We’re slowing the process to develop better flavors, better crust, all that stuff.” Leaving the dough in the refrigerator for two days results in a lighter taste; if it stays all the way up to five, it will have a “super crackly crust, more tang, rustic-bread flavor notes.” The sweet spot, for now, seems to be three days.
What happens once the dough is taken out of the refrigerator after its cold fermentations is, as Shelsky describes it, “chaos!” The dough is first rolled out into bagels, then boiled in salt water like pasta, and finally baked at 470 to 475 degrees. “From boil to bake they go directly on the shelves right when they’re out of the oven. People are ordering them all day long out of the oven,” he says, estimating the entire process to take 14 hours from start to finish. On average, the store makes 2,500 bagels on the weekends, and about half that on any given weekday. Most days, it sells out completely of bagels by the early afternoon, with Shelsky or Spada posting a handwritten note in the door to alert prospective customers. “Sold out of bagels! Closed!” It seems neighborhood customers have grown wise to the limited quantities; on a random Thursday, the bagel shop was packed at 11:15 a.m. As a result of high demand, Shelsky and Tilden are doing the math to try to figure out how to up their production without, you know, losing their minds.
生面团冷发酵后，一旦将其从冷藏库里拿出，就会变得像Shelsky描述的那样：一团糟！生面团首先被揉进面包圈，然后像披萨一样放进盐水里煮沸，最终在470-475度的高温下烘焙。“从煮沸到烘烤，它们直接从烤箱到食物架上了，”他说，评估从到到尾全过程大概需要花14个小时。通常来讲，仓库周末会制作2500个面包圈，而在平常的工作日大概会制作一半的数量。大多时候，在下午面包圈就已经早早的卖光了，橱窗上张贴着Shelsky 或者Spada给顾客手写的提示：”面包圈已售完，即将关门！“对于数量限制，顾客们似乎也变得机智了很多；在某个星期四的上午11：15，面包圈店顾客爆满，由于大量需求，Shelsky 和Tilden开始寻求能够提高产量同时又能让顾客疯狂抢购的策略。
So let’s say you find yourself inside Shelsky’s while there are still bagels to be ordered. What to get? There’s the egg bagel with whole egg yolks, turmeric, achiote, and Indian sulfur salt to bring out a hard egg flavor. There’s a pumpernickel made with cocoa, molasses, used coffee grounds, and burnt caramel for tartness. There’s a cracked pepper and salt bagel—“a bagel au poivre, if you will,” smirks Shelsky—or a Szechuan peppercorn bialy that will “numb the hell out of your mouth.” There will never, ever, ever be “rainbow, blueberry, asiago, japale?o” bagels or strawberry cream cheese, but there is a cinnamon raison for those unwilling to give up their sweet tooth. There is a smattering of fish sandwiches that will be familiar to customers of Shelsky’s other locale—let me recommend The Great Gatsby with the asterisk that it is served on rye—and some meat options for those who need a morning ham, egg, and cheese sandwich.
First-time customers should take a tip from Shelsky himself: “If someone comes in here and I want them to try one thing right now—I can’t believe I’m going to say this, and I wouldn’t have said this before I opened—but it would be a whole wheat bagel with plain cream cheese. I’m just blown away every time I eat one of those bagels.” With a full range of oat and nut flavors and the lightest, fluffiest cream cheese, it proves the idiom “don’t mess with perfection.” Because these bagels are really truly perfect.
Shelsky’s Brooklyn Bagels is open at 453 Fourth Avenue from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Closed Wednesdays.