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Sunday, February 24, 2013
My relationship with bagels begins with my mother. When she was a little girl, her father took her to Harvard Street in Brookline to a Jewish bakery. My grandfather told the proprietor that his daughter had never had a bagel. Horrified, and rightly so, the owner promptly handed her a bagel to remedy the situation.
Fast forward about forty years to the 80's. Those soft, warm, freshly baked bagels of my mother's childhood are what she had in mind when she started seeing frozen bagels for sale in the grocery store. Of course they didn't compare, but they were usually on sale and she had coupons. So she started buying them. This is when I remember that we were suddenly eating bagels all the time at home. I liked them. Around the same time, I was an undergrad at Brandeis University. My bagel eating continued and increased.
After graduating, my daily bagel consumption sharply dropped off. You can only eat so many bagels without consequence. But every once in a while, I like a good bagel. I remember several years ago having a really good lunch one day at Bruegger's Bagels in Kenmore Square. Their bagels are huge, soft and chewy. Like the bagels of my mother's childhood. You won't forget them.
So when I was recently invited to meet Bruegger's Bagels Executive Chef, Philip Smith, for a behind the scenes look at bagel making, I jumped at the chance.
To celebrate 30 years, Bruegger's invited a few local bloggers to their Melrose location last week. You can read some of the other blogger write-ups, here, here, here, here, here, and here.* It was a really nice group and I had such a good time.
We received a ton of information. Did you know that bagels have been around for 3,000 years? I had no idea.
Bruegger's Bagels in-house bakers are hand selected and trained in their own artisan style. John is the baker in the pictures above. The bagels are made of just five core ingredients: flour, water, malt, yeast, and salt.
The yeast is activated while the uncooked bagels are chilled in a walk-in refrigerator. A skin forms on the dough, then the bagels are kettle-boiled. After that, they are baked in small batches in a stone hearth oven.
Chef Smith, told us that the oven is so big that it could fit a VW Beetle in it! Now, being the proud owner of a Bug, I had to ask the question, "An old Beetle or New Beetle?" He said probably an old one. : )
We also learned that Bruegger's is not about following the latest food trends. While they are always trying new recipes, flavors, and ingredients, they focus on their bagels tasting good. They didn't try to make a low carb bagel or a gluten free one, because they probably would not taste great. They realize that they cannot be all things to all people. They have other options besides bagels, like salads and soups, and some of these are gluten free.
We got to try some of their sandwiches, which are delicious! We also tried a Smoked Salmon & Dill Strata. OMG! So good! They don't serve the strata at their stores, but it's an idea of something that you can make at home with their bagels. On the website, you can find lots of recipes. Also, Bruegger's caters, so you can order it for an office meeting or any other event.
Also, I was surprised to find that Bruegger's has so many locations. There are over 300 bakeries in 26 states, Washington, D.C., and in Canada. They are headquartered in Burlington, Vermont and their direct set cream cheese is 100% made in Vermont with no preservatives. It's good stuff.
Now, if I thought I couldn't possibly like Bruegger's any more, I was wrong. If they have leftover bagels in the evening, since they are still good, they don't let them go to waste. They think of those in need. The evening of our blogger event, the leftovers were donated to a local food pantry.
That's good stuff too.
*Updated 3/1/2013* This post has been updated several times to add links to additional blogger posts.
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Disclosure: Complimentary food and coupons were provided to me by Bruegger's Bagels. Thank you!
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