Hippo Manchester
September 8, 2005

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A bagel by any other label

Forget about New York City, you can get great fresh-made bagels right ’round here

By John “jaQ” Andrews  

Some may say it’s pointless to look for premium bagels in New Hampshire — indeed, anywhere outside of New York City itself.

One writer on Citidex.com claims that it is in fact the unique properties of NYC tap water that makes the Gotham bagel so uniquely delish.

Marcia McAuliffe and Melissa Martin work at Bagel Alley, 1 Eldridge St., Nashua. (It really is in an alley. Just north of 111 on the east side of Main Street.) McAuliffe is the owner’s stepdaughter, while Martin “lives there,” the two laughed.

Forming rings of dough all day apparently makes you a bit goofy.

“We make everything from scratch,” McAuliffe said. The two claimed they were the “only place in the state” to take such care in making their bagels. Unfortunately, the Hippo has few resources in the farthest reaches of the state such as Dixville Notch and Berlin, so that couldn’t be definitively substantiated. What can be confirmed is the near-fanatical passion that’s poured into the giant bagel-forming machine at Bagel Alley. Along with yeast and flour and stuff.

The bagel former pushes out rings of dough that are then put in a box to sit for a day while they “proof,” or rise. Some need to have their center holes reinforced and re-made as they close in on themselves.

In the old days, bagels were boiled and then baked. Now, Bagel Alley is equipped with a special oven that treats each bagel to a 30-second spritz of steam, infusing and coating it at the beginning of the baking process. This makes the most fortunate bagels gleam with unabashed tastiness. Others, perhaps getting bogarted out of their steam bath by more pushy bagels, have less of a shine.

The whole shebang is repeated several times daily. Bagel Alley has some wholesale customers, but most of their sales are to walk-in traffic. Breakfast and lunch intermingle, so there’s no one rush. Their offerings range from a simple toasted bagel to hot open-faced melt sandwiches complete with decorative sprouts and peppers on top. Very stylish.

The labor-intensive process is part of what makes real fresh bagel shops unusual.

“It’s not a dying breed,” McAuliffe opined, “but you can’t have one on every corner.”

Indeed, many doughnut and breakfast shops, not to mention supermarkets, don’t make bagels from scratch. At best, a shop might have a baker who pre-bakes bagels nightly. Then a few minutes in the oven creates a “fresh” batch several times a day. Panera follows this strategy, and while it works to create the volume of bagels they sell daily, the personal touch is undeniably lost.

To top your bagel, the classic schmear is cream cheese. Add some lox (smoked salmon) for an even more authentically New York taste.

Other spreads can be whipped up quickly. Ronda Carnicelli of Seasoned Cooking magazine has come up with several over the years, which all start with an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and end with “mix until well blended.”

Her suggestions on what to mix with that cream cheese to get luscious flavors:

Orange

3 tbsp. orange marmalade

2 tbsp. finely chopped pecans

Maple Nut

2 tbsp. maple syrup

2 tbsp. chopped walnuts

Cinnamon Raisin

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

3 tbsp. golden raisins

Crab

¼ cup finely chopped

crabmeat

1 tsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. finely chopped onion

She also recommends using spreads within one week for best quality.

Same goes for your bagels, though the usual “the fresher the better” rule of thumb applies. Once your jaw starts clicking when you bite into a bagel, time to throw the bagels out. Or at least give them to someone less susceptible to TMJ.

Bag a bagel accessory

Sabatier Grand Chef 5” Bagel Knife

$49.99

www.target.com

Fifty bucks for a knife? It’s hand-crafted in France, man, and the blade material? A single piece of “Full-tang high-carbon steel.” Full-tang.

Bagel Biter

$19.99

www.bedbathandbeyond.com

A staple of cafeterias everywhere, this baby is just as at home on your kitchen counter. Throw a bagel in there and its fate is sealed. And by “sealed” I mean “cleft through as by Excalibur itself.” The blade and handle come right out for simple cleaning, though disappointingly, clear acrylic blade guards prevent you from easily using this tool against any bagel snatchers.

Villaware UNO 4-Slice Classic Toaster,

$82.95

www.gadgetbargains.com

Baked goods like style too. Above and beyond its retro-future chic, it features four self-adjusting slots to snugly accommodate bread or bagels. Or thick bread. Plus “electronic browning control” and a defrost setting for frozen foods.

Bagel Butler

$10.99

www.alwaysbrilliant.com

Basically a storage case for your stash, this little gem doubles as a display and serving tray. The clear top lets your pride and joy half dozen peek out and impress the guests. Open it up and stuff another six into the now upside-down lid. It’s ingenious! It’s extraordinary! It’s sometimes included free with more expensive products on TV!

Buy yourself a bagel

Bagel Cafe

647-2233

373 Hanover St

 

Bagel Factory

647-5788

2075 S Willow St.

 

Big Easy Bagel & Deli

641-3354

2626 Brown Ave

 

Bean-N-Bagel

623-2328

25 Stark St.