When Michael Shafran came to Sydney, all he wanted was a good bagel and a copy of the New York Times on a Sunday morning. “Try this”, “go there”, he was told. But all he found was unboiled bread that happened to be shaped like a bagel.
“How hard can it be to make a decent bagel? I decided to find out.” Shafran started Brooklyn Boy Bagels in 2013. Up until now it delivered bagels on Sunday and sold them at weekend markets. Now, there is a shop in Matraville.
Mastering bagels is just the start for Shafran. He’s slowly adding his other New York loves to his bakery in the south-east (as well as serving Mecca coffee). This includes some of Sydney’s best pretzels, Breves (coffee with half milk and half cream) and babka, a Jewish rolled cake. Michael’s version is fluffy and comes with either salted caramel or the traditional filling of cinnamon and chocolate. Next might be house-smoked halibut, salmon or home-made pastrami. He’ll probably keep going until he’s created a little New York in the east.
The bagels are about as traditional to the New York standard as you can get without literally boiling the dough in Manhattan water (which, we might add, is an actual point of snobbery for NY bagel lovers). The most crucial element, Shafran says, is the boiling itself – a process that was likely introduced by happenstance when Polish Jews were restricted from baking, and so boiled their bread instead. “It changes the whole texture of the bagel. It kind of gelatinises the outside and gives it a nice crust. It’s not a thick crust and I don’t want to say leathery, but it has a kind of leathery chew. Then it has a soft, moist, chewy but airy inside."
The intricate recipe is a mixture of Michael’s passionate experimentation and a recipe he found after brainstorming with Garagistes chef, Luke Burgess. “The guy had written a manifesto for the recipe. Five pages about how if you skip these steps you’re breaking the Geneva Convention and you should be shot. I thought this guy seems passionate enough, he might actually have a decent recipe.” The bagel’s come either plain, sprinkled with traditional seeds or with a “schmear” – that’s New York for an absurdly thick lathering of cream cheese. If you’re feeling particularly decadent you can get the cream cheese whipped with bacon, bourbon and maple or smoked salmon, capers and dill.
Brooklyn Boy Bagels
448 Bunnerong Road, Matraville
(02) 8540 4595
Mon to Sun 7am – 4pm