The bagel-making process takes two days, and according to owner of Brooklyn Boy Bagels Michael Shafran, there’s no cutting corners.
The first day consists of mixing, shaping, overnight proving and fermentation. The second day is when the bagel transforms into that chewy vehicle, perfect for mountains of cream cheese. Crucially, the bagel is boiled then baked. “Most bakeries will tell you they do it, but it’s very obvious they don’t,” says Shafran. “You can tell by the texture – it’ll be fluffy and it won’t have much of a crust.”
At Brooklyn Boy the bagels definitely have a crust and can easily carry a thick schmear of cream cheese (even over the holes), which can be modified with textural ingredients such as garlic and chive, jalapeno and lox (smoked salmon) or house-made whisky-cured ocean trout with coriander seed, fennel fronds and fresh dill.
Fake bagels (fagels) is how Shafran got into the cafe scene in Sydney. When he moved here from New York all he could find was unboiled bread that happened to be shaped like a bagel, so in 2013 he started making his own, selling them at markets and then from a (now-closed) store in Matraville.
Fast-forward to 2019 and he’s rolled out the next iteration of Brooklyn Boy Bagels: a super-stylish cafe in Circular Quay’s Gateway Building that’s part-bagelry, part-New York deli. There’s even a weekly supply of New Yorkers for your reading pleasure.
“We’ve wanted to be in the city for a really long time,” says Shafran. “Matraville was a really cute six-seater space. Saturday and Sunday were pumping but during the week it was like watching paint dry … I wanted the space to be somewhere comfortable, which sounds really boring, but I wanted a nice oasis in the city. I wanted people to feel like they could hang out and enjoy themselves.”
As well as plain, pumpernickel, onion and pumpkin bagels, the store is doing rye bread, turkey club sandwiches and an array of Jewish savouries and pastries. “We did a Nutella and babka loaf and black and white cookies because we haven’t been able to find any good ones around. We’ve also got hamantaschen [triangle-shaped biscuits with fruit centres], potato knishes [small pastries filled with potatoes, onions and other ingredients such as cheese, spinach and sauerkraut] and potato latkes, which is a Jewish version of a rosti.
“We’re getting back to our roots and bagels are very much a Jewish product, but there’s lot more products we can make,” he says.
Pastrami is a key New York deli staple, and after plenty of research and conversations, Brooklyn Boy locked in Marrickville’s Black Forest Smokehouse to create a custom-made order. “We gave them a recipe based on [New York’s] Katz’s Deli. Most places make pastrami using silverside, but in New York we only use brisket. This has a beautiful balance of smoke and spice because of the curing.”
There are plenty more ideas in the pipeline including one Shafran is very excited about: Shabbos (Sabbath) dinner. He’s thinking matzo ball soup, gefilte fish (minced fish balls with eggs, onion and spices), challah (a sweet, braided bread) and his grandmother’s brisket.
Brooklyn Boy Bagels
Shop 6, Level 1, 1 Macquarie Place, Circular Quay
Mon to Fri 7am–4pm
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on April 1, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.