Yesterday, I got stung by a faux bagel shop in Queens. There are many real bagel stores in NYC, usually in neighborhoods that had a large Jewish population in the mid-50's. These shops sell bagels and also spreads and salads to go on the bagels, as well as bagel sandwiches and other food items.
Most of these shops have traditionally baked on site from scratch, while others had bagels delivered from other really high quality shops or wholesale bakeries. If you go to Rockland Bakery's outlet store, you can walk right up to the bagel baker, and see the freshly-baked bagels cascading down to the cooling area. Wearing the plastic gloves they supply, I once plucked out a bagel right from the oven.
I don't want to name the place in case my analysis is wrong. There are a lot of Greek sidewalk coffee carts that sell a low gluten content bagel that is baked by a Greek bakery in Queens. But, I don't think that is what I got. Since the bagels all weighed 4 ounces, I think this place was using frozen par-baked bagels. The color indicated it was "baked-off" in a relatively small oven. They had a terrible "chew", and just didn't have that sensory element of fresh baked goods. I know there are several factories out there that make frozen par-baked bagels; this must be from a lower-quality producer.
I realize that par-baked is what is sold today in many parts of the country. But it seems sacrilegious to sell this is an area that today has as residents many Russian Jews.
I am trying to put together rules for spotting these "baked-off" bagels. They seem to be perfectly rounded, while 'real' bagels are slightly lopsided or oval. Real bagels tend to be slightly browner. The toppings such as poppy seeds and garlic on "real" bagels do not appear to be as uniform as on the "baked-off" variety. Lastly, "baked-off" bagels don't keep fresh as long as bagels baked from scratch.
<message edited by David_NYC on Thu, 09/3/09 3:11 PM>