Lots of people hold theories about what make New York City’s great—nay, the best—and many of them center on the fact that the city’s water kicks ass. This is true: The tap water is superlative, and bakers utilize it in the cooking process. Case closed, right?
Not so fast. The American Chemical Society teamed up with Murray’s to discover the real reason why NYC’s bagels are tops—and it’s not entirely because of the water. Here’s what you need to know:
• Water plays a minor role: New York’s H2O is the second-softest in the country (behind Boston’s), meaning its low levels of magnesium and calcium get the gluten in the dough to just the right consistency, according to Quartz. But this doesn’t account for the entire formula.
• What affects the city’s bagels more? New York bakers let their hand- or machine-rolled dough sit on trays in coolers for a couple of days before baking. This process is called “proofing.” It allows bagels’ yeast to ferment, thus releasing up to 50 different flavor compounds that separate NYC bagels from their struggle cousins.
• NYC bagels are then boiled. According to the above video, boiling the dough for 30 seconds to three minutes pre-gelatinizes the dough to lock in liquid water to the solid starch. This gives the finished products their signature shiny coating and interior texture.
And there you go, the keys to yeasty greatness unlocked. Now if only the ACS would tackle what makes NYC’s pizza so dope.