Bagels & Birthday Cake
My suitcases are usually filled to the brim when coming home from transatlantic trips to New York City. There are baking ingredients galore, fun paper accessories from Anthropologie and often times, bagels. I can’t exactly recreate the Sunday breakfast of my childhood, bagels and lox, without the bagels. New York bagels, that is. But my freezer had been empty of bagels for months. Yom Kippur was approaching too, and after this Jewish holiday ends, bagels take the spotlight. It was clearly time to visit Zürich’s very own bagel factory.
What’s more, my baby’s first birthday fell on Yom Kippur this year. At first I was disappointed, as this is the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar. There wouldn’t be any playing, celebrating – or eating – during the day. But then I realized, it was perfect. When the sun went down, we would break fast with bagels and birthday cake ! And so, I grabbed the phone and called Argau native, Martin Ackermann, Zürich’s original Bagel Boy. And off to Oerlikon I went to meet the Bagelboys, Martin and his partner Rado.
Even though Martin (above on the left) spent time in New York City’s well-known bagelry, Ess-A-Bagel on 1st Avenue, his first bagel was actually in… Paris. While there to learn French for his culinary studies in 2002, he found an American shop called Bagels & Brownies in the Latin Quarter with a real New York ambience. It was loud and fast-paced and the orders were coming out left and right – “sesame with a schmear !”, “toasted poppy with veggie cream cheese !”, etc. And he just loved those circular breads with a hole in them, called bagels. When his girlfriend at the time attended the Culinary Institute of America, he bought the school’s bible (Baking & Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft) and read it cover to cover. With a full stop at the page on bagels, of course. And the rest… is history.
From a tiny spot in the back of a Thai restaurant (in 2007), to a take-out stand in Zürich’s bustling Niederdorf (MyBagel.ch), Martin and Rado now bake 400 bagels a day in a space 7 times the size in Oerlikon. Their Swiss Bagel Bakery is the go-to name for catered events, business lunches and bagel delivery around town – in the coolest of cars (below, bottom right).
Of course, my first question to them was… do you boil them ? While they don’t actually boil the bagels first (what many say gives New York bagels their signature crust), they are sprayed with water (before baking at 240 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes), which Martin says creates a similar effect with steam. And I’ll admit, they have an appearance and a chew reminiscent of my favorites at the Bagel Hut on Long Island. And not only do they have the full variety – plain, sesame, poppy, whole wheat, everything…, but they have mini bagels too ! Very exciting as that’s my #1 pick. Martin’s favorite ? Well, while neither Martin nor Rado actually eat bagels much anymore (shame), Martin’s pick is “a poppy seed bagel with lots of plain cream cheese and cucumber.”
What’s yours ?
Now, back to that birthday party ! I learned two things. One: a baby’s first birthday cake is officially called a “smash cake” for quite obvious reasons. And two: baking without sugar, butter or eggs can be delicious ! For my little girl, it was a banana cake with apples and cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg. It was so good, I even made another one for us adults. Also on the table were all of the Yom Kippur essentials: cold-smoked fish, kippered salmon, herring, cream cheese, crudités and last but not least, New York style bagels.
We may have just started a new family tradition… bagels and birthday cake !
Schaffhauserstrasse 448 *
+41 44 310 20 80
* This is not a bagel shop, but you can pick up pre-orders. You can also find their bagels at the Viadukt market, at the British Cheese Centre. Just ask Michael to make you a toasted bagel with Cheddar or Stilton !
Baby’s first cake !
(recipe adapted from Our Havenhill)
5 very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup applesauce (no sugar)
1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a few grates of nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit).
In a large bowl, mix the banana and apple purees.
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Add the flour mixture to the bananas and mix just until incorporated.
Spray a large round cake pan with non-stick cooking spray and spread the batter into the bottom.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cake pulls in from the sides and a toothpick comes out dry.
Optional: cut out small rounds to serve to babies !