So why are New York City bagels so special?
Some say the softness of the city’s water (low magnesium and calcium levels) — a factor that encourages a chewy interior and shiny, crispy bagel outer — is the key to the NYC magic. A test administered by the American Chemical Society confirms the city has wonderfully soft water, but also suggests this may not be the answer, as low levels of these chemicals are thought to affect only a bagel’s texture, not its taste.
When compared with other bagel production processes across the world, New York’s is considered the best. Its historically mandatory boiling-before-baking process, when combined with its soft water, and a consistent proofing of yeast (testing the vigor and life of yeast before baking with it) is what forms the perfect five-borough bagel equation.
The origin of the bagel we know today dates back to 1683 as a salute to King Jan Sobieski, who had just successfully led Poland against Turkish invaders, all from the back of his favorite horse. To honor the known equine enthusiast, a Polish baker shaped his obwarzanek into circles meant to resemble boot stirrups, the German term for which is “beugel.”
Over the next hundred years, bagels grew in popularity, with songs being written and sung about them across the nation. On any given day, Polish citizens of all ages — including infants, who were often given bagels to use as teething rings — could be found with the Sobieski-honored snack in their mouths.
As the 1900s approached, a sizeable population of Jewish Poles immigrated to New York City, taking with them their beloved bread. On Manhattan’s Lower East Side, bagels became ever present in curbside markets, hanging by the dozen on strings and poles, making for an easy street food for those of all incomes. New York City bagels have gone on to become an iconic food — and are considered by many to be the best in the United States.
(Borrowed from harry and david.com)