So I had reached 54 years old and I figured that I'd never had a fresh bagel. How about that? I'd worked for an airline for many years and been passed many bagel bars and delis but never had a fresh bagel.
I live in Pulborough West Sussex and although we have a few really good bread bakeries, none of them baked bagels. So now I was on a mission to find a fresh bagel or bake my own.
I found a small bar in Arundel which had bagels and I bought a couple. I really didn't like these. I found them very dry and extremely hard!
I was told of another bagel shop in Brighton so off I went. These were better but I think that these bagels were steamed and not boiled as they are supposed to be. Finally I went to Brick Lane in London because these were the masters of bagel making. Now this experience was a little like really wanting to meet someone special, someone that you'd always wanted to meet and when you met them you were disappointed. This was what going to Brick Lane was like. These bagels were OK but much smaller than the rest of the bagels that I had come across. They were also a little tougher and made any filling look large. At one point I remember a friend saying "Too much filling and not enough bagel" and this was because the bagels were small.
When I thought about the places that I had visited and the bagels that I paid for, I realised that I hadn't really liked any of the bagels and set off to bake my own.
I decided that my approach to bagels was going to be different. Many catering establishments look to reduce their costs and increase profits and generally this is done by buying at a low price and selling small portions at a much higher cost. Just look at the humble cappuccino that you buy in a coffee shop. Today the cappuccino comes in cups that are very small and still cost £2.70! But the actual cost to the seller is around 40p!
I thought that my approach to my bagels business was going to be that I would respect my food and my customer. I would be honoured to bake organic food that some people would appreciate. Note that I only wanted some people and not everyone. The people that i like baking for are people who know the value in having food made for them. So lets get this right, I bake for people who ask me to bake for them, I do not just bake bagels in the hope of shifting them :-)
It was also important for me to be using ingredients that I liked. Ingredients that were good instead of cheap so things like organic flour, kosher flour, kosher salt and malt extract instead of sugar were important then are still are today. Our (My) bagels are made with organic flour, malt extract kosher salt and dried yeast. I use a little syrup in the boiling process but other than that there is nothing else in your bagel.
Something else that is important to me was that I wanted to deliver good quality food. Again, not something that I had rustled up cheaply but something that took time to make, something that smelled and tasted great and most of all, I wanted something that people looked forward to.
I contacted companies like Shipton Mill who are a family run millers and asked them which flour they thought would make a great bagel. I then set about baking bagels. Bagels that I liked because if I liked what I baked then perhaps other people would too.
I must admit that my first attempts weren't very good but after a while and many recipes later I found one that not only I liked but the people that I gave bagels to also liked. They liked my bagels so much that they asked me to bake some more and then more people asked if they could buy them and then it all started.