Forget New York. Bagels, that is. Everyone assumes they're the best. But when Arnold Greenspun owned a bagel shop, he had visiting New Yorkers buying his bagels to take back to the Big Apple.
Now, Mr. Greenspun is trying to recreate that success on a grander scale. He has opened a kosher bagel factory, where the goal is to make a gourmet bagel at an affordable price to consumers and a profit for his company, the Greenspun Bagel Co.
Founded in March 2005, the company started production a year later, in March 2006. Depending on orders, it now turns out 5,000 to 10,000 bagels daily, although Mr. Greenspun is hoping at some point to go to maximum capacity, which would be 36,000 bagels per day.
The company is located in a low-slung building in an office park off Reisterstown Road. On a broiling June day, Mr. Greenspun,deserted, his four bakers having finished their shift hours before.
"There was nothing here," says Mr. Greenspun, waving his hand at the hangar-like space that now contains a small office, bare-bones lunchroom, sacks of ingredients, refrigeration/freezer room, and the equipment needed to mix, boil and bake the bagels.
There is, for example, a machine called a bagel divider-former that does exactly what its name indicates. After mixing the ingredients, the resulting dough is cut into standard 4-ounce chunks, then formed into bagels.
Next, the unbaked bagels are "proofed," is allowed to rise, and refrigerated for 12 hours. The bagels are then dropped into a vat of boiling water until they float, about two seconds. The boiling process creates a hard, crispy crust. Fished out of the boiling water, they are put on large pans and baked in walk-in rack ovens.
The company sells its bagels three ways: unbaked and frozen, baked and frozen; and, most popular, baked and fresh. Even though 75 percent of the bagels it sells are of the plain variety, the company makes 24 other varieties, from cranberry apple and chocolate chip to garden vegetable and black Russian (pumpernickel with everything). Each variety has its own recipe.
"I took some recipes in books. I talked to a baker. We made changes here and there — for example, non-dairy chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate chips — so the bagels are all pareve," says Mr. Greenspun.
Certified by Star K-Vaad HaKashrus certification outfit kippot, Mr. Greenspun's bagels are not overly sweet and have a chewy, not too bready, texture. The flavor is consistent throughout. "If you cut a sesame bagel or an onion bagel in half, both halves will have sesame seeds or onions. The taste will be the same," he says.
"New York bagels are the standard everyone looks to, at least in Baltimore," he says. "But they're not consistent. You can buy bagels at five different places and each one will taste differently."
Mr. Greenspun doesn't claim to be the only kosher bagel-maker in town. H & S Bakery makes kosher bagels. So does Goldberg's Bagels. But he is, he says, the only one who makes kosher bagels "from scratch," rather than buying the dough from another source.