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August 20, 2015

How to… bagel

As we round up our City bagel guide, we've learnt a lot from the city’s purveyors of the rounded dough but are finding it a little hard to comprehend a bagel-free week. So we decided not to have one and instead to chat with a local, small batch baker about our common obsession.

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  • Words: Tiarne Cook
  • Pictures: Joshua Fanning

We’re all about asking the hard-hitting questions here at CityMag. The questions that matter.


Bella’s bagels are available for tasting at Monday’s Coffee Store on Gawler Place, and at SAD Café on Ebenezer Place.

So what are the best flavours combos? What makes a perfect bagel? And how can you avoid a bad one?

We spoke with bagel expert Isabella Marovich, who supplies bagels to the likes of Monday’s Coffee Store and SAD Café.  She gave us some tips.

The perfect bake
A bagel is not just any old roll. There’s something far superior about these carb-loaded treasures. They should be weighty, smooth-to-the-touch and delightful to look at.

Isabella has experienced this first-hand while fine-tuning her recipe. She says you can tell straight away from the texture of the dough.

“I think there has to be a density of dough, but sort of crisp on the outside,” she says. “The process is quite long, it’s generally at least 24 hours because the dough has to prove for longer and at a colder temperature.”

“So that gives it like a yeasty, malty flavour and that takes a bit of time but that also gives it a dense texture, a bit chewy but doesn’t break your teeth.”

There are more and more quality bagels appearing in cafés around Adelaide, and they’re always worth a try. But if you have a little extra time up your sleeve and an oven at your disposal, trying to bake a few seems like a sensible idea – after all, that’s how Isabella started out.

Trial and error
So that’s what we should look for as consumers, or aim for as home bakers. But what does it take?

Isabella returned from overseas, having tried some great bagels, and noticed a gap in the Adelaide market.

With a bit of trial and error and a survey of the field, she began perfecting her recipe. She says that each and every time she bakes, she hones her approach, noticing slight differences in the batches.

“I found a good recipe, and made a few little alterations. I did quite a bit of research when it became something I was more interested in. So I just tweaked it,” she says.

“So you make the dough, let it rise, and then you have to put it in the fridge for at least 8-10 hours and so it keeps rising but at a slower rate.”

“And then it’s just a matter of boiling them quickly, for not too long, because that reduces how much they rise when they go into the oven…. Once you’ve boiled them you top them with poppy seeds, or sesame seeds or whatever.”

And then bake!

Easy huh? Maybe we’ll give it a try…

Top it off
Once you’ve got the base right, it’s time to talk toppings.

We’ve tried our fair share throughout the city for the bagel guide. But Bella has ventured overseas to London and interstate to Melbourne to scout what’s trending in the bagel business.

But, like most things, trends come and go, and the classics always stick.

 “I like the classic – a sesame seed with cream cheese and some smoked salmon is always good,” Isabella says.

“Otherwise, the blueberry ones I do for SAD Café are one of my favourites as well because they are a bit sweeter and that just with butter is really nice.”

We agree, simple is best. A beautiful, fresh, home baked bagel and butter – It’s hard to beat.

Do your research
This has to be our favourite part. Oh the joys of research!

Whether it’s a stop off on your way to work for that morning coffee fix and an easy hand-held breakfast, or an extravagant trip overseas (half our luck) to London or New York, research is a big part of the bagel game.

Discovering a texture or taste you like and attempting to replicate it could mean breaking new ground.

Bella explains that recreating the bagels she’d tried in Melbourne and in London helped her bring something new to the Adelaide scene.

“One of my friends who’s actually from Melbourne was down and he tried them [her bagels] and said ‘maybe you should try and do something with these.’”

“I gave some to my friend, who worked at SAD Café and he ended up taking them into work and the owner, Dom asked if I could start making a few more for them and from there it was just word of mouth.”

Unfortunately, five editions of the City bagel guide is simply not enough to satisfy our bagel craving. If anything, it has fuelled a fire.

So we’ll be out doing our ‘research’. Please feel free to do the same.

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