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How Wise Sons Makes Its Superstar Bagels

From dough to schmear in six steps.


Wise Sons' bagels rise from the ashes.

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The 140-quart mixer where bagel dough is born.

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The dough.

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The bagel extruder divides the dough logs and forms them into rings.

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Sometimes the dough gets stuck in the extruder, thanks in part to its less-predictable texture (no dough conditioners).

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The bagels are boiled in water spiked with malt syrup.

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Out of the oven, the bagels are ready for one last inspection.

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Thirteen months after a fire at their Mission commissary space thwarted their burgeoning bagel-empire plans, Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman are finally, blessedly opening Wise Sons Bagel & Bakery, in the Fillmore, bringing with them five kinds of bagels, numerous toppings, and even bialys. “For us,” Bloom says, “it’s about creating a good, solid bagel that’s made with the right ingredients.” Though certain parties like to bemoan the state of the San Francisco bagel, Bloom refuses to play ball. “I’m not going to sit here and be like, ‘The bagels in San Francisco are terrible,’” he says. Instead, his goal is simple: “We want you to be able to come in and get what you want. And if you have a vision of childhood or a good memory when you walk in, then that’s enough. That’s good.” 

How a Wise Sons bagel is born:

1. Mix it up
The bagel dough is made by mixing malt powder, flour, water, salt, and yeast together for 15 minutes in a 140-quart mixer. “[At our restaurant], we’ve seen a lot of people ask for bagels,” says Bloom. “We want to produce them in volume.”

2. Ready-to-go dough
Wise Sons’ bagel recipe was created by Beckerman and Oliver Muirhead, a family friend who (with Beckerman) has devised most of Wise Sons’ bread recipes. “They locked themselves in the bakery,” Bloom says of the pair. “At the end of every day, we came and ate, and said ‘good’ or ‘not good.’ Three or four days later, there we were.”

3. Into the belly of the beast
At the heart of the operation is the bagel extruder, a machine that divides logs of dough into whatever size the baker desires and then forms them into rings. A lot of big bagel companies forgo extruders, which are large and bulky, in favor of purchasing preformed dough.

4. Circular logic
Mastering the extruder required a lot of trial and error, says Bloom. “We have it figured out for the most part, but we’re still having issues with the dough getting stuck; it varies because we’re not putting conditioners in it.”

5. In hot water
Before they go in the oven, the bagels are boiled in water that’s been spiked with malt syrup, which gives them their outer chew and shine and helps the toppings stick.

6. A final inspection
Kevin Cimino, Wise Sons’ culinary director, appraises a fresh batch. Bloom estimates that the kitchen will produce about 2,000 bagels daily, and he and Beckerman are already thinking of opening additional locations. “Hopefully that’s not too far down the line,” he says. “One thing at a time.”


Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco

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